Man, 41, sentenced in officer's road death

He receives 14-year term in crash that killed Balto. County detective

August 28, 2002|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A 41-year-old laborer was sentenced to 14 years in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to causing a crash that killed a Baltimore County police detective in December, then fleeing to avoid his seventh drunken-driving arrest.

In a courtroom filled with police officers, the widow of Sgt. Mark F. Parry, 42, of Bel Air, who died in the crash, told the judge that her husband's death has put her and their three children through agony.

Lynn Parry said, however, that she was satisfied with the sentence given to Cesar Humberto Meza, who entered an Alford plea to auto manslaughter and a series of driving offenses. An Alford plea means Meza is not admitting guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors have sufficient evidence to convict him.

"I'm satisfied, given the charge and what he could have been given," Lynn Parry said.

State sentencing guidelines recommended a term of six to 12 years.

Meza, of the 9900 block of Tailspin Lane, Middle River, was sentenced by Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. Norris Byrnes to 10 years for auto manslaughter, three additional years for driving while intoxicated as a repeat offender and one additional year for driving with a revoked license. Byrnes also sentenced Meza to five years of probation.

Meza was heading west on Joppa Road about 11:30 p.m. Dec. 27 when he tried to turn left near Pleasant Plains Road in Towson and collided with an unmarked Ford Crown Victoria driven by Parry, according to a statement of facts read in court by Assistant State's Attorney Steve Kroll.

Parry, a 16-year veteran, was taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he died from brain injuries Jan. 21.

After the accident, police found Meza sitting on a bench about a quarter-mile from the scene in front of a restaurant on Joppa Road, Kroll said. He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14 percent, Kroll said. The legal limit in Maryland is 0.08 percent.

Previous convictions

Meza had been convicted of drunken driving three times in Virginia in the 1980s, three times in Maryland between 1993 and 1996 and his license had been revoked at the time of the accident, Kroll said.

Lynn Parry told Byrnes yesterday that she and her children - ages 14, 12 and 10 - have sought grief counseling to help deal with the loss of her "soulmate."

"He always had a smile on his face and always found a way to make me smile," Lynn Parry said. She said her husband wasn't scheduled to work the night he was killed, but agreed to fill in for another supervisor who wanted to spend time during the Christmas holidays with his family.

"I can't begin to describe the agony this has put me through," she said.

Meza, a native of Peru who supervised a crew of dry wall installers, apologized to Parry's family and friends and to the officers who packed the courtroom.

"It's not in me to harm anybody," he said through an interpreter. He then added in English, "I am sorry, I am sorry in my heart."

But Byrnes criticized Meza for refusing to obtain court-ordered alcohol treatment after his drunken-driving convictions.

`You did nothing'

"You had a history of driving while intoxicated, and you did nothing to take care of the problem. You kept drinking and you kept driving, and inevitably, inevitably, something like this was going to happen," Byrnes said.

Daniel Green, Meza's lawyer, said Meza is married and has two young children.

Green said Meza entered the United States illegally in 1985, worked under an assumed name for years and got married but was never detained by federal authorities despite his drunken-driving arrests. A week before the accident, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service granted him a permit to remain in the United States, Green said.

A spokesman for the INS suggested that Meza, like some other illegal immigrants, may have avoided apprehension by federal authorities by using fake identification. But Chris Bentley, the agency spokesman, declined to comment on the specifics of the Meza case yesterday.

"We don't know of every individual who is arrested by local authorities and is in this country illegally. Just because someone is in this country illegally, he might not look illegal to local law enforcement. He may have a fake Social Security [card] or other fake identification," Bentley said.

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