Guilty verdict in drag-racing deaths of two people

Donneil Raeburn convicted on two counts of manslaughter

April 01, 2011|By Nick Madigan, The Baltimore Sun

A man whose car killed two people in 2009 on a section of highway known for drag racing was found guilty Friday of two counts of manslaughter.

Donneil Raeburn, 27, who was injured in the crash of his Chevrolet Impala in the early hours of June 21, 2009, when it rammed into the two pedestrians and another car as it raced west on Interstate 70, could receive a maximum of 20 years in prison at sentencing.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge Patrick Cavanaugh, who presided over Raeburn's bench trial, did not schedule a sentencing date pending arrangements for a pre-sentence investigation of the defendant, who remains in custody with no bail set. The judge also found Raeburn guilty of several lesser charges, including reckless driving, failure to control his speed and driving under the influence of alcohol.

Cavanaugh noted that Raeburn's blood-alcohol level several hours after the accident was more than twice the legal limit. He also said the impact of the crash was such that, looking at photographs of the defendant's Impala and the car it struck, a parked Chevrolet Cavalier, he could not tell which vehicle was which.

The judge said that both victims, Jonathan Henderson, 20, and his girlfriend, Mary-Kathryn Abernathy, 21, who were hit from behind, suffered devastating injuries, including fractured skulls and torn aortas. A witness said he heard the young woman scream before the car hit her.

The defendant did not appear to react as the judge declared him guilty. His mother, Carol Raeburn-Allen, left the court without speaking to reporters.

Relatives of the two victims said they were relieved by the verdicts. "Maybe I can sleep a little better," said Lisa Dove, Abernathy's mother. "Lives can change in an instant. We were at a place where we should have been preparing for a college education, a wedding, grandchildren. We won't have that now."

The real issue, Dove said, was not whether anyone should have been drag racing, but whether Raeburn — or any other driver — should have gotten behind a steering wheel after drinking.

Dove's former husband, David Abernathy, a computer specialist for the Department of Defense at Fort Meade, said he was "very elated" by the trial's outcome. "This," he said, "was a tragic accident all the way around."

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