Clockwise from top: Donna with best friend Mimi Sanderlin; Donna enjoying a happy day; and with a little guy, her nephew Nathan, who warms her heart. Mimi writes: "Donna is my closest friend, the one many people yearn for but never quite find. I told Donna more times than I can imagine, 'You are the sister God meant for me to have.'"

More news stories about two innocent lives taken click here.

"Donna was above all an educator. What did she teach? To anyone who would listen, she taught every cool thing she learned. . . . She could walk you through a swampy patch of Florida woodland and, while you were swatting at mosquitoes, she would be explaining the marvelous growing habit of the mangrove, or how a butterfly drinks nectar by reaching into the heart of a flower with a long syringe-like tongue. She would dilate on these facts, confident that when you knew them, your life would be immensely better." --Ellen Deitz Tucker, Donna's sister

Donna Jean Deitz


Belmont, NC--A police pursuit late Wednesday night in Belmont ended with a crash that killed two innocent victims, including the Gaston County town's former mayor.

Kevin Loftin, 56, was among two people in a silver Audi that was rammed by a black Acura driven by a South Carolina man who was later arrested. Also killed was Loftin's friend, Donna Jean Deitz, 60.

The crash happened about 10:15 p.m., three or four minutes after police began pursuing the Acura. Norman Saunders Jr., 42, was arrested and is Gaston County Jail, awaiting charges to be filed. Belmont police say the district attorney will make a decision on charges.

The series of events began shortly after 10 p.m., police say, at a DWI checkpoint. Authorities say a black Acura failed to stop at the checkpoint. Belmont police Chief Charlie Franklin said officers pursued the driver because he allegedly nearly struck two law enforcement officers while getting away. According to police, Saunders was driving without a license. WSOC-TV is reporting that Saunders recently was released from prison in South Carolina.

Franklin told reporters that the driver of the Acura was traveling up to 75 mph during the pursuit. As the driver approached the intersection of Wilkinson Boulevard and Park Road, police say, he crashed a red light and sideswiped a PT Cruiser before slamming into the Audi. The force of the crash pushed Loftin's Audi into a telephone pole.

Loftin died at the scene. Deitz was rushed to a hospital but died a short time later. Police say Saunders tried to escape, jumping from his vehicle and running. He was caught by police within minutes. A passenger in the Acura was questioned by police but released. Three people in the PT Cruiser suffered minor injuries. Loftin was mayor of Belmont from 1992 to 1997 and served in a number of business leadership roles. He was president of the town's chamber of commerce in 2001.

Published in Charlotte Observer on February 24, 2012.