Woman gets five years for fatal hit-and-run Hillendale man died in February incident

September 04, 1992|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,Staff Writer

A Northeast Baltimore woman implicated in a fatal hit-and-run accident when a gust of wind blew a tarp off her damaged car was sentenced yesterday to five years in prison for automobile manslaughter.

Deanna Marie Deering, who made a quick U-turn and drove off after running down 31-year-old George Richard Bittner on Feb. 14 on Harford Road, was also fined $1,000 for several traffic offenses.

"Mr. Bittner had a right to cross that street. He had a right to assume people using that street would be obeying traffic laws and not speeding," Baltimore Circuit Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson told the woman before passing sentence. "My sentence today is to punish you for what you've done."

Mr. Bittner was on his way home after an evening of bowling, planning to pick up a pizza to celebrate Valentine's Day with his wife of 14 months, when he was struck in the 6100 block of Harford Road. Testimony in the trial showed that Deering, 33, was speeding and passing cars when she struck the Hillendale man as he stood on the center line attempting to cross.

Deering was arrested a week after the accident; police said a gust of wind blew a tarp off her 1991 Nissan Sentra, exposing extensive damage to its grill, hood, windshield and roof. Acting on a telephone tip, police found the car parked near her home in the 5700 block of Plainfield Ave.

Police found Mr. Bittner's Bic cigarette lighter embedded in the car near a windshield wiper.

Deering had been held without bond to await sentencing since June 26, when a jury found her guilty of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Led into court yesterday in handcuffs, she immediately fought to keep from crying.

She apologized to the victim's family -- including the Mr. Bittner's wife, who held a daughter born three months after the fatal accident.

"I know a lot of people have been hurt," Deering said, "but I never tried to do anything to hurt anybody. It was unintentional. I never did anything malicious. I panicked."

Cassandra Bittner, the victim's widow, sobbed as she left the courtroom.

"Maybe she is sorry, but I had a hard time believing her," Mrs. Bittner said. Of the sentence, she said: "I guess it was as fair as it could be. I'd like to see 10 years, but the judge did what he thought was best."

Before sentencing the woman to 10 years in prison with all but five suspended, Judge Johnson questioned her claim that she had only one drink before the accident but did not immediately know that she had struck Bittner.

"Isn't that a bit inconsistent? You'd have to be pretty drunk not to realize a large man like Mr. Bittner was on the hood of your car," the judge said.

A psychiatric report showed Deering has suffered from a drinking problem and from psychiatric problems, including depression and a bout with bulimia. Her lawyer, Leo Ryan Jr., said, "Here's a person who gets some perception or feeling from outside stimulus and deals with them in an inappropriate manner."

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