Laurel man pleads guilty in hit-and-run

Motel worker was killed while crossing Route 198

April 30, 2004|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

A Laurel man pleaded guilty yesterday to manslaughter in a gruesome hit-and-run incident last August in which a motel employee was struck and his body dismembered by a car involved in what police say was an impromptu road race.

Richard McHale II, 23, made no statements during the brief Anne Arundel County Circuit Court hearing, and will be sentenced June 25. He is free on $5,000 bail. Prosecutor Shelly Stickell said she will seek a four-year prison term - the maximum recommended by state guidelines under a law allowing up to 10 years in prison.

The hearing before Judge Paul A. Hackner offered the first detailed public account of the Aug. 10 death of Chelliah Johnson, 53, of Riverdale and the investigation that led police to McHale.

Johnson had left the Red Carpet Inn on Route 198 in Laurel shortly before 9 p.m. and was walking across the six-lane road to pick up dinner at a Chinese restaurant for himself and co-workers.

Stickell said witnesses saw McHale at the wheel of a white Acura Integra stopped at a nearby light next to a dark-colored Integra and talking to the other driver. The two drivers then sped off. Witnesses told police they heard the sound of an impact, which police say was McHale's car slamming into Johnson as he crossed the road.

Early the next morning, two women spotted what appeared to be part of a body in weeds near a car dealership. Police then reviewed the dealership's security videotapes. "You can see the defendant actually exiting his car and taking the remains out of his car and throwing them away, basically," Stickell said.

Frederick J. Sullivan, McHale's lawyer, did not dispute Stickell's version, but said that at the sentencing the defense would discuss the racing issue.

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