Jury convicts Owings Mills woman of manslaughter in death in crash Visiting Russian girl was passenger in car

July 21, 1996|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Carroll County Circuit Court jury deliberated for four hours Friday before convicting a 41-year-old Owings Mills woman of manslaughter by automobile and related charges.

Katya Malahova, a 15-year-old girl visiting from Moscow, died July 9, 1995, in the one-car accident when a Nissan driven by Stella Natarova, her mother's longtime friend, skidded and veered off Deer Park Road near Gamber and slammed into a pine tree.

The victim and her mother, Rimma Malahova, and Natarova's daughter Rita, 15, were passengers in the car.

Rimma Malahova was flown to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where she was treated for severe injuries and discharged about a month later.

Natarova and her daughter sustained minor injuries.

Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. set sentencing for Oct. 9.

fTC Malahova, who returned from Moscow to testify through an interpreter during the three-day trial, told the jury that she and her daughter were visiting Natarova for a month.

She said Natarova was upset as they and the two girls left Baltimore County to visit a friend in Carroll County.

Prosecutor David P. Daggett said the main issue in the trial was whether there was gross negligence, which state law defines as wanton or reckless disregard for the life or property of others.

Tfc. Dave Brauning, an accident reconstruction specialist for the Maryland State Police, testified that he calculated that Natarova's Nissan was traveling 75 mph before it struck the tree just after the bridge across Liberty Reservoir.

The car was heading west on Nicodemus Road, which becomes Deer Park Road where it crosses the Baltimore-Carroll county line at the reservoir. The speed limit on Deer Park Road is 45 mph.

Witnesses who were fishing on the bridge over the reservoir said the car was traveling very fast.

One said he estimated the car was traveling 90 mph. Another said the wind created by the passing car blew his tackle box off the curb on the bridge.

Harvey K. Maizels, a Baltimore attorney representing the defendant, said Natarova was driving about 60 mph, by her own account.

"Negligence is not gross negligence," Harvey told the jury. "Would she have a wanton disregard for her own daughter's life who was also riding in the car that day?"

The defense attorney suggested that Katya's death was a matter of bad luck, because a tree limb smashed through the car window and struck her head.

In rebuttal, Daggett argued that speed was the issue.

"Mr. Maizels cannot actually mean the girl died because a tree limb just happened to be sticking out when that car skidded 119 feet and then continued another 400 and some feet off the road and into the tree," he said. "This was not just a minor collision. "Speed is what this case is all about."

The jury of three men and nine women also found Natarova guilty of reckless driving, negligent driving, exceeding the posted speed limit and driving at a speed greater than reasonable and prudent.

Pub Date: 7/21/96

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