Woman gets 18 months in collision that killed two

January 13, 2007|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,sun reporter

On the day that he and his grandmother were killed by a driver attempting to pass another car on a hilly, two-lane road, Joey Baseman wrote of the kind of impatience that would contribute just hours later to his death.

"Nowadays, people are always in a rush," the 14-year-old Hereford High School student wrote in his English class. "No one ever stops to smell the roses."

The boy's father broke down and sobbed while reading the journal entry yesterday at a sentencing hearing for the college student convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the head-on collision that killed his youngest son and his 72-year-old mother.

"I've heard it said today that their faith has been tested," Jim Baseman said of comments made by the defendant, Jessica L. Crumpler, and her mother. "Mine has been lost. I'm spending way too much time waiting for that car to come back up the driveway, way too much time waiting for that boy to come ask me if I want to play catch."

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh sentenced Crumpler to 18 months in jail in the deaths of Joey Baseman and his grandmother, Audrey Baseman, who was known as Joan.

Calling the case the most "heartrending" he has encountered in his 33-year legal career, the judge also ordered Crumpler, 20, to be placed on three years' probation and to perform 200 hours of community service.

And before handing down the sentence, Cavanaugh directed the young woman to read the stack of letters submitted by the victims' friends and relatives -- something that lawyers in the case and the director of the state's attorney's victim-witness unit said they had never seen a judge do.

The sentence capped an emotional hearing during which the defendant and her mother expressed deep sorrow for the Baseman family's loss, and one relative of the victims asked the judge not to sentence Crumpler too harshly.

"I don't have any anger for Jessica Crumpler for what she's done," said Jimmy Baseman, 17, Joey's brother and one of Joan Baseman's nine remaining grandchildren. "I don't believe an extreme punishment will do anything to help my family, and it will only make the hurting worse for her."

The crash occurred Nov. 8, 2005, in the Parkton area of northern Baltimore County. Crumpler was driving a 1998 GMC Jimmy sport utility vehicle south on York Road, near Beetree Road, when she attempted to pass a car. She crossed the double yellow line at the crest of a hill and collided with a 1988 Chevrolet Nova, killing Baseman and the grandson she had just picked up from school.

Crumpler, who was hospitalized with a perforated bowel, broken arm, lacerated eye and internal bleeding, said that she doesn't remember anything about the accident, and described the days that followed as "a blur." But she said she distinctly recalls the day her parents told her that two people died in the crash she caused.

"It was like the breath was sucked out of my body," the soft-spoken woman told the judge through tears.

Defense attorney Lee R. Jacobson recommended a sentence of home detention, probation and community service, characterizing the Shepherd University student as religious and charitable.

Members of the Baseman family characterized Joan Baseman as a doting parent who organized backyard festivals and neighborhood pet shows for her kids, and "an active grandparent" who was full of life and busier than most people in their 70s.

Relatives described Joey as a kid at heart with an especially mature understanding of what mattered in life. He played basketball, baseball and football, and briefly tried wrestling -- not because he wanted to win or was particularly competitive but because he liked to have fun, his father said.

In crafting a punishment for Crumpler, Cavanaugh sentenced her to five years in prison but suspended all but 18 months of that term. Noting Crumpler's age, petite stature, and physical and mental condition, the judge likened the prospect of sending her to the Division of Correction to "throwing meat to the lions."

Jacobson, the defense attorney, and prosecutor Allan Webster said the sentence was fair.

"This was one moment of reckless indiscretion that put a young person at the trial table," the prosecutor said of Crumpler. "My hope is that it will send a message to all young drivers that a split second of recklessness can destroy not only a family's life but also your own life."

jennifer.mcmenamin @baltsun.com

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