12/07/17 — Former chief master sergeant indicted in 2016 fatal wreck

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Former chief master sergeant indicted in 2016 fatal wreck

By Ethan Smith
Published in News on December 7, 2017 2:56 PM

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Hector Soler

A Wayne County grand jury this week indicted a former 4th Security Forces squadron manager at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base on a charge of second-degree murder.

The charges stem from an alleged drunk driving incident in December 2016, in which the then-chief master sergeant crashed his car into the back of another vehicle, leading to the eventual death of the 17-year-old driver.

Hector Soler, 48, of 105 Laredo Drive, also faces charges of felony death by motor vehicle, felony serious injury by motor vehicle and impaired driving.

Prosecutors declined to comment in detail about what specifically led to the indictment.

District Attorney Matthew Delbridge did say, however, that with any case, in reviewing the facts of the case, sometimes there are circumstances that make it appropriate to charge the defendant with additional crimes.

Assistant District Attorney Davis Weddle added that Soler will have his first appearance in Wayne County Superior Court in January.

Soler was the highest-ranking enlisted person assigned to the 4th Security Forces squadron ---- essentially the base's law enforcement body ----  when he allegedly drove drunk off of SJAFB on the night of Dec. 10, 2016, and collided with the rear of Johny Robert Watson's Jeep on George Street.

According to the crash report taken by the Goldsboro Police Department, Watson's Jeep was sent 159 feet into a utility pole at the intersection of South George Street and Carver Boulevard.

The report also said that Soler's speedometer was stuck at 70 mph after the wreck.

An alcohol breath test given to Soler at the Wayne County Jail more than two hours after the wreck shows his blood alcohol content registered as 0.16 at 1:43 a.m., and 1:47 a.m. on Dec. 11, court records show.

Soler was initially charged with driving while impaired, failure to reduce speed and felony serious injury by motor vehicle.

Watson was taken to Wayne UNC Health Care with severe head injuries. He was then flown to Vidant Medical Center in Greenville.

Once there, Watson underwent emergency surgery and was put into a medically-induced coma.

Five days after the crash, on Dec. 15, 2016, Watson died of his injuries.

Immediately upon Watson's death, Soler's felony charge was upgraded to felony death by motor vehicle.

Later that night, with his attorney present, Soler turned himself in on the escalated charge at the Wayne County Magistrate's Office.

At the time, Soler's attorney, Dustin B. Pittman, declined to comment.

Over the coming weeks and months following Soler's charges being upgraded, the police department released additional details regarding the crash that killed Watson.

The captain of the shift that responded to the wreck in December said Soler was leaving the base and had been at a Christmas party.

Police said Soler was at someone's home on base before the Christmas party, and then went to another home before driving off the base.

The captain said both houses Soler was reportedly at earlier that night belonged to people with authority over him.

In the wake of the fatal wreck and subsequent charges filed, then-4th Security Forces Squadron Commander Maj. Gilbert Wyche was relieved of his command.

Soler, who had been temporarily reassigned to another squadron, was allowed to retire at a reduced rank ---- senior master sergeant ---- effective Aug. 1, 2017.

Prior to the deadly crash, Soler's position as 4th Security Forces squadron manager had put him in charge of 230 people, according to information obtained from SJAFB public affairs.

Soler enlisted in the Air Force in 1987 and was stationed in Goldsboro starting July 2015.

Previous duty stations Soler was assigned to include Japan, New Jersey, Turkey, Virginia, Arizona, New York and Texas.