Severn man pleads guilty in fatal crash

Couple from Puerto Rico, man from Silver Spring killed on BW Parkway

Alcohol a factor, prosecutor says

Maximum of five years on each of 3 homicide counts

Anne Arundel

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

While teary victims' relatives watched -- some after traveling thousands of miles -- a Severn man pleaded guilty yesterday to causing what Anne Arundel County prosecutors said was the only car crash to claim three lives in recent years in the county.

Michael Anthony Reck, 27, of the 1700 block of Barnwood Court, pleaded guilty to three counts of homicide by automobile while under the influence of alcohol for the accident Jan. 6 that killed a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian and his wife and a Chronicle of Higher Education senior writer. The three were sharing a limousine from Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Reck spoke only to answer questions from Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth. He remains free on $90,000 bail pending sentencing in December.

Assistant State's Attorney Shelly A. Stickell said she intends to seek substantial prison time when Reck is sentenced. The maximum for each count is 5 years, although state guidelines recommend probation to two years. The prosecutor said some "80 to 100 years of life was lost" among the three victims.

Stickell said Reck's blood alcohol level was 0.11 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent, when it was measured about 2 1/2 hours after the accident. She said that, in light of the poor weather conditions the night of the crash, she agreed to accept a plea to the charge of homicide -- rather than manslaughter, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison but requires proof of disregard for life.

Defense attorney Melvin Bergman said he was considering mitigating factors that could be raised at sentencing. Bergman said Reck told witnesses and police officers that he had been cut off by another vehicle before the crash.

The crash occurred about 8 p.m. on Baltimore-Washington Parkway, just south of Route 32, amid rain and sleet.

Reck was driving his girlfriend's Ford Explorer in the northbound lanes, Stickell said. The Lincoln limousine was heading south. Reck's vehicle crossed the grassy median and crashed nearly head-on into the limousine, then rolled into tall grass on the side of the highway.

Adrian Guzman-Torres, 61, and his wife, Aiko Vehara de Guzman, 64, both of Puerto Rico, and David W. Miller, 35, of Silver Spring were killed. The limousine driver was injured.

The son of a farmer, Adrian Guzman was a veterinarian employed by the USDA in Puerto Rico. He had flown to BWI to attend meetings in Washington and Greenbelt.

The Guzmans had no children, but Adrian Guzman was part of close-knit family of 10 brothers and about 35 nieces and nephews, some of whom flew in yesterday, having made arrangements when they were unsure whether there would be a trial.

In an unusual move yesterday, Silkworth allowed three relatives from Puerto Rico to give victim-impact statements -- typically not permitted until sentencing -- to spare them another trip.

Benjamin Guzman, a lawyer and nephew of the couple, called his uncle and his Okinawan-born aunt leaders, and said they were considerate of others in their family and community, and at church and work.

"They never missed a birthday, they never missed a graduation," he said.

"I want Mr. Reck to know we lost someone very important to us," he said. "I want Mr. Reck to remember my beloved aunt and uncle for the rest of his life."

Miller's widow, Colleen, said nothing in court. Later, she said that the night of the fatal crash she was waiting at home with her sons, Jack, 2 1/2 , and Jonah, 11 weeks, telling Jack that his father would soon be home from a conference in Atlanta.

"It was a very difficult thing for us to accept the plea because of the sentence attached to it," she said.

However, she said, she hopes for a lengthy sentence.

So many people are expected to attend the sentencing hearing that Silkworth agreed to try to hold it in the ceremonial courtroom, which holds more than 100 people.

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