On Monday, Charles Bean faced the family of the man he killed, and he cried.
“I’m so sorry,” he said, taking his face mask off as he sobbed. “I know how it feels to lose your father because I know how my kids would be.”
Bean was addressing Juliana Cauley, whose father, Ignacio Giraldo, was hit and killed by Bean’s minivan as Cauley and Giraldo were cycling on U.S. 221 about 11:30 a.m. Oct. 10, 2019. Bean did not stop, and Giraldo lay in the road, crying out in pain.
Bean, 56, of Creedmoor, who turned himself in to law enforcement days after the wreck, pleaded guilty Monday in Caldwell Superior Court to two misdemeanor charges of hit and run and death by vehicle.
In September, less than a year after Giraldo was killed, Bean was charged in his home county of Granville, north of Durham, with driving while impaired, having a canceled tag, and operating a vehicle with no insurance, a fact that was not lost on Cauley.
“I just hope that you change, not just for you, but for your family and the people around you,” Cauley said. “To me, it was really hard. You did it again.”
“I promise you I will,” Bean responded, his speech barely coherent. “I know it don’t matter, but I … took a pill that someone gave me, and I’m sorry.”
Giraldo, who lived in Sunrise, Florida, had taken time off work — something he rarely did — to visit Cauley and her husband, Michael, in the Blowing Rock area in August, and he liked the area so much that he decided to visit again in October for the birthday of one of his granddaughters.
In a letter Michael Cauley wrote and that Assistant District Attorney Nolan Hancock read in court, Michael Cauley pointed out the timing of the hit-and-run.
“You killed my father-in-law the day before his granddaughter’s birthday, the reason he was in town,” he wrote. Flown to Johnson City Medical Center, “he died in an unfamiliar place while you were back home.”
Michael Cauley wrote that Juliana has awakened screaming countless times. She was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after her father’s death. He added that Juliana’s mother, Maria Gladys Callejas, might lose her home because Igacio was the breadwinner of his family, working in maintenance for the Broward County Public Schools.
Hancock said he offered an opportunity for Bean to plead guilty to misdemeanor charges in the wreck because he felt he would have difficulty proving that Bean was the driver of the van if the case went to trial.
“In the words of law enforcement, if the defendant hadn’t turned himself in, they don’t think they could have identified him as the driver,” Hancock said.
Bean’s attorney, T.J. Rohr, highlighted that point, saying that Bean turned himself in and was sorry for what he had done.
“If he hadn’t turned himself in, they might not have a case at all,” he said.
Judge Daniel Kuehnert said that was why he chose to accept the plea, although he expressed concerns about Bean’s latest DWI.
“That’s bad for you. That’s bad for your family. That’s bad for everybody. You don’t want to kill anybody else,” he said. “You have been given something her father did not get, and that’s a second chance.”
He said that the jail sentence prosecutors had agreed to in exchange for the guilty plea — 150 days — felt “inadequate,” and he ordered that Bean take a copy of Michael Cauley’s letter with him to jail.
Juliana Cauley said in an interview after the hearing that she was grateful Bean seemed to accept responsibility for her father’s death.
“It was hard to see him coming out, but I think … at the same time it was a relief that he did accept it,” she said.
She said she was glad the case was over.
“I wish he could have got a lot more (time on his sentence),” she said. “At least he’s going for four months.”
Reporter Kara Fohner can be reached at 828-610-8721.