Man in North Carolina street racing collision charged with murder of boy



A Cleveland County man with a long criminal record and a history of speeding has been charged with murder after a street racing accident killed a six-year-old boy in Gaston County last month.

On the night of June 26, 46-year-old Donnie Ray Cobb was driving at around 100 mph in the US 74 when his Audi collided with another car and drove through a grassy median in oncoming traffic , according to an accident report from the NC Highway Patrol. Cobb’s car crashed into a vehicle, killing Liam Lagunas three weeks before his seventh birthday.

Cobb has a history of speeding charges as well as criminal offenses ranging from DWI to criminal theft and break and enter, The Charlotte Observer learned on Friday. All but one speeding charge were either dismissed or reduced. A speeding charge, filed against him in May, is pending.

Donnie Ray Cobb.jpg
Donnie Ray Cobb Gaston County Sheriff’s Office

“It’s kind of a testament that if you go over that speed limit, it will catch up with you,” said Ray Pierce, the highway patroller.

A recent investigation by the Charlotte Observer and the News & Observer in Raleigh found that speeding has become commonplace on many North Carolina roads and the consequences can be fatal. Despite this, the courts in North Carolina do not aggressively punish speeding tickets.

When people are accused of driving 20 mph or more over the speed limit, nearly 92% get court breaks that allow them to avoid full penalties, the investigation found. In the past five years, more than 75 drivers whose speeding charges were reduced or terminated were later involved in fatal crashes.

Cobb was charged Thursday night with second degree murder, reckless driving, speed racing, impaired driving and assault with a lethal weapon causing serious injury. A blood test showed he was weakened by a substance other than alcohol, but investigators did not reveal what it was, Pierce said.

Cobb was recently released from hospital and is now in Gaston County Jail.

Authorities expect to lay charges against the other pilot who was running Cobb, Pierce said, but investigators have yet to determine what those charges will be. Cobb’s car collided with that driver’s car before crossing the median, according to the crash report.

“We’re trying to determine who collided with whom before the second impact,” Pierce said.

At the time of the accident, Lagunas was properly buckled in the back seat of a car, authorities said. His injured father was driving.

“The father was doing everything he should have done,” Pierce said.

In comments that accompanied his obituary, family members described Lagunas as a warm and loving boy.

“He always asked how our friends were doing because he really cared a lot,” his mother, Brandi. “He would cover me with a blanket when I was cold. When I was sick he made sure I ate. He was my keeper as much as I was his.

Ames Alexander, investigative reporter for the Observer, examined corruption in state prisons, mistreatment of injured poultry workers and many other topics. His stories have won dozens of state and national awards. He was a key member of two reporting teams that were named Pulitzer finalists.


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