Driver is denied bail in fatal crash

State police raise possibility that two accidents within hours were attempts at suicide

November 15, 2008|By David Kohn | David Kohn,david.kohn@baltsun.com

After calling him a threat, a Harford County District Court judge denied bail yesterday to a Baltimore County man accused of killing a mother and son last week in a head-on crash in Bel Air.

Christopher H. Lentz, 37, of Glen Arm, remains in the Harford County Detention Center after being charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter.

"It is pretty clear that Mr. Lentz does pose a substantial risk to the community," said District Judge Victor K. Butanis.

The fatal accident occurred when Lentz's Jeep Cherokee crashed into a Saturn minivan on the Bel Air Bypass last Friday, killing Katherine S. Brady, 31, and her son, Wilson Brady, 8, of Perry Hall, police said.

That accident occurred less than two hours after Lentz crossed the center line of Route 152 in Joppa while driving a work van and sideswiped another vehicle. Lentz, who was found about a half-mile away after his van became disabled, was charged with traffic violations and was driven from the scene by co-workers, police said.

In a state police accident report on both crashes, investigators raised the possibility that the collisions "could have been intentional" because there was no evidence that Lentz had tried to avoid the crashes. Police said Lentz was driving 75 mph on the shoulder of the bypass moments before the crash. One investigator said that "persons use motor vehicle collisions as a means to carry out their suicide attempts."

The bail hearing took place in a courtroom packed with about 50 family members and friends of the victims, including the other child who was in the back seat of the minivan, 2-year-old Ian Brady, and his father, Stephen M. Brady, 32, the driver. Ian Brady was treated at Johns Hopkins Children's Center and released. Stephen Brady suffered serious injuries but was released from Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

At the hearing, Lentz appeared dazed. His face was bruised, and he had two black eyes. He mumbled answers - his jaw, broken in the accident, is wired shut. Throughout the hearing, he rested his head on his right hand and frequently closed his eyes.

Many in the courtroom applauded when the judge denied bail. Public defender Brian Cunningham had asked for bail of $50,000, saying that Lentz had lived at his current address for much of the past decade and pointed out that his injuries made it unlikely he would flee.

Besides a broken jaw, Lentz has a fractured kneecap, a fractured arm, several facial fractures and several broken vertebrae, Cunningham said. Lentz spent the hearing in a wheelchair at the Detention Center; he was connected to the courtroom via video hookup.

Lentz was charged with manslaughter Thursday, a day after he was released from Shock Trauma, where he had been since the crash.

A spokesman for the Lentz family released a statement protesting what he described as overly harsh treatment of the accused.

"The family of Christopher Lentz is surprised and disappointed with the behavior of the Harford County state's attorney's office," said C. Stephen Basinger, an attorney who has represented Christopher Lentz in the past. "It is hoped that the public will remember that Chris is charged with accidentally causing the deaths of two people. He is not an evil person, and he has never intentionally harmed anyone. But he is being punished before his trial."

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