Hit-run driver given 10 years Convicted five times for DWI, man pleads guilty in fatal accident

August 11, 1998|By Tanya Jones | Tanya Jones,SUN STAFF

An Arbutus man who had racked up five drunken driving convictions but never spent more than a few days in jail was sentenced to 10 years in prison yesterday for killing a Laurel man in a hit-and-run accident in November.

Richard Darrell Ward, 49, of the 1100 block of Courtney Road pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Clayton Greene Jr. imposed the maximum sentence.

Ward was arrested Nov. 16 about an hour after fatally striking Mark Jeffrey Schroyer, 40, of the 9200 block of Traders Crossing Road in Laurel. Schroyer and a friend were changing a flat tire at the side of Route 100. Ward was driving even though his license had been revoked in 1995 for alcohol violations.

"I know that I have to be punished, and I'm truly sorry and hurt by what I've done," Ward, a father of three, told the judge. "This is the first time in my life I ever hurt anybody."

Ward was sentenced for driving while intoxicated in 1973, 1976, 1980, 1982 and in 1995, each time serving little more than a day or two in jail as he waited to post bond, according to Assistant State's Attorney William D. Roessler.

"Don't you think that each time you were found guilty you hurt them?" Greene said of Ward's wife and children. His two teen-age daughters were in the courtroom. "You're an alcoholic that kills people. You have had chances to change and you obviously have not changed."

More than making Ward pay a debt to society, Greene said, he imposed the maximum sentence to protect the public from him. Revoking Ward's license had not worked.

Assistant public defender Rodney Warren had asked for a sentence of three to five years with another five years suspended to give Ward an incentive to seek treatment for alcoholism.

Ward, who worked on and off because of his drinking, has had a problem with alcohol since his teens, has tried to commit suicide three times and has sporadically sought treatment for bipolar disorder, according to Warren.

"He's got issues in his life that he needs to deal with, but he's basically irresponsible and chooses to go to alcohol and drink," Warren said.

Schroyer and his friend, Michael J. McFarland, 29, of Brooklyn Park, were struck as they were about to change a flat tire on McFarland's Chevrolet Geo along the right shoulder of westbound Route 100 near Coca Cola Drive about 12: 45 a.m. Nov. 16.

Schroyer was standing on the front side of the car with the driver's door open when Ward's Ford van hit the rear and side of the car, crushing Schroyer and dragging him 162 feet.

McFarland, who was in court yesterday, was outside the passenger side door and suffered a severe neck sprain and other injuries when he was struck by the Geo after the van hit it. Police found no evidence that Ward had tried to brake, Roessler said.

A few minutes later, as state police arrived at the scene, a Howard County police officer saw Ward's van on U.S. 1 with a headlight out and drifting across lanes.

When the officer pulled Ward over on Whiskey Bottom Road, Ward smelled of alcohol and was staggering, police said. His blood alcohol content was found to be 0.25. At 0.1, a person is considered drunk.

Once the Howard County officer was put in touch with state police, troopers linked Ward to the accident by the blood, tissue and down feathers stuck to the damaged bumper of his van, according to Roessler. A torn men's down coat had been found at the accident scene.

After the hearing, McFarland, a computer network specialist, said: "When you see a guy keep getting second, third, fourth and fifth chances, then you know the system is wrong. It's not fair."

Pub Date: 8/11/98

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