Breeana McClain’s involuntary manslaughter case never went to trial.
But an angry social media jury announced its own verdict after a judge ordered the Charlotte woman to set the record straight on Facebook about her role in the 2020 collision that killed a Concord teenager.
Hundreds of commenters found the 27-year-old McClain guilty of hypocrisy, inhumanity and remorselessness.
“Karma will come for you. Having to be court ordered to make an apology is no apology at all,” one poster wrote.
“You should truly be ashamed of yourself,” said another. “The court didn’t get you but that’s okay, god will.”
McClain, with only a few defenders sprinkled among her angry online chorus, occasionally took responsibility but also fired back, accusing some of her critics of racism and of publicly judging her without knowing the full facts of the case.
“A lot of racial slurs and irritational (sic) comments when you all should be comforting the family and praying and not throwing the book at me,” McClain, who is Black, wrote. The victim was white. “god will punish me in due time(.) at this time please be kind or block your self.”
McClain could not be reached for comment Sunday and Monday. She returned one weekend message from The Charlotte Observer and left a voicemail requesting a return call. But subsequent efforts to reach her went directly to her voicemail.
The emotional back-and-forth on her Facebook page followed an extraordinary series of events that began with a May 2020 head-on collision on North Tryon Street that mortally injured 18-year-old Morgan Wetherbee.
McClain was the other driver. Police say she had been travelling at more than 80mph when she lost control of her Nissan, overcorrected, then hurdled the median and crossed at least three lanes of traffic before plowing directly into Morgan’s Toyota.
McClain was charged with multiple offences, including reckless driving, driving with a revoked license while also having an open alcoholic container beside her.
Nonetheless, she repeatedly went on social media after the crash to blame Wetherbee for causing it, based on emails.
She later used a photograph of the teen’s mangled car to set up a GoFundMe page – claiming that she, not Morgan, was the victim of the crash. McClain also exaggerated her injuries and asked for US$2,800 (RM11,900) in donations so she could buy a new car.
“Help Breeana recover from NEAR DEATH CAR CRASH,” her page read.
Seven months after the collision, Wetherbee died in an Atlanta medical facility. In December 2020, McClain was charged with involuntary manslaughter and spent 51 days in the Mecklenburg County Jail.
On Thursday, McClain accepted a plea deal from the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office that carried a suspended prison sentence and three years of probation. A 30-day jail sentence was reduced to time served.
After pleading guilty, McClain tearfully apologised in court to the Wetherbee family for their loss.
McClain’s day in court, however, was anything but routine. When Superior Court Lou Trosch first heard about McClain’s former GoFundMe page and her previous posts blaming Morgan for the crash, he became so angry that he called a recess to compose himself, courtroom observers say.
After the break, Trosch said he had never come across a case in his 20 years as a judge in which a defendant had so blatantly tried to make money off someone else’s loss, a loss that the defendant had caused. He said he considered blocking the plea deal and making McClain stand trial.
In the end, the judge did something he said he had never done before. Trosch ordered McClain to go back on social media to “cleanse her soul” and set the record straight about the car wreck.
He also ordered her to share her story at least 10 times at driving schools or some other appropriate venue so others could learn from her mistakes.
But first, McClain had a public reckoning to face.
‘A real woman’
On Saturday at 10.11am, McClain made this post on her Facebook page.
“In reference to the previous post that I Breeana McClain claimed that I was the victim in the car accident that took the life of Morgan Weatherbee (sic) she was the victim I sincerely apologise for the post that was very insensitive and disrespectful and I am sincerely sorry for the family of Morgan for their loss.”
As of 4pm Monday, McClain’s admission had drawn more than 560 responses from a racially diverse pool that included several of Wetherbee’s friends and at least one member of her family.
Few of the responses directed toward McClain were sympathetic. The overwhelming number of writers pilloried her for her GoFundMe page, her blaming of Morgan for the wreck, and even for misspelling the victim’s name in her apology.
Contrary to McClain’s allegations of racism, none of the hundreds of posts read by the Observer contained slurs or race-based invective. Some did accuse McClain of playing “the race card” instead of taking responsibility for her actions.
“MORGAN WETHERBEE,” one woman wrote Monday. “You may wish to correct your spelling, saying her name with the correct spelling would show true sincerity.”
“It was a LIE. Not insensitive and disrespectful,” another poster wrote on Sunday.
“You LIED and tried to GAIN MONEY by LYING again to more innocent people about your false victim story while Morgan was in the hospital fighting for her life, which she lost because of you.”
Others urged McClain to remove the description of herself in her Facebook bio as “trauma survivor”.
“I will not,” McClain said.
“Coward,” one person replied.
While one writer described McClain as “a real woman” for publicly apologising, a half dozen others took exception to the characterisation.
“a real women wouldnt post this only after she was ordered by the court. Do better,” said one writer, who described herself as a friend of Morgan Wetherbee.
In her responses, McClain was at times contrite. Mostly she was defiant.
In one response to a sympathetic poster, McClain said she would “Keep praying for the family and trying to heal because I feel like this is a life sentence over my head and i rather Be in jail then dealing with All this.
“honestly it’s terrible how they Are treating me wishing me dead and all(.) that’s Horrific,” McClain wrote.
“That’s (YouTube) people for you,” a supporter replied. “the situation is unfortunate especially being that your (sic) black makes it no better. as long as you know nothing was intentional then you are good! (expletive) what they (talking about,) everyone makes mistakes!”
In one post that was deleted but which was captured by the Wetherbee family, McClain misrepresented how her case had been handled.
“My charges were all DISMISSED,” she wrote. “If their (sic) were any concrete evidence I would have been in prison and if I really was so wrong and all this like you say, LET GOD JUDGE ME... GO PRAY LIKE I WILL BE.”
Meanwhile, Melody Wetherbee, the dead teen’s mother and an outspoken critic of the N.C. law that allowed McClain to receive a probationary sentence, told the Observer on Monday that the family was struggling over how to respond to McClain’s online apology.
“The public has spoken,” she said about the critical reaction McClain’s words had received.
“We probably are not going to make any comment. We’ll try and focus our attention on changing the law and still fighting for Morgan in any way we can.
“I don’t want hate to consume our lives. I don’t think that’s going to make a difference in this world. I want to act out of love for Morgan.” – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service