Driver given 13 years in fatal crash

May 20, 1994|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Western Maryland Bureau of The Sun

FREDERICK -- A drunken driver who caused a head-on accident that killed a 19-year-old mother near Linganore High School last fall when he should have been in jail was sentenced yesterday to 13 years in prison.

Timothy W. Turley, 29, of Frederick, received 13 years of a maximum 18-year prison sentence under an agreement in which he pleaded guilty to manslaughter by automobile, driving while intoxicated, driving with a revoked license and reckless driving.

He had three previous drunken driving convictions and other citations, some of which state Motor Vehicle Administration records showed had occurred while he drove with a suspended license.

"He's got one of the worst records I've ever seen," David Daggett, Frederick County's assistant state's attorney, said in court yesterday. "He was supposed to be in jail. That is the real irony and tragedy."

Frederick Circuit Judge Herbert L. Rollins said the "aggravated circumstances" in the case were "simply overwhelming" and had to be recognized in sentencing Turley.

"People do get outraged about these situations," Judge Rollins said. "This was a situation that very clearly could have been avoided."

Turley will be eligible for parole on the sentence handed down yesterday within six to 10 years, said Oliver John Cejka Jr., his attorney. He described the sentence as fair, given his client's record.

The defendant has been housed most recently in the Maryland (( Training Correctional Center in Hagerstown, where he is serving 18 months for violation of probation stemming from a conviction on an unrelated drunken driving charge.

Turley was to have been in jail on that drunken driving charge when his pickup truck crossed the center line on Old Annapolis Road near Linganore High School about 7 p.m. on Sept. 28 and struck head-on a vehicle driven by Kimberly Dawn Comfort, 19, of Mount Airy.

Ms. Comfort was pronounced dead at the scene. Her 18-month-old son, Austin, survived but suffered extensive head injuries.

Turley had been ordered to report to the Frederick County Detention Center to begin a 90-day work-release sentence after conviction on the previous drunken driving charge, but had failed to do so. A warrant for his arrest on charges of not appearing had been issued 21 days before the fatal crash, but had not been served for reasons that remain unclear.

Witnesses told police that Turley -- whose Maryland driver's license had been revoked several months earlier -- had been speeding. His blood-alcohol level was double the .10 that state law defines as intoxication, court records show.

In a statement read by his attorney to the court yesterday, Turley said: "I cannot tell you how extremely sorry I am in causing Kim Comfort's death. . . . I take full responsibility for what I did."

Mr. Cejka said Turley was "too ashamed" to read the statement himself and was afraid of breaking down in court. He said Turley is remorseful, but cannot remember details of the accident.

"I'm just truly sorry. I'm sorry," Turley said softly after his lawyer read the statement.

Mr. Cejka said Turley is an admitted alcoholic who began drinking when he was 9 or 10 and has "always had a drinking problem." He grew up in Germantown, in northern Montgomery County, and dropped out of high school.

Mark Moser, Ms. Comfort's boy-friend, told Judge Rollins that as a result of injuries from the crash her son, Austin, now 2, is fed through tubes, and instead of walking, scoots along, dragging a leg.

"That little boy is going to suffer for a long time," he said. He told the court he is not the child's father, and that he and Ms. Comfort had talked about marriage.

Several members of Ms. Comfort's family witnessed Turley's sentencing, but opted not to speak with reporters afterward.

Once released from prison, Turley will be placed on five years of supervised probation and undergo substance abuse and alcohol addiction treatment. He also will have to make some restitution to the family -- to be determined either by probation officials or the court upon his release from prison.

The Comfort family informed Judge Rollins that Austin has medical expenses approaching $250,000.

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