Denton woman pleads guilty in two drunken-driving deaths

April 08, 1997|By Dail Willis | Dail Willis,SUN STAFF

CAMBRIDGE -- A Denton waitress who drove the wrong way down U.S. 50 while drunk and killed two people pleaded guilty in court yesterday to manslaughter charges.

The guilty plea by Sheila Ann Englehart, 40, resolved one of the most serious drunken-driving cases in recent memory on the Eastern Shore. Englehart's blood-alcohol level immediately after the Nov. 1 accident near Linkwood was 0.32, nearly five times the legal limit.

Englehart faces as much as 20 years in jail after accepting a plea bargain from the Dorchester County state's attorney. Under terms of the agreement, she pleaded guilty to three of the 16 charges filed against her, and the state dropped the other 13. The state is seeking a 20-year sentence, with 10 years suspended.

Judge Donald F. Johnson said he would sentence Englehart on June 5.

Present in the courtroom were Vernon Waldron and his wife, Christine. Mrs. Waldron was driving west on U.S. 50 near Linkwood about 7: 30 p.m. Nov. 1 when her car was hit head-on by Englehart, who was driving the wrong way on U.S. 50.

Mrs. Waldron's daughters, 17-year-old Thera and 10-year-old Autumn, were passengers in their mother's car, and both died as a result of the accident.

The Waldron family, who sat in the front row and wept quietly during the proceedings, said afterward they were satisfied with the plea agreement.

"I don't think she can handle a trial," Vernon Waldron said, nodding toward his wife. Mrs. Waldron, who suffered severe head and leg injuries in the crash, still uses a cane and has trouble walking. She cannot recall the accident that killed two of her children.

The accident raised questions on the Eastern Shore about how severely drunk drivers should be prosecuted. Englehart had several arrests and one conviction for drunken driving in Worcester County.

The accident involved four cars and took a state police officer 200 hours to reconstruct. Officers determined that Englehart, who had an open bottle of vodka in her car, turned the wrong way down U.S. 50 from a left turn lane that bisected the median near Linkwood. In less than a minute, officers said, her Oldsmobile Cutlass had collided head-on with the Waldrons' Hyundai Elantra.

The Englehart vehicle went on to collide with one driven by Monica Diggs. Christine McCauley, who was behind the Diggs vehicle, drove off the road to avoid a collision.

Diggs and McCauley were also in court, and expressed hope that a strong sentence would be handed down.

Pub Date: 4/08/97

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