Man guilty of vehicular homicide

In exchange for plea, charges of negligent auto manslaughter dropped in crash that killed 3

January 11, 2008|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

An Anne Arundel County man pleaded guilty yesterday to charges that he caused a 2006 car crash that killed three people en route to dialysis treatment.

Fontaine Pridgett, 47, of Cape St. Claire, pleaded guilty in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court to three counts of homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated as part of a plea agreement.

In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped charges of negligent auto manslaughter, which would have sent him to prison for up to 30 years.

Pridgett was drunk, high and driving with a revoked license when he lost control of a Mercedes sedan in Annapolis on Dec. 30 and collided with the van that was transporting four people to dialysis treatment, said Assistant State's Attorney Shelly Glenn.

Terry Wayne Wright Sr., 56, Mary Agnes Davis, 48, and Mary Rawlings, 65, died as a result of the crash. Passenger Justice Welch, 37, and the van driver Maurice Williams survived.

Prosecutors said Pridgett had been drinking and smoking crack, and then two hours before the 5:30 a.m. crash on Admiral Drive at the intersection of Jennifer Road, he drank "six shots of rum and smoked more crack."

Pridgett and another man, Jason Robert Dehn, had been driving around for hours, knowing that the brakes were failing, the prosecutor said. Dehn, who had been driving, was using the emergency brake to stop the vehicle. When that brake failed, the prosecutor said, Dehn refused to drive.

It was then that Pridgett took control of the car, Glenn said. "[expletive] it. I'll drive," the prosecutor quoted Pridgett as saying.

Pridgett initially denied he was behind the wheel at the time of the crash and Dehn, 25, was believed to have been the driver. All charges against Dehn were dropped when he was found to be the passenger instead.

"Mr. Dehn was originally charged, therefore, all of the blood alcohol tests were given to him. The obstacle that was faced by the state was that we did not have breathalyzer or blood tests from Mr. Pridgett, believing that he was the passenger," said Kristin Riggin, a spokeswoman for the Anne Arundel County state's attorney office, explaining the plea deal.

"Therefore we had to move forward in the case, having no scientific evidence of intoxication, which is unusual in these types of cases," she said.

Williams, the van driver, chased Pridgett and Dehn, who both fled on foot after the accident, for about 200 yards before returning to the crash scene at the instruction of police.

Pridgett faces up to 10 years in prison at his sentencing Feb. 1.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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