Retrial begins of two men charged in death of teacher in car accident

Prosecutor says suspects were racing before crash

April 18, 1999|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

The retrial of two men accused of causing the death of a Mount Airy Middle School teacher last June by racing along Route 140 is to continue tomorrow in Carroll County Circuit Court.

In opening statements Friday, a prosecutor said Frederick H. Hensen Jr. and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr. are guilty of automobile manslaughter and second-degree assault even though they weren't driving the car that struck and killed Geraldine "Geri" Lane Wu of Westminster.

"What was intentional was the racing a high-speed chase, a race, a game -- call it what you will," said David P. Daggett, an assistant state's attorney.

He told the jury that witnesses would describe high speeds, tailgating and unsafe passing along the 5.4-mile stretch of Route 140 from Westminster to Finksburg just before the crash occurred at 9: 30 p.m. The three men "drove like fools," he said.

Hensen, 22, of Westminster and Broadfoot, 25, of Parkville are charged with manslaughter by automobile in the death of Wu, 42, and with second-degree assault. Wu's daughter, Min-li Wu, 15, was injured in the crash.

Mark E. Eppig, 22, of Westminster, pleaded guilty to the charges in October and agreed to testify for the prosecution. His car collided with Wu's.

Eppig and Broadfoot started racing out of the Burger King in Westminster, Daggett said. Eppig went about a quarter-mile before starting to turn back -- thinking he had won -- but Broadfoot kept going and Eppig made a fatal decision to resume the contest, which was soon joined by Hensen, the prosecutor said.

"Mr. Hensen does not belong in this case," his attorney, J. Barry Hughes, told the jury. "The evidence will show there was no agreement to race by Fred Hensen," and his car wasn't capable of the speeds alleged.

"They were speeding, and I believe you will find they were driving negligently," Hughes said.

Less than a mile before the accident, Eppig's and Broadfoot's vehicles "took off side by side [but] Mr. Hensen did not join that activity," his attorney said.

Broadfoot's attorney, Gary W. Wiessner, said he would make an opening statement later and declined to comment further Friday.

Hughes told the jurors they would have to struggle to put aside their sympathy for the victims and to consider the evidence against the two defendants as individuals, despite the joint trial.

Hensen, a 1996 Westminster High School graduate, attended technical school and works in Hunt Valley as a junior engineer, while living with his parents, Hughes said.

The victim's husband, Laurence Wu, a professor of philosophy and religious studies at Western Maryland College, attended the opening day of the trial and said he plans to be there every day, as he was at the previous trial.

In November, a jury deadlocked on the two main charges against Hensen and Broadfoot but found them guilty of racing at more than 85 mph, and of other driving offenses.

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