Carroll man pleads guilty in woman's death in crash

He gets 18-month term, apologizes to family

Carroll County

January 07, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Six months after a car accident claimed the life of an 18-year-old Keymar woman, the man who admitted being intoxicated while driving her car pleaded guilty to automobile manslaughter yesterday.

Jason William Strine, 20, of Taneytown choked back tears as he delivered an emotional apology to members of Megan Alexis Weller's family, who sat in the front row of a Carroll County courtroom.

"I'm so sorry," Strine said as he turned to Steve and Pennie Weller, Megan's parents. "I wish I could take back that night. The pain I've suffered is not nearly as great as the Wellers', but it's been a really rough time. ... I beat myself up every night and day about this. It's always right there in front of me. I have nightmares about it."

In July, Strine was speeding when he lost control of Weller's car and it flipped over, police said.

The impact threw Weller from the passenger seat. Police said Strine had been drinking at a party that evening.

Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. gave Strine a 10-year sentence, with all but 18 months suspended, for automobile manslaughter, a felony.

Burns imposed a concurrent 60-day sentence for driving while impaired by alcohol, a misdemeanor, and ordered five years of supervised probation after Strine serves his time.

Strine will serve the time at the Carroll County Detention Center.

Burns also ordered Strine to make restitution of about $11,000 to the Wellers and to abstain from using alcohol during his probation.

Kathi Hill, Strine's attorney, said her client had never been in trouble before. A recent graduate of Francis Scott Key High School in Uniontown, Strine recently married and has a 2-year-old stepson.

Hill said that Strine has the support of his family in trying to move on with his life.

After court adjourned, the two mothers, Deborah Strine and Pennie Weller, embraced.

Weller worked at a nursing home and planned a career in nursing, family members said.

David P. Daggett, county senior assistant state's attorney, accepted the plea agreement but said that Strine might not have accepted full responsibility for his actions.

Daggett made his statement after disclosing that Strine had seven speeding tickets on his record, including one since the accident.

Early July 6, Weller and Strine met at a house party near Taneytown, Daggett said.

Had the case gone to trial, Daggett said, he would have presented witnesses who would have testified that Strine was drinking that night but that Weller chose him to be the designated driver of her 2002 Toyota Celica.

Daggett said witnesses would have testified that about 3 a.m., Strine sped up to about 85 mph while southbound on Harney Road and tried to pass a carload of friends in a no-passing zone.

State police, he said, would have testified that Strine lost control of the vehicle, which overturned after hitting an embankment and knocking over a utility pole north of Walnut Grove Road.

Weller, who was in the front seat and was not wearing a seat belt, was thrown from the car and died that morning at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Daggett said an autopsy found that she died of injuries from the crash.

Strine, who was wearing a seat belt, was taken to Carroll County General Hospital, where he agreed to a test that found his blood-alcohol level to be 0.07 percent at the time of the crash. The legal limit for DWI is 0.08 percent.

A second passenger, Daniel Douglas Taylor, 20, also of Taneytown, was treated and released.

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