Pikesville man on trial in fatal drag-racing crash

Donneil Raeburn's car killed two people and injured another in June 2009 accident in Woodlawn, prosecutors say

March 30, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

In a halting voice, a 24-year-old Elkridge man recalled on Wednesday the sight of an approaching car as he watched a drag race almost two years ago, and how he had not realized until too late that the Chevrolet Impala was headed straight for him and his two friends.

"Get out of the way!" Paul A. Duffy remembered screaming to his friends, an admonition that failed to save Mary-Kathryn Abernathy, 21, and Jonathan R. Henderson, 20, from the impact of the speeding Impala. Both died in the June 21, 2009, accident on Interstate 70 in Woodlawn, and Duffy suffered broken ribs and other injuries. The three had been watching the races from the side of the road.

The driver of the Chevy, Donneil Raeburn, now 27, was also injured, and was ultimately indicted on 17 counts, including negligent manslaughter by auto, negligent homicide by auto and driving under the influence of alcohol. His bench trial began Tuesday before Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh.

When he first saw the car looming from the pre-dawn darkness, Duffy told the judge, he thought that the driver was simply "not paying attention" and that he would "swerve out of the way" before hitting anyone.

"I didn't think it was going to be that extreme," Duffy said, referring to the horror of the crash that followed, in which Raeburn's Impala struck the rear of Duffy's car, a Chevrolet Cavalier, propelling it into an Acura Integra owned by Henderson, next to which he and Abernathy had been standing.

Police said the accident occurred around 3 a.m. west of a park-and-ride lot near Security Boulevard, where a large number of vehicles had assembled for the races. When a Baltimore County police car approached, people began to return to their cars and disperse, police said, and moments later the crash occurred.

Duffy said he had been in the act of telling his friends that it might be "a good idea to get out of there" when he saw Raeburn's car come at them.

A state trooper who went to the scene of the crash testified Wednesday that a paramedic had smelled alcohol on Raeburn's breath. Another witness, Barry S. Levine, the chief toxicologist in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, said Raeburn's blood-alcohol level had been measured at .22 less than two hours after the crash. Maryland's legal limit is .08.

nick.madigan@baltsun.com

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