A 22-year-old former high school and small college football star who had aspirations of playing professionally pleaded guilty Monday to negligent homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol for the November accident that killed his younger brother's best friend and River Hill High School teammate.
David Erdman, of the 4300 block of Heritage Hill Lane in Ellicott City, was driving his brother Thomas and friend Steven Dankos home from a party in the early morning hours of Nov. 29 when he lost control of his pickup truck on Folly Quarter Road in Glenelg.
The force of the crash ejected Dankos, 17, from the bed of the truck that struck a set of stone pillars and overturned. Dankos was pronounced dead at the scene. Both Erdman and his brother, a football star in his own right, were taken to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where they were treated and eventually released.
According to Erdman's attorney, Jeff Harding, the three had been drinking and Erdman said he didn't know that Dankos was in the bed of the truck. Harding said that Dankos and the younger Erdman had been sick from drinking earlier in the night and had passed out in the truck.
Dankos' mother, Nancy Davis, said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun Monday that her son had been drinking, but that he had texted her on his cell phone within "one to three minutes of the crash" and had been in contact with his older cousin Kevin Biegel, who was also at the party, right before the accident.
She said that because the older Erdman had asked police arriving on the scene several times "Where's Steven?" it was an indication that he knew his brother's friend was with them.
Erdman's blood-alcohol level was measured by police at .21, nearly three times the legal limit of .08, after he failed a field sobriety test. Harding said that Erdman, a former offensive lineman who is 6-4, 320 pounds, did not seem drunk to those at the party.
At Monday's hearing in Howard County Circuit Court, both Davis and Erdman's mother showed similar emotions.
Davis sat in the front row, sobbing several times, as she was comforted by her sister, Lynn Doyle and her brother, Neil Biegel. Three rows back, Wanda Erdman was even more distressed, held by her husband David Erdman Sr.
David Erdman II sat next to Fleming, trying to remain stoic but blinking away tears that his mother attempted to wipe off his face as they left the courtroom. Erdman, who is finishing his last three credits in accounting while he remains free on bail, will be sentenced by Judge Diane O. Leasure Aug. 5.
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Danielle M. Duclaux declined to comment until after sentencing. Harding said, "These are All-American kids, that's the tragedy of it."
"In this situation, a lot of good people got hurt," Davis said, adding that aside from mourning the death of the oldest of her three children, "I think of David often."