Hit-and-run driver gets probation Laurel woman given chance at sentence of probation before judgment

March 11, 1998|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel County circuit judge sentenced a hit-and-run driver to two years' probation yesterday, giving the Laurel woman a chance at the probation-before-judgment sentence he had denied.

"It was an awful thing that happened," Hope Louise Gribble, 43, of the 9100 block of Cherry Lane said, referring to the fatal accident Feb. 23, 1997. "I would know better next time."

Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. suspended a 60-day jail term and placed Gribble on supervised probation that might include alcohol counseling.

He reviewed her driving record, which included a 14-year-old drunken-driving conviction, another in 1996 and completion of a driving-improvement class in 1990 that neither defense nor prosecution could explain. Not having that record was one reason Greene refused probation before judgment in January. Prosecutors had agreed not to oppose the request for probation before judgment, said Danielle Mosley, assistant state's attorney.

"Still, I am not convinced at this time that a PBJ is appropriate," Greene said yesterday.

Probation before judgment offers the possibility of wiping out a conviction if the defendant's time on probation is unblemished.

Victor Houlon, Gribble's attorney, said that in about a year, he will seek reconsideration of changing the sentence to probation before judgment.

An intoxicated pedestrian was killed in the accident. Elaine Bridgett Woodson, 37, of the 200 block of Easton St. in Laurel walked into eastbound traffic on Route 198 near Ethel Drive and was rapidly struck by three cars in the darkness at 8 p.m.

Because the other two drivers returned to the scene, they were not charged. County police faulted Woodson for the accident. She had a blood-alcohol level of 0.29 percent and could not be seen on a rainy night in a poorly lighted area, said Houlon.

An autopsy found that blows from all three vehicles probably caused Woodson's death.

Gribble did not return to the scene, although she pulled her van over and waited east of the accident scene. Gribble said she thought she might have hit a deer.

How police connected Gribble to the accident is in dispute. Based on witness accounts, police were looking for a blue van with damage to its front bumper, grille and, possibly, its windshield.

More than a week after the accident, police said, Gribble's former boyfriend reported that Gribble had told him about hitting someone with the van they owned jointly. He said he had given her a few days to turn herself in but that she had not, so he was leading police to her. Houlon said Gribble sent the former boyfriend to inquire about the accident.

Police said when they went to Gribble's home last March, she confessed and was arrested. They found Woodson's hair in a broken front light of her van, Mosley said.

Pub Date: 3/11/98

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