15-year-old pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter

Youth sent to Hickey

girl, 13, died in crash

March 05, 2002|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

A 15-year-old pleaded guilty yesterday in Juvenile Court to vehicular manslaughter in the death of a 13-year-old acquaintance killed last summer in West Baltimore when the stolen car the older teen-ager was driving crashed into a utility pole.

Passenger Melissa Ann Willis, described by her family as a "sweet, happy girl," died after the 15-year-old lost control of the Dodge Neon he was driving. Three other teen-age passengers were injured and have since recovered.

The youth fled the scene of the crash June 22, prosecutors said, but was arrested three weeks later when police found him in another stolen Neon and chased him through downtown Baltimore.

Yesterday Judge Martin P. Welch sentenced the teen-ager to the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School until he turns 21 or proves to the court he should be released. He also must pay restitution, which the court will decide at a later date.

"It's hard to fathom a 15-year-old with a whole life ahead of him can impose so much hurt and pain," Welch told the teen-ager.

The Sun does not publish the names of Juvenile Court defendants.

The teen-ager remained subdued throughout the sentencing. His courtroom demeanor and the sentence angered members of Willis' family, who live just over the city line in Anne Arundel County.

"They're giving him a second chance; my daughter didn't get a second chance," said Melissa Willis' mother, Tammy Willis, 32, who said her daughter was in the stolen car that morning only because she was a friend of the driver's girlfriend. "Everyone wants to protect him. Nobody tried to protect my daughter."

She was especially upset by the youth's refusal to speak to the court when asked. "He didn't even say he was sorry for what he did," Tammy Willis said.

The youth has been at the Hickey school since his arrest last summer. Last month, Judge David W. Young denied prosecutors' request that the case be transferred to the adult court system so he could face a harsher punishment.

At yesterday's trial, Assistant State's Attorney Julius A. Silvestri Jr. read a statement of fact saying that the Neon was stolen from the 4000 block of Sixth St. after 10 p.m. June 21. According to witnesses, about four hours later the 15-year-old was driving the car with Melissa Willis and three other passengers in the 2400 block of W. Patapsco Ave., where the speed limit is 35 mph.

The car went around a turn at an estimated 88 mph, jumped a curb, hit a utility pole and flipped three times, Silvestri said. Witnesses said the driver "staggered away."

The teen-ager's lawyer, public defender Mark Friedenthal, told the court he wants the youth to enroll in a drug treatment program because he has a problem with sniffing glue.

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