A homeless man who stole a pickup truck in Bryson City and led officers on a two–county, high-speed chase pleaded guilty this week in Swain County Superior Court, District Attorney Ashley Hornsby Welch said.
On the afternoon of June 23, 2020, James Caviness, 52, stole an unoccupied pickup truck that was idling in front of a service station. He sped west out of Bryson City onto U.S. 19, then exited U.S. 19 for U.S. 74.
During the approximately 30-minute chase and in rainy conditions, he drove at speeds that at times exceeded 100 mph.
In Nantahala Gorge with state Highway Patrol Trooper T.S. Cochran in pursuit, Caviness ignored the double-yellow line, passing a truck hauling large, round hay bales. A short distance later, he turned around into the eastbound lanes, speeding back toward Bryson City.
The tires on the pickup truck disintegrated as Caviness drove over stop sticks officers placed on the road. He continued to drive on the rims. At one point, he drove in the westbound lanes, facing oncoming traffic.
Caviness turned toward Sylva at Exit 85. He entered the downtown area and, driving on Haywood Road, went into Dillsboro. The chase ended in a restaurant parking lot.
In addition to the Highway Patrol, officers from Bryson City, Swain County, Sylva and Jackson County assisted in the pursuit.
In court, Superior Court Judge Todd Pomeroy ordered Caviness to serve a minimum prison sentence of 120 months and a maximum prison sentence of 166 months.
He pleaded guilty to felony larceny, felony flee to elude, six counts of injury to personal property, driving while impaired and habitual felon.
Habitual felons are sentenced four classes higher than the underlying felony convictions, based on North Carolina’s Structured Sentencing Law.
Assistant District Attorney Jim Moore prosecuted the case.