Motorist sentenced for fatal car crash

Laurel man apologizes for drunken-driving death of woman, 42

Anne Arundel

September 04, 2002|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Laurel man apologized at his sentencing yesterday to the family of the woman whose death he caused by driving drunk last year, saying he hoped someday they will forgive him even though he cannot forgive himself.

"I know that what I did was wrong and I will have to live with it for the rest of my life," Paul Thomas Parsons, 38, told the victim's family before he was sentenced in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, as relatives of Linda Fisher sobbed and nodded.

Fisher's mother wept loudly in court but said that she had wanted Parsons to address her.

"I feel sorry for the gentleman because he is going to hurt like I hurt, and I didn't want that to happen. But she is in a better place, and we have to live with it," Beverly A. DeMun-Gustafson, the victim's mother, told Judge Ronald A. Silkworth.

Parsons apologized for getting behind the wheel while drunk and for swerving into oncoming traffic as he drove west on the Bay Bridge the morning of Oct. 24, causing the four-vehicle accident that claimed Fisher's life. Prosecutors said his blood-alcohol level was .20 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

Silkworth sentenced him to five years in prison, but suspended 3 1/2 years of the sentence. Of the remaining time, Parsons will serve 90 days on work release at the county jail and the rest on house arrest. He also was sentenced to five years of probation, including 300 hours of community service, much of which Silkworth said should be devoted to speaking to groups about the fatal crash. The judge also fined him $5,000, but suspended half of that amount.

"Consider yourself lucky: You are here. You can move on. Miss Fisher can't," the judge said.

After the hearing, Fisher's family said the Crumpton woman was a vibrant and kind 42-year-old who did not let her disability -- she had lost a leg to diabetes -- stop her from fishing, swimming and parasailing.

Parsons' relatives and friends described him as a wonderful person, and they said he has grown despondent over causing Fisher's death. They also he is partly disabled from injuries suffered in the crash.

His lawyer, Peter S. O'Neill, said Parsons, who had no criminal record, has been in counseling and is being treated for depression. O'Neill said he thought the sentence fairly considered the wishes of the victim's family as well as his client.

The maximum prison term Parsons could have received was five years for pleading guilty in July to homicide while under the influence. He was charged originally with auto manslaughter.

But Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler said he agreed to the plea to the less-serious charge because sentencing guidelines and the likely sentence were nearly the same in this case.

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