Three years later, DWI trial still looms

The roof of Alice Pope's Hickory home has been repaired since a car crashed into the residence on 29th Avenue NE more than three years ago.

But Evan Gragg still suffers from the damage caused when he was a passenger in a 2009 Jaguar that police say left the roadway, hit a concrete driveway and flipped end over end before hitting a tree and, eventually, the eave of Pope's house.

"He still has injuries. He has numbness in his legs, and he will always have problems with his back because there is metal in it," Gragg's mother Donna Venegri said, adding that after the accident broke her son's back and ribs, they have both struggled financially. "Nothing has been settled. We have not received any money from anyone. He was supposed to go to rehab, but we never got anything. It would have come out of my pocket."

Gragg wants to attend college and better himself, his mother said, but right now, with financial pressures, that's impossible.

"We don't have any money," she said, "and he has bad credit ... he couldn't pay his bills that were due from when he was in the hospital for a month."

Even worse, she said, Gragg, now 22, can never again do the things he loves, like play roller hockey.

"It has been like a spiral downfall," she said.

Meanwhile, for the person responsible for the May 15, 2009 wreck, Brett Raymond VonDrehle, life and encounters with the police continue. And he hasn't faced criminal charges for the wreck that seriously injured two other people and destroyed a car registered to VonDrehle Corp..

According to police, VonDrehle was driving about 93 mph before he lost control and covered 429 feet before finally coming to a rest against Pope's house. Police reports indicate VonDrehle was drunk at the time of the wreck, with a blood alcohol level of 0.14, nearly twice the North Carolina limit for operating an automobile.

To read more of this story, pick up the weekend print edition of Catawba County's community newspaper, The Observer News Enterprise, at newsstands throughout the county.