Driver gets 13 years in fatal crash

Glen Arm man's SUV hit Perry Hall family's minivan head-on on U.S. 1, killing 2 people

April 10, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

A Glen Arm man was sentenced to 13 years in prison after pleading guilty in Harford County Circuit Court on Thursday to two counts of vehicular manslaughter in the death of a mother and her young son on the Bel Air Bypass last fall.

Christopher Herman Lentz, 37, was driving a sport utility vehicle at a high rate of speed when it crashed head-on into a Saturn minivan carrying four members of a Perry Hall family, authorities said.

Katherine S. Brady, 31, and her 8-year-old son, Wilson Brady, were killed. Her husband, Stephen Brady, 32, the driver, was seriously injured and their 2-year-old son, Ian Brady, suffered minor injuries. They were traveling to a weekend Cub Scout retreat, relatives said.

Judge William O. Carr gave Lentz the maximum 10-year sentence in Katherine Brady's death and a consecutive term of 10 years in Wilson Brady's death, with all but three years of that sentence suspended. In addition, he was sentenced to four years, to be served concurrently, after pleading guilty to possession of cocaine that police said they had found in his vehicle.

Michael Loftus Jr., father of Katherine Brady, said he did not want to see Lentz and declined to attend Thursday's hearing. "I have no sympathy for him whatever. I am glad he is off the streets, and I hope in prison he gets the help he needs," Loftus said.

He said he is satisfied with the sentence, but "I do blame the legal system because this guy should not have been on the road." Lentz has a history of drug convictions and driving violations, according to court documents.

"Maybe this is the closure we need," Loftus said. "Steve is healing, but still feeling the loss. Thankfully, God left him with one son."

The Nov. 7 crash prompted calls for the state to build a concrete barrier separating northbound and southbound traffic on that stretch of U.S. 1. Instead, the State Highway Administration said it plans to install rumble strips, reflective markers and new pavement markings to create better separation between the lanes of the bypass.

Accident investigators said Lentz was behind the wheel of a 2004 Jeep Cherokee that was traveling 75 mph on the southbound shoulder of the bypass moments before crossing the center line and crashing into the minivan. The collision closed the bypass for more than seven hours.

Lentz had been involved in a crash in Joppa less than two hours before the fatal collision. In that accident, Lentz was driving a work van that sideswiped another van carrying a woman and seven children. He pleaded guilty Thursday to reckless driving in that incident and received a $500 fine that was suspended.

The pleas came at a pretrial hearing, said Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly. He said he did not know when Lentz might be eligible for parole.

Lentz suffered a broken jaw and several fractures in the bypass crash and has been held at the Harford County Detention Center since shortly after he was released from the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in November.

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