A man accused of auto manslaughter was playing "follow the leader" or "leapfrog" with two motorists along Route 140 when one of them struck and killed a Westminster woman, his attorney said yesterday during the first day of a jury trial.
In his opening statement, J. Barry Hughes, representing Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 21, of Westminster, told jurors that his client was playing the game with two men -- one of whom is also on trial in Carroll Circuit Court -- between Westminster and Finksburg on June 1.
Mark E. Eppig, 22, of Westminster lost control, crossed the median and slammed into a green Mitsubishi, instantly killing its driver, Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu, 42, a middle school teacher.
Hughes said evidence will show that there was no agreement among the three men to race. He said Hensen was not engaged in a speed contest, which is the state's theory.
After speeds reached 75 mph on a straightaway as the cars headed east past the Suffolk Road intersection, Hensen backed off while the two others sped ahead, Hughes said. The crash occurred at the intersection of Sunset Lane.
Gary W. Wiessner, representing Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 25, of Parkville, chose not to make an opening statement until after the state has presented its case in the trial, which is expected to continue through next week.
Carroll prosecutor David P. Daggett called Broadfoot a "coward" for leaving the scene of the accident and said Hensen, Broadfoot and Eppig were "driving like idiots -- there's no other word for it -- when Eppig lost control."
Daggett told jurors that Eppig had pleaded guilty to auto manslaughter two weeks ago and will probably testify Monday.
Hughes emphasized Eppig's "deal from the state." He said that in return for his testimony against Hensen and Broadfoot, Eppig will be sentenced to no more than three years in the county jail rather than in a state prison.
Two prosecution witnesses agreed yesterday that the cars were going very fast.
Pub Date: 11/14/98