Woman indicted in fatal crash

2 teens killed after truck hit car at Severna Park traffic light

impaired driving alleged

Baltimore & Region

October 06, 2005|By BRADLEY OLSON | BRADLEY OLSON,SUN REPORTER

An Annapolis woman has been indicted on auto-manslaughter and impaired-driving charges in the deaths of two teenagers whose vehicle was struck at a red light, authorities said.

Linda Lee Nichols, 47, was handcuffed on the spot by police after the accident Aug. 20 on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park, but she wasn't charged pending an investigation.

Yesterday, the Anne Arundel County state's attorney's office announced that Nichols was indicted Friday on 12 counts, including auto manslaughter, negligent homicide and related driving-while-impaired and other charges. After turning herself in yesterday morning, she was released after posting $50,000 bond.

Nichols failed a breath test at the time, police said, but neither they nor Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee has released her blood-alcohol level. Weathersbee said he considers a 20-year sentence possible if Nichols is convicted. He expects the trial to begin in about two weeks.

"It's a terribly heart-wrenching case," Weathersbee said yesterday. "We will proceed with the case as quickly as possible to give the parents some closure."

Gary Bernstein, Nichols' lawyer, said he couldn't comment on any aspect of Nichols' defense, including whether she was under the influence of alcohol, because he had not seen the indictment or any of the evidence. He said Nichols has been devastated by the accident.

"She has been unable to return to work, is unable to sleep and is in therapy," Bernstein said in an e-mail. "She has expressed her sincere and deep regrets to the families and knows they can never forgive her. She is at a loss as to how she can make any amends to the families. She is a parent and grandparent and can only imagine the grief she has caused."

On Aug. 20, David Snyder, Kevin Durm and Nicholas Kirby, all 16, sat in a 1987 Volkswagen Rabbit waiting at a red light after a late-night trip to Wendy's. Police said Nichols' 2004 Chevy Silverado slammed into the small car, sending it into another vehicle before the VW was engulfed in flames. Durm and Snyder, both of Arnold, were killed. Kirby, who was driving the car, survived with minor injuries.

Snyder, who was riding in the back of the car at the time of the accident, would have been a sophomore at the Severn School in Severna Park. He played basketball, soccer and lacrosse. He was pronounced dead shortly after the crash.

Durm, a junior at Archbishop Spalding High School in Severn, also loved basketball. He was a shooting guard, about to try out for Spalding's varsity team. He was pronounced dead the next day at Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore.

Phone calls to the Snyder and Durm families were not returned.

Weathersbee said the indictment was processed quickly because of the Breathalyzer results. Often with fatal crashes, investigators have to wait months for blood analysis because the accused are in the hospital, he said.

Drunken driving deaths declined in the United States last year but rose 12 percent in Maryland, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In Maryland, 209 people died in drunken driving wrecks last year compared with 187 in 2003. Maryland also saw increases in 2000, 2001 and 2003.

bradley.olson@baltsun.com

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