Confession doesn't end confusion

March 10, 1994|By Kris Antonelli | Kris Antonelli,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Dennis O'Brien contributed to this article.

A man who confessed nearly nine months after his truck hit and killed a pedestrian cannot be charged with auto manslaughter because there is not enough evidence, the county state's attorney's office said yesterday.

After reviewing the evidence in the March 26, 1993, accident, prosecutors said that Steven James Payton, 37, of the 7400 block of Furnace Branch Road in Glen Burnie could only be charged with negligent driving and failing to stay at the scene of a fatal accident.

A conviction for leaving the scene of an accident carries a maximum one-year jail sentence. A negligent driving conviction carries a series of fines, but no jail time.

State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said there would have to be proof of gross negligence to convict Mr. Payton of auto manslaughter, a difficult task when no one except the defendant saw the accident in which Leroy Seipp Jr., 33, of Pasadena was killed.

Even though Mr. Payton told police he was drinking the night of the accident, prosecutors would need corroborating evidence such as a blood-alcohol test, Mr. Weathersbee said.

"The problem is we just don't know exactly how this accident occurred," he said.

On Dec. 17, Mr. Payton told police he had been driving the truck that hit Mr. Seipp, according to charging documents. He also told police he didn't know he had hit someone until the next day, when he learned Mr. Seipp's body had been found at the exact location of the collision, the charging documents said.

The accident occurred after 1:30 a.m. as Mr. Seipp walked along the 7600 block of Baltimore-Annapolis Blvd. A passer-by found his body shortly after 5 a.m. and called police.

Until Mr. Payton's confession, the case was a mystery to police and Mr. Seipp's parents. Their son had been released on bail about 1:30 a.m. from the Glen Burnie court commissioner's office after being arrested in connection with a car accident.

Mr. Seipp had crashed his Datsun 280Z into a fire hydrant on Edwin Raynor Boulevard near Littleton Way, according to police. He was walking away from the scene when officers arrived and he refused to stop when ordered.

He was arrested after a brief struggle and taken to a District Court commissioner, who released him on his own recognizance. He left the Glen Burnie office about 1:35 a.m.

The case remained unsolved until December, when investigators put a large sign in front of a gas station near the scene of the accident. Mr. Payton told police the poster prompted him to confess.

After taking Mr. Payton's confession, police sent the case to the state's attorney's office for review.

"I just hope that this can all be over now," Mr. Seipp's father, Paul Seipp Sr., said yesterday. "It just keeps coming back to us over and over again."

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