Witness tells of racing before teacher's death

Two men being retried for auto manslaughter in Route 140 accident

April 20, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Westminster man who pleaded guilty in October to auto manslaughter testified yesterday against two co-defendants that he was racing them down Route 140 last summer at "about 100 mph or more" when he lost control near Finksburg, crashed and killed a popular Mount Airy Middle School teacher.

Mark E. Eppig, 22, told a Carroll County Circuit Court jury that he and the co-defendants, Frederick H. Hensen Jr., 22, of Westminster and Scott D. Broadfoot Sr., 25, of Parkville had not planned to race before setting out from the parking lot of a Westminster fast-food restaurant on the evening of June 1.

Eppig testified for the state against Hensen and Broadfoot in November. They were found guilty in November of the lesser charges of reckless driving, negligent driving, participating in a race or speed contest, exceeding the posted speed limit at 85 mph, failing to drive at a reasonable speed and unsafe passing.

The jury deadlocked on the most serious charges, auto manslaughter and second-degree assault.

Judge Daniel W. Moylan, a visiting judge from Washington County, also presided at the first trial. He declared a mistrial when the panel said it could not reach a verdict after more than nine hours of deliberation over two days.

Yesterday, Hensen and Broadfoot were back for the second day of testimony before Moylan and a different jury, which was selected Thursday for their retrial on the manslaughter and assault charges.

Eppig said Hensen was a friend from high school. He said he had never met Broadfoot but had seen his car, marked with distinctive white lettering, around Westminster. Eppig said he remembered spinning when his maroon Nissan went out of control near Sunset Lane but could not recall it crossing the median and crashing head-on into a 1997 Mitsubishi.

The Mitsubishi's driver, Geraldine Lane "Geri" Wu, 42, of Westminster, was killed instantly. Her daughter, Min-li Wu, now 15, a passenger, was injured. She was treated at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore and released the next day.

Eppig said he turned east on Route 140 from near Route 97 in Westminster ahead of Broadfoot and Hensen before Broadfoot's car pulled alongside his Nissan and "matched" speeds.

Tinted windows prevented his seeing Broadfoot's face, Eppig said, but "I knew he wanted to race when he `punched it,' accelerated quickly and pulled ahead."

Eppig said he was traveling about 80 mph when he overtook Broadfoot and pulled into a turnaround lane, intending to return to the parking lot when Broadfoot and Hensen sped by.

He said he decided to follow them so that he could watch them.

After catching up to them at a red traffic signal at Sandymount, Eppig said, he followed Broadfoot and Hensen at "80 mph to 90 mph through the intersection at Suffolk Road and passed both cars cresting a slight grade at "100 mph or more" when he lost control.

Defense attorneys J. Barry Hughes and Gary W. Weissner focused cross-examination on Eppig's plea agreement.

In return for his testimony against their clients, seven years of Eppig's 10-year sentence was suspended, and he was promised that he could request a sentence modification in May. He also was allowed to serve his sentence with work-release privileges at the Carroll County Detention Center rather than at a state prison.

Eppig denied knowing some of the details worked out between his lawyer and Assistant State's Attorney David P. Daggett but said he understood that his sentence could be shortened next month and that the possibility of a shorter term was a factor in his agreeing to plead guilty.

In redirect questioning, Eppig said he understood that Daggett would oppose any shorter sentence at the modification hearing.

The trial is expected to continue for about five more days.

Pub Date: 4/20/99

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