Driver in U.S. illegally, records say

Mexican accused of drunken driving in UM student's death

May 09, 2007|By Melissa Harris | Melissa Harris,sun reporter

A man accused of drunken driving in a crash that killed a University of Maryland sophomore was in the country illegally and carrying a fake Social Security card and a green card purchased in Texas, according to court records filed yesterday.

Never L. Navarro-Montoya was driving an acquaintance's blue Ford Ranger without a driver's license when he hit an oncoming Jeep Cherokee that was making a left turn from University Boulevard to Metzerott Road in College Park about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, killing 20-year-old Matthew Watson of Ellicott City, according to police.

It was unclear from police reports which driver had the right of way at the intersection.

Prince George's County police charged Narravo-Montoya, 24, of Greenbelt, with driving under the influence of alcohol, fleeing the scene of an accident and possession of false government identification, according to court records. Navarro-Montoya told police he was from Mexico.

Watson, who attended the College Park campus, was a front-seat passenger in the Jeep. He graduated in 2005 from Centennial High School, where he was a lineman on the football team and played saxophone in the band.

This was the second time in less than six months that an undocumented immigrant has been charged in a fatal accident involving a Howard County resident.

In November, Eduardo Raul Morales-Soriano, a Laurel landscaper from Mexico, was charged with vehicular homicide and drunken driving in a Thanksgiving night crash at Routes 175 and 108 that killed a Columbia Marine home on leave and his date from Montgomery County.

Morales-Soriano is awaiting trial in Howard County Circuit Court, after having registered a 0.32 blood-alcohol level on a Breathalyzer - four times the legal limit, court records say.

In the most recent crash, the charging documents state that a witness watched Navarro-Montoya jump out of the Ranger after the crash and flee on foot. About four hours later, passers-by found Navarro-Montoya lying on the grass off of University Boulevard about one-third of a mile from the scene and called police.

Cpl. S. Ainsworth of the Prince George's County police detected a strong odor of alcohol on Navarro-Montoya's breath and arrested him. Investigators were awaiting the results of a blood test taken at Washington Adventist Hospital, where Navarro-Montoya was treated for cuts to the left side of his head.

"He didn't have a driver's license from Maryland or any other state," said Cpl. Diane Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County Police Department.

Police said two other occupants of the Jeep, which rolled over, were treated at a hospital for injuries not considered life-threatening. Police declined to release the Jeep driver's identity.

According to charging documents, Navarro-Montoya said of the Social Security and the permanent resident cards in his possession, "I bought them in Texas, I'm from Mexico."

Navarro-Montoya lived in an apartment on Springhill Lane. A man who answered the phone at Navarro-Montoya's address and identified himself as a relative declined to provide details about the man. It was unknown yesterday how long Navarro-Montoya has lived in the United States. He was being held at the Prince George's County Correctional Center on $750,000 bond, according to court records.

Friends and family said Watson was known for his one-liners and quick wit.

He would purposely park his car in the middle of the parking lot reserved for marching band practice. "That's so mischievous," his mother, Barbara Watson, said as one of her younger sons retold the story. "Of course, I'm sure they knew whose car it was because he was in the band. He loved to play in the jazz band. He loved music."

His friend, Alex Blatter, now a sophomore at Pennsylvania State University, said that in addition to stalling marching band practice, Watson once arrived at school wearing six or seven polo shirts - one on top another - as a parody of some of the preppier students at Centennial.

"A lot of kids would come wearing [two polo shirts] at our school," said Blatter, who knew Watson since fourth grade. "It was one of the funniest things I've ever seen."

His football coach, Jamie Wagner, said that he had heard that Watson had a smart sense of humor, but added that he never saw that side of him. He said Watson took football "very seriously," describing him as a model student-athlete and teammate.

"He kind of fit into every social group in the school," Wagner said. "He wasn't in one particular [clique]. He just fit in with everybody. As a football coach, it's important to have a person with that kind of character on your team because he can build bridges between different groups."

Watson's team lost every game during his senior year except the last one - the first time the team played at home under the lights.

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