Man on home detention gets 8 years in fatal crash

He ran red light fleeing police, hit four cars



William B. Gatton Sr. of Pasadena was 92, had just bought a new tire for the bicycle he regularly rode around the neighborhood and was with his son, on their way to have lunch.

Michael T. Spears of Odenton was 37, had 45 prior criminal and traffic convictions, and had cut off the ankle bracelet he was wearing while on home detention for burglary when he sped through a red light while fleeing from police.

That was June 25, 2004, in Crofton. Spears, crashing his truck into four cars before running from the scene, killed Gatton, who was a passenger in one of the cars, and blinded Gatton's son.

Yesterday, Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck sentenced Spears to eight years in prison, suspended another two years, and added five years of supervised probation for Spears' manslaughter conviction, the sentence requested by Assistant State's Attorney Shelly S. Glenn.

The sentence will begin after Spears finishes the three years he is serving for this escape and a concurrent 18 months for a drunken-driving conviction in Carroll County. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 10 years.

"I am really close to just locking you up and throwing the key away," Manck told Spears yesterday before ordering what will be Spears' first lengthy incarceration.

As Spears, now 38, apologized to his victims' family, Gatton's daughter strode from the courtroom.

"The only thing he is sorry about is he got caught," Gatton's daughter, Eleanor Yerkie of Morningside, said after the sentencing. She said she wished the law allowed for a longer sentence. Saying Spears had "too many chances," she vowed that her family will oppose parole, for which Spears can be considered after serving one-fourth of his sentence.

John Grason Turnbull III, Spears' lawyer, said his client was in desperate need of drug and alcohol treatment for years of cocaine and alcohol use. However, there was no indication that he was high or intoxicated when apprehended a few hours after the crash, according to prosecutors.

Paralyzed in the crash, Gatton survived nearly four months. He never ate a meal again, was allowed only liquid feedings through a tube, and suffered tremendously through eight operations and complications of his injuries, said Billie Haston, a granddaughter from Clinton.

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