Suspected Impaired Driver Indicted For Second-Degree Murder In Fatal Crash

CLEVELAND – A Johnston County Grand Jury has indicted a man on second-degree murder and aggravated felony death by motor vehicle charges stemming from a fatal three car accident the State Highway Patrol said he caused.

Joe Benton Armstrong Jr., age 44, of Knob Creek Way, Garner was indicted March 7, 2022 on the criminal charges. He was already facing traffic charges including driving while impaired, driving on a revoked license, careless and reckless driving, and failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.

On June 7, 2021 at 4:52pm, the Highway Patrol said Armstrong was operating a 2000 Buick westbound on Highway 42 approaching the intersection of Son-Lan Parkway near Interstate 40. Two others vehicles, also westbound, were stopped in a left turn lane at the intersection due to a red light. Armstrong made an abrupt lane change from the travel lane to the turn lane and struck a stationary 2021 Chevrolet passenger car from behind. The driver of the Chevrolet was identified as Bette Ann Liponis, age 88, of Wigeon Lane, Clayton.

The Chevrolet was pushed forward into a 2017 Toyota, driven by Crystal Dawn Penny, age 43, of Afton Lane, Smithfield.

Liponis died in the hospital from her injuries. Penny sustained minor injuries.

According to the Highway Patrol accident report, Armstrong was traveling at 50 mph when he struck Liponis’ stopped car from behind.

According to court documents, Armstrong had previously been convicted of driving while impaired on May 26, 2015 in Johnston County.

A trial date for Armstrong has not been set.