Drunken-driving fatality draws 12 years

Accident killed girl, 4, injured parents, sisters

March 21, 2003|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

A 34-year-old Hyattsville man who was convicted of killing a 4-year-old girl and injuring her parents and sisters in a drunken-driving accident July 13 was sentenced yesterday to 12 years in prison.

Marcos P.S. Amaya was convicted in December of 18 alcohol- and driving-related charges, including auto manslaughter in the death of Nadine Younis.

Howard Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure, who tried the case instead of a jury, sentenced Amaya to 10 years in jail on the manslaughter conviction, with all but six years suspended.

She added six more years, to be served consecutively, for conviction on charges related to the serious injuries suffered by Nouran Younis, 7, and Yara Younis, 23 months. Both spent 11 days in the hospital with skull fractures after the incident.

Amaya received credit for 117 days served in jail awaiting trial, and, after his sentence, will face five years of supervised probation with counseling, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and abstinence from alcohol or drugs.

He was fined $200 for driving without a valid license.

Amaya, a Honduran immigrant, was remorseful at sentencing, and offered a statement, written in Spanish and read aloud by a translator. It said, in part, "I beg you to forgive me. ... I repent before the parents of the little girl, the court and God."

But Leasure, noting the tragic nature of the accident, said, "It is hard for the court to imagine anything more difficult than burying one's children."

Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Duclaux requested the 12-year sentence, saying, "This is a case that screams out for a harsh penalty."

Mohamed Younis and Ghada Elmetwally had spent the day with their children in Annapolis and then stopped at Chick-fil-A for dinner on the day of the crash.

Younis had turned the family's Nissan Sentra onto the Executive Park Drive ramp leading to Route 100 when Amaya's Jeep crossed the median, hit a pole and crashed into the car from behind, according to trial testimony. It appeared that Amaya did not brake before the collision.

Witnesses testified that they saw Amaya swerving and driving erratically before the crash. He admitted having at least five alcoholic drinks before he got on the road, and the police found his blood-alcohol level to be 0.19.

In a statement submitted to the court, Younis, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, said Amaya's actions "caused a disaster in our life and left [an] untreatable wound in our heart."

He said Nouran and Yara are recovering, but the family faces substantial medical bills. His wife has had difficulty resulting form a neck injury, and he is being treated for neck damage that caused numbness in his arm and severe pain.

"There is no word that can describe the shock, sadness and grief that we have been going through for the loss of Nadine," he said. "Whatever anyone can ever imagine is a very tiny fraction of what we feel.

"She was a joyful child. ... Life is tasteless without her."

The conclusion of the criminal case will allow the family to move forward with a $10 million civil suit against Amaya, filed in August.

It will be difficult for the family to get money from Amaya because it appears he does not have insurance or personal savings, said William E. Erskine, the attorney representing the family in the civil case.

But, Erskine called Leasure's sentence "significant." He said the family members "feel better that at least for 12 years, Mr. Amaya won't have the ability to do this again."

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