Man given 5-year term in mother's death He was driving drunk at time of fatal crash

October 09, 1997|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Nine drunken-driving convictions and a revoked license did not keep Charles H. Sexton from climbing behind the wheel while drunk in March and crashing into a utility pole, killing his mother.

Howard County prosecutors are hoping a five-year prison sentence imposed by a circuit judge yesterday will keep the 48-year-old Woodbine man off the road.

Sexton pleaded guilty to homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated and other charges stemming from the accident that killed Leonia Sexton, 75.

Sexton told Judge Raymond J. Kane that his punishment would last far longer than any prison term.

"I'll be punished for killing mama until I die," said Sexton, a mover who lived with his mother.

Sexton's driver's license was revoked at least 19 years ago, state Motor Vehicle Administration officials said. He was convicted of drunken driving nine times from 1968 to 1994. He reapplied for a license in 1978 but was refused, MVA officials said.

Prosecutors and family members said that Sexton had spent time behind bars but they did not know how much. Sexton admitted in court that he has an alcohol problem.

Brenda Barnes, state executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, termed the case "outrageous" and said some drinkers seem to be beyond rehabilitation.

"It's so unfortunate, because so many innocent lives are lost as a result," Barnes said. "But with the very hard-core addicted people, it's very difficult to reach them. Often it's an exercise in futility."

MVA spokesman Richard Scher said the strongest power his agency has is to revoke an offender's license and force the person to wait a specified time before reapplying.

"It's out of our hands," Scher said. "We can't do anything more."

Three of Sexton's sisters were in court yesterday. One doubled over and sobbed when the prosecutor recounted the events of March 28.

At 7: 50 that evening, Sexton was driving to pick up carryout food. One of his passengers, Sexton's 11-year-old nephew, told police Sexton drank beer in the car on the way.

"The defendant got into his car with his mother, his nephew and the cans of beer," said Assistant State's Attorney Christine Gage. "He could not even drive. that short distance without booze."

The crash occurred on St. Michaels Road between Lisbon and Mount Airy, just south of Hardy Road.

Police, who found Sexton walking away from the scene with a half-full bottle of whiskey in his pocket, initially charged him with refusing to render aid at the scene of an accident. Witnesses told police that Sexton had walked past homes from which he could have called for help.

Sexton's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Louis Willemin, said Sexton was looking for assistance and did not leave his injured mother alone maliciously. Prosecutors said that when police found Sexton, he was mumbling about a "telephone."

After Sexton was sentenced, his sisters asked Gage whether they could talk to him. The three lined up as their brother turned around in the defense chair, smiling as his sisters leaned over the barrier and chatted with him.

One sister, Iva Musser, 44, said outside the courtroom that the family had mixed feelings about the accident. They blame their brother for their mother's death, she said, but feel he needs help for his drinking problem.

"That's what our mother would have wanted," Musser said. "We realize nothing we do is going to bring mom back."

Musser said law enforcement authorities share the blame for her brother's being on the road that night. Sexton had been arrested on drunken-driving charges in August 1996 but did not show up for his October trial in Howard District Court. The judge ordered his arrest, but no arrest was made until after the fatal accident more than six months later.

"When he did not show up for court, they should have been at his doorstep," Musser said.

A police spokesman said the year's approximately 3,000 arrest warrants are prioritized. Letters are sent to all who are wanted, and police officers focus on the most serious offenders.

Musser said her family had talked often with her brother about his tangles with the law.

"He's 48 years old. What are you going to do, ground him like you do a kid?" Musser asked.

Pub Date: 10/09/97

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