Witnesses of fatal Thanksgiving crash testify that Ryann Daniels admitted to being on heroin and barreled through red light

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RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The man accused of causing a double fatal crash on Thanksgiving night in 2020 appeared in a Richmond courtroom on Monday morning.

After several continued hearings Ryann Daniels appeared via video in Richmond Manchester General District Court. The 26-year old is charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter.

According to Richmond police, on November 26 close to 8 p.m., Daniels was driving a white pick-up truck going westbound on Brookland Park Boulevard when he ran through a red light –smashing into two cars causing a chain reaction crash on Chamberlayne Avenue.

All three vehicles then collided with three other vehicles that were stopped in the eastbound lanes of Brookland Park Boulevard.

58-year-old Kevin Hancock, a Richmond youth football coach for more than three decades died at the hospital and 52-year-old Karen Murphy died from her injuries at the scene. Back in December 8News spoke to the children of both families, who were in disbelief about the accident and wanted justice.

Thanksgiving RVA crash
A multivehicle crash occurred in the area of Chamberlayne Avenue and Brookland Park Boulevard in Richmond on Thanksgiving night. (Photo: Jacob Sexton)


The night of the crash, Daniels was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and was later released. Daniels was never in police custody and left the hospital after being discharged. Once leaving, he skipped town. 8News pressured RPD as to why Daniels was never arrested and allowed to walk out of the hospital, but authorities would not answer citing ‘an ongoing investigation’.

A manhunt was underway to find Daniels who was located one week later in Currituck County, North Carolina. According to the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to the 100 block of Raccoon Drive in Knotts Island on Thursday, December 4 around 1:30 p.m. after a report of a wanted person.

The sheriff’s office approached the home Daniels was staying at. The man fled on foot into a wooded area, but a K-9 unit, accompanied by several deputies, were able to track Daniels deep in the woods and take him into custody. Daniels was eventually extradited back to Virginia and has been behind bars ever since.

During Monday’s preliminary hearing, presided over by Judge David Hicks, the Commonwealth’s Attorney called three witnesses to testify; two eyewitnesses and an investigator with RPD. The defense was allowed to cross-examine each subject.

FIRST WITNESS TESTIMONY:

The first witness called was Jason Jones, who was driving on Brookland Park Boulevard during the time of the crash. Jones said he was dropping off his brother when a white pick-up truck barreled out of a side street and cut him off. He goes on to say that the driver ”didn’t stop, swerved, revved and stomped on the gas” while cars were stopped at the red light. Jones said he heard the impact, which sounded like a “loud boom” and saw the aftermath, describing it as “a plane crash and car parts were scattered everywhere”. Jones estimated Daniels driving anywhere from 70 to 80 mph and said the entire time the light at the intersection remained red.

SECOND WITNESS TESTIMONY:

The second witness called was William Cooper who said on Thanksgiving night, he and his wife were driving eastbound on Brookland Park Boulevard, stopped at a red light when a white truck came across the intersection at a ”good speed”. He adds the truck hit one car, bounced into another and at some point his car was hit. Cooper said he checked to make sure his wife was okay and ran to the white pick-up truck where he spotted Ryann Daniels.

Cooper says Daniels was unconscious at first, however when he became coherent, Daniels clearly stated, “I’m on heroin. I OD’d (overdosed).” Then asking, “Is my mom and sister in the back seat?”. Cooper told the court that Daniels also said his heart was pounding. Cooper reached over to touch Daniels’ heart and said it was beating really fast and he was sweaty. Cooper testified that he waited with Daniels for about twenty minutes, until paramedics arrived, who were working on the car with the fatalities.

RPD INVESTIGATOR TESTIMONY:

Donald Olson, Traffic Investigator with Richmond Police, was also called to testify. Olson says he was called to the crash site at 8:15 p.m. and arrived around 8:45 p.m. He says when he arrived Karen Murphy was deceased in a car and was told Kevin Hancock was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. 8News learned from Olson on Monday that Hancock was ejected from the vehicle and was found on the street when police arrived. Detectives initially thought he was a pedestrian until learning otherwise.

Olson stated in court that he questioned Daniels twice, once at MCV hospital and a second time in Currituck County. Each time he says he did not read Daniels his Miranda Rights, stating during questioning Daniels was “evading questions” and “unable to answer basic questions like his name”. Olso said the night of the accident, he went to see Daniels at the hospital alone and was equipped with a working body camera. He informed the court that a nurse told Daniels he was involved in a crash and killed some people.

Olson also stated that about four vials of Daniels’ blood were taken at the hospital and he hand-delivered it to forensics for chemical analysis. A lab report was presented in court on Monday showed narcotics were present, but at varying levels.

According to the Crash Data Report (CDR), presented by Olson, no braking was indicated by the white pick-up truck before impact. He also said the odometer was at 62 mph. The speed limit on Brookland Park Boulevard is 25 mph and is 35 mph on Chamberlayne Avenue, according to the Commonwealth’s Attorney.

After hearing from witnesses and authorities, Judge Hicks decided to certify the charges and not make any changes, despite the defense’s plea to strike one (D.U.I) from the record. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is to prove probable cause. The case will now move forward to a Grand Jury on July 6 and a trial date will be set.

According to court records from 2013 to 2016, Daniels was charged in various parts of Central Virginia and Essex County on illegal alcohol purchasing, speeding, and shoplifting.

Mug shot of Ryann Daniels courtesy of the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office.

In June of 2019 in Henrico County, he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years with nearly four years suspended for possession of drugs and got probation for 99 years.

In July of 2019 in Hanover County, he pleaded guilty to felony destruction of property charges from September of 2018 and was sentenced to five years. He served one year and got 10 years probation.

Most recently in Hanover, he was charged with being intoxicated and swearing in public.

Court records also show he has a home in Mechanicsville.

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