Not long after she joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving, 67-year-oldLouise Jex was killed by a drunken driver.
"She often said she wanted to help avoid just one more unnecessary death at the hands of a drunk driver," the woman's daughter, Marcie Jex McGrillies, told a judge yesterday in county Circuit Court. "The irony of this has cut ourfamily deeply and irreconcilably."
Charles George Dan Jr., 56, pleaded guilty yesterday to drunken driving in connection with Jex's March 1991 death. Under the plea agreement, the Severna Park man will serve three weeks at the county jailand perform 96 hours of community service. In return, prosecutors dropped a charge of homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr. seemed hesitant about accepting the plea bargain, but henoted that Dan's worst punishment will be having to live with the knowledge that he had killed someone.
While McGrillies spoke, Dan hung his head and covered his face.
McGrillies said: "My mother could have been here with us today and for many years to come, as a mentor, a neighbor, a wife, mother, grandmother and friend. But she's gone, because Charles Dan chose to drink to a dangerous level, got behindthe wheel of a car and turned that car into a death instrument.
"We have all been violently forced to endure the result of another human being's inexplicable contempt for the safety of others. The impactof Charles Dan's irresponsible choice to drink to excess on March 17, 1991, will stay with us forever."
Dan, a senior test manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, described his sadness and shame.
"I cannot express the overwhelming remorse I feel. I also suffer shame and disappointment and feel great sympathy for the Jex family," he told the judge. "As much as I would like to undo it, I can't. I can only try to be a better person. My efforts will be in the memory of Mrs. Jex."
William D. Roessler, a deputy state's attorney, told the court that Jex, of the 500 block of Old Pasture Lane in the Chartwell section of Severna Park, was crossing Lynwood Drive at about 9:30 p.m. to meet her granddaughter and accompany her home when she was hit by Dan's car.
He said the woman was wearing dark clothing and that Dan apparently never saw her. The prosecutor said tests showed Dan's blood-alcohol level to be .16 percent. The legal standard for intoxication is .10 percent.
After asking whether the Jex family had approved of the terms included in the plea bargain, Thieme sentenced Dan to 60 days in jail, with all but 21 suspended. McGrillies had called for Dan to receive straight jail time "rather than the convenience of weekend jail time or work release."
Thieme ordered Dan to perform 96 hours of community service at the Maryland ShockTrauma Center. The judge also fined Dan $1,000, ordered him to pay $835 in court costs, and placed him on five years probation upon release from jail. He ordered Dan to abstain from alcohol while on probation.
Defense attorney Christopher J. Drewniak said his client entered an alcohol treatment program after the accident.