Woman gets 18 months in car-crash homicide

Drunken-driving accident killed her boyfriend

July 17, 1999|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

A Sykesville woman was sentenced yesterday to 18 months in jail for a drunken-driving accident last year in Woodbine that killed her boyfriend.

Donna F. Cianci, 36, sobbed and stamped her foot, yelling, "Oh God, I'm going to jail," after Carroll Circuit Judge Francis M. Arnold adhered to a plea agreement and imposed a five-year sentence, with all but 18 months suspended.

Cianci pleaded guilty in April to homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated and driving while intoxicated.

John B. Yelton, 26, of Taylorsville was killed when Cianci's 1987 Ford Thunderbird went out of control on Woodbine Road north of Buckhorn Road at 2 a.m. May 5 last year. The car skidded into a porch, two trees and cars parked in the driveway of a house.

"She let John down, and she let me down," said Susan Scheufele, Yelton's mother, recalling that Cianci had promised she would be the designated driver if the couple went out partying.

Arnold merged the charges, allowed Cianci to delay reporting to the Carroll County Detention Center until 8: 30 a.m. Tuesday and said he would consider modifying the sentence if Cianci could be accepted into Granite House, a Westminster psychiatric rehabilitation center where she has been receiving therapy twice a week.

Brian Green, a public defender representing Cianci, said his client suffers from depression and mood disorder, the result of a "closed brain injury" sustained in the accident.

Cianci rocked in her chair at the defendant's table as Green sought rehabilitation rather than incarceration for her, and she stuttered repeatedly as she rambled to the judge about her grief over Yelton's death.

"I loved him, too," she said, sobbing.

"You can see she is 36 years old, but cognitively she is a child," Green said. "Her progress has been slow slow slow."

Peggy Grill Yox, Cianci's sister, told Arnold that her sister must be told when to take medication, when to shower and when to eat.

"She needs help making decisions, help for everything she does," Yox said.

"She's a real good actress and put on a good show," said Scheufele, the victim's mother.

Prosecutor Brian DeLeonardo said that what happened "was not a tragic accident, but a tragic crash." He reminded Arnold that Cianci was negligent and reckless when she chose to get behind the wheel of her car and drive.

"It could have been anybody else killed on the road that night because of the tragic choice she made to drive that car," DeLeonardo said.

"Mr. Yelton's family has depression issues to deal with, too," he said. "Her injuries may be tragic, but they don't excuse her."

Arnold ordered Cianci to serve five years' probation after she is released and to continue whatever therapy is deemed necessary.

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