Man avoids jail in death of best friend

April 06, 1994|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,Sun Staff Writer

ELKTON -- A 26-year-old Rising Sun man who killed his best friend while playing "chicken" on a highway in 1992 was given a three-year suspended sentence in Cecil County Circuit Court yesterday.

In lieu of time in prison, Judge Edward D. E. Rollins Jr. ordered Joseph Ruello to serve three years of supervised probation, perform 300 hours of community service and pay a $1,000 fine and court costs.

Judge Rollins said that he had considered 32 letters from relatives and friends of the defendant asking for leniency.

One letter was from Rita D. Farmer, the sister of Gregory Bryant Brown, the 22-year-old victim.

"This case involves a tragic mistake, obviously unintentional," the judge said.

"I don't see the community being served by giving you jail time," he told the defendant.

Ruello had pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter in February.

According to Assistant State's Attorney David Parrack, Ruello was driving to his construction job the morning of the accident in the 2200 block of Joseph Biggs Memorial Highway.

That route took him past the home of his friend, Mr. Brown.

Mr. Brown was driving east to his job as a heavy equipment operator.

Ruello's 1978 Ford pickup crossed the solid center line toward Mr. Brown's 1982 Subaru about 100 yards from the victim's home. Investigators said the two men had played this "game" before, but on Nov. 20, 1992, neither Ruello nor Mr. Brown swerved to avoid a collision and their vehicles met head-on.

Mr. Brown died instantly.

Ruello suffered two broken vertebra. His two passengers were not seriously injured.

Judge Rollins told Ruello's lawyers, Jeanette Lockhart Cole and Leonard Lockhart, that he would not consider probation before judgment, but recommended they file an appeal.

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