Sentence set in auto manslaughter

April 13, 1993|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A 22-year-old pregnant woman who killed a Perry Hall man while driving drunk in July was sentenced to work release and home detention yesterday and was ordered to tell her story as a speaker for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Heather Ann Wheeler gave no speech yesterday in Baltimore County Circuit Court. She merely hung her head as Judge John Grason Turnbull II sentenced her for automobile manslaughter and driving while intoxicated.

Judge Turnbull gave her 18 months on work release, followed by a year of home detention, plus alcohol counseling, three years' probation and work as a volunteer speaker. Ms. Wheeler could have received 10 years for the manslaughter, and a year and a $1,000 fine for her first driving while intoxicated conviction.

During yesterday's hearing, Dina Vakiaros, widow of Dimitrios Vakiaros, sobbed and told the judge how, when she was a student at Goucher College, she met her sailor husband while visiting Greece. Because she wouldn't leave her country, Mr. Vakiaros came here, she said. His parents, who are in Greece, thus blame her for his death.

"Ms. Wheeler is now pregnant, which I have just found out. It's very difficult, raising a child on your own," said Mrs. Vakiaros, who has a 2 1/2 -year-old daughter.

Mr. Vakiaros, 30, a resident of the first block of Crosswall Court, had opened Pete's Grill in Waverly with his father-in-law, and was on his way to the restaurant July 18. Mrs. Vakiaros told Judge Turnbull that without her husband, the restaurant is foundering.

Ms. Wheeler, a Toyota Motors credit representative who lives in the first block of Leatherwood Place, was legally drunk when she drove her Toyota Paseo through a red light at the intersection of Perry Hall and Rossville boulevards at 3:40 a.m. Ms. Wheeler's blood tests showed alcohol levels in the 0.12 to 0.15 range, above the state limit of 0.10, said Mr. Cox.

Defense attorney T. Wray McCurdy said Ms. Wheeler was upset after arguing with her then fiance that night and was blinded by tears when she inadvertently drove past her home and into the fatal collision. At the hospital, she was found to have miscarried twins as a result of the accident. She later married her fiance, who has since left her pregnant

The collision sent Mr. Vakiaros' Dodge Raider over a guardrail and down a 60-foot embankment. Mr. Vakiaros, who was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown 30 feet. Despite the efforts of passers-by trained in emergency medicine, Mr. Vakiaros was dead on arrival at Francis Scott Key Medical Center, said Assistant State's Attorney John P. Cox.

Judge Turnbull said that as a speaker for MADD, Ms. Wheeler "may have more impact on saving someone's life than I."

"Heather Wheeler had this sort of nondescript life, with a tragedy nobody knew about," said Mr. McCurdy. He said Ms. Wheeler's father vanished when she was was 12 years old.

"Maybe this tragedy will help her get some help."

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