Driver who killed young Columbia mother was drunk Survivors, friends call crash 'senseless'

March 26, 1993|By Frank Langfitt | Frank Langfitt,Staff Writer Staff writer Darren Allen contributed to this article.

The way Chante Wilson died was both tragic and all too common. For the friends and family the Columbia woman left behind, that makes her passing all the more difficult to accept.

"This was a needless killing," said Anthony Sims, a friend and mechanic who worked occasionally on Ms. Wilson's car. "This is not fair that those two children have to grow up without a mother."

Ms. Wilson, 25, died Wednesday after a drunken driver slammed into her car around 7 a.m. in Baltimore County, police said. The accident on Rolling Road also sent her boyfriend and their daughter and son to the hospital.

The couple had planned to marry in June, family members said. Yesterday, her boyfriend, Eric C. Miles, 27, and their 5-year-old daughter, Erica Miles, were in critical condition at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center and the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, respectively. Their 18-month-old son, Daris Shawn Miles, was listed in good condition at the children's center.

The driver of the other car, James Brian Distler, was killed in the accident. Baltimore County police said yesterday that Mr. Distler had a blood alcohol level of .15. The legal limit is .10.

"It's just senseless for someone to be drunk that early in the morning," said Valerie Curtis, Ms. Wilson's sister. "We're just devastated."

It wasn't the first time Mr. Distler had driven drunk.

The Essex man lost his license last year for a 1991 drunken driving conviction, according to the state Motor Vehicle Administration. He was arrested again on suspicion of drunken driving in August and was awaiting trial.

Mr. Distler, 30, worked for a Shoney's restaurant in Westminster at the time of his death. Before that, he was in the Carroll County jail serving an 18-month sentence for an unrelated theft from a K mart store.

Mr. Distler was released Feb. 11 after serving 51 days, according to court records. Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. reduced his sentence, but the reason remained unclear yesterday. Judge Beck had sealed the pertinent information. It was not known whether he had done so before or after the accident.

Friends and family recalled Ms. Wilson yesterday as a loving mother and good neighbor.

"Her children came before she did," said her aunt, Maggalean Henson. "Life was like a smile to her always."

Ms. Henson said her niece came from a close family. Last summer, she spent three weeks traveling around the United States with her children visiting relatives.

Ms. Henson said the family expected members from as far away as Mississippi and Seattle to come for the funeral. Services will be held at St. Johns Christian Community Church in Baltimore City next week.

Dottie Moore, executive director of the Howard County Community Action Council, lived downstairs from Ms. Wilson in a condominium on Hayshed Lane in Columbia. She recalled Ms. Wilson bringing her dinner last Thanksgiving when Ms. Moore's family was in Florida and she was alone for the holiday.

"I can't get over it," she said of Ms. Wilson's death.

The accident occurred while Ms. Wilson and Mr. Miles were driving to a bakery in Baltimore where Mr. Miles worked, neighbors said. Mr. Distler crossed the median and crashed into their 1981 Mercury Zephyr.

"We are assuming he either fell asleep or the intoxication led him to cross the middle line," said Patrick Zito, administrative officer of the Baltimore County police's western traffic division.

Yesterday, the couple's respective families kept vigil at the two hospitals, hoping for the best.

"They were nice people," said Mr. Sims, "too nice to have something like this happen."

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