On Dec. 2, 2020, Gwynne MacDonald Furches, 24, of Greensboro, pleaded guilty to Second Degree Murder in the May 30, 2019 death of Elijah Edward Coppedge, 72, also of Greensboro.
On that evening, Coppedge was struck and killed by a car driven by then-22-year-old Furches as Coppedge walked home beside East Gate City Boulevard. According to the incident report, Furches did not stop after hitting Coppedge, but attempted to swerve back onto the roadway. Instead, she slid into a luminary pole and crashed through a wooden privacy fence at 14 Aggie Ct.
Furches’s Second Degree Murder guilty plea resulted in her conviction and incarceration as a Class B Felon. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-17 states that “a person who commits Second Degree Murder shall be punished as a Class B2 felon” if the “malice necessary to prove second degree murder is based on an inherently dangerous act or omission, done in such a reckless and wanton manner as to manifest a mind utterly without regard for human life and social duty.”
In other words, while “malice” is necessary to demonstrate second-degree murder, the legal definition of that term does not require that the defendant intended to kill or injure others, but instead evidenced reckless disregard for human life.
At Furches’s arraignment on June 3, 2019, Assistant District Attorney Leah Howell told Judge Becky Brown that Coppedge had been struck so hard “his bones were sticking out his knees.” Howell also stated that Gwynne Furches had been told “you’re going to kill someone if you keep doing this” after a Feb. 13, 2018, incident in when Furches swerved off Southbound I-85 and into a tree.
According to court records, Furches was driving while impaired in both the 2018 incident and the 2019 one that killed Elijah Coppedge. At Furches’ arraignment, Howell described how Furches claimed to be unaware she’d hit the man whose body, unnoticed by the Aggie Court resident who called 911 and the first officers on the scene, was discovered by the firefighters who arrived minutes later.
Howell said that Gwynne Furches, who did not have a driver’s license, claimed to be her identical twin sister Jessa Furches, as she had also done in the 2018 incident. On both occasions, Gwynne was driving a car registered to Jessa Furches.
The North Carolina Department of Public Safety Offender Public Information website states that Furches’ conviction carries as minimum term of seven years and 10 months and a maximum term of 10 years and five months, and her projected release date from the North Carolina Correction Institution for Women as Nov. 12, 2029.
As previously reported, Gwynne Furches and Jessa Furches were involved in five crashes between 2015 and 2019. According to police reports, Jessa Furches was the driver in three of those five crashes, with Gwynne Furches was the driver in the other two. In at least four of those collisions, the other sister was in the car.
At Gwynne Furches’s arraignment, her mother Jamie Furches told the judge that Gwynne has cystic fibrosis and diabetes, that she requires a feeding tube and 15 daily medications, and that, as of May 2019, she had been hospitalized four times that year.
“But this isn’t just about Gwynne and our family,” said Jamie Furches, reading from a prepared statement. “I want the family of Mr. Coppedge to know that my heart and soul hurt so much for their loss and I feel shame and embarrassment on behalf of Gwynne’s actions and the choices she made that night.”
A homegoing ceremony was held for Elijah Edward Coppedge on June 10, 2019, at Love & Faith Christian Fellowship at 4344 Blackberry Rd. in Greensboro, following which he was interred in Lakeview Memorial Park at 3600 N. O’Henry Blvd.