Driver admits guilt in death of brother

August 18, 1993|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Staff Writer

A 29-year-old Brooklyn Park man pleaded guilty yesterday in Howard County District Court to manslaughter by automobile for a May accident in which he slammed into a tree, killing his brother.

David Brian Laughery of the 200 block of W. Meadow Drive had been going 70 mph in a 25-mph zone before the accident and had a 0.08 blood-alcohol level, said Assistant State's Attorney William Tucker.

The legal standard for intoxication in Maryland 0.10. A level of between 0.07 and 0.10 is considered under the influence of alcohol.

"The vehicle [was] operated in a grossly negligent manner," said Howard County District Court Judge Louis A. Becker. That and Laughery's blood-alcohol level were sufficient to find him guilty, he said.

The manslaughter by automobile conviction carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Laughery stood silently in court yesterday, as his defense attorney, Francis A. Sauer of Baltimore, told the judge that they would save comments for the day of sentencing.

The judge ordered Laughery held without bond yesterday and delayed sentencing until Oct. 19, after Laughery undergoes drug and alcohol screenings and a psychiatric evaluation.

A urinalysis done in the summer showed Laughery tested positive for PCP while he was out on bail under pretrial supervision in this case.

In an interview, the judge said he couldn't comment on what effect Laughery's use of the drug would have on his sentencing, because the matter is still pending.

Outside the courtroom, the prosecutor voiced some sympathy for Laughery, but said, "Society has an interest and a debt has to be paid."

Later, he said, "You can imagine what the family is going through."

"He didn't mean to do it," said the man's mother, Gloria Laughery, in a telephone interview yesterday. "It was an accident."

Her son "has gone through a lot" since the accident, she said. "He's having a hard time. . . . I pray for him every night."

The accident took place on the afternoon of May 1, after a fishing expedition in Baltimore County.

As Laughery was driving north on College Avenue in Ellicott City, the speeding Chevrolet Monte Carlo ran off the right side of the curvy road, struck a tree and overturned, ripping off the car's right front door.

Richard Douglas Laughery Sr., 51, of Linthicum, who was riding in the front seat, was pronounced dead at the scene.

David Laughery, the driver, was treated and released from Howard County General Hospital.

His sons, David Laughery, 9, and Shane Laughery, 5, and his brother's son, Ricky Laughery, 7, were flown by state police helicopter to the Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore, where they were treated and later released.

Five witnesses told police that they saw David Laughery crawl out of the driver's side door, pull the blood-covered children from the Monte Carlo, and attempt to free his brother.

At the accident scene, investigators found beer cans and a cooler with beer.

Blood tests also showed that the dead man's blood-alcohol level was 0.15, Mr. Tucker said.

The weather wasn't a factor in the accident, investigators said.

As part of a plea bargain, Laughery pleaded guilty to the most serious charge, manslaughter by automobile.

The state then dropped a number of other charges, including homicide while intoxicated, homicide while under the influence, speeding and reckless driving.

Since the accident, Laughery has taken responsibility for his actions, and in June enrolled in a drug treatment program in Glen Burnie, his attorney said.

"He hasn't run from that," Mr. Sauer said. "He's trying to help himself."

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