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Sharpsburg man charged in daughter's crash death

July 27, 1998|By BRENDAN KIRBY

A Sharpsburg man was charged on Monday with causing the death of his 5-year-old daughter one day after their car struck an embankment, a concrete culvert, a fence and a telephone pole on Sharpsburg Pike, Maryland State Police said.

Tony Paul William Gonder, 28, of 15748 Marsh Road, was charged with driving while intoxicated and homicide by vehicle while intoxicated.

Gonder told police he had been drinking the night before and was extremely tired because he had gotten little sleep, according to documents filed in Washington County District Court.

Family members said Gonder and his daughter, Toni Marie Gonder, were heading to the store to buy fishing bait shortly before 6 a.m. when he fell asleep at the wheel.

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Gonder and his daughter planned to go fishing later that morning near their home on River Road, family members said.

"She was always asking him to go fishing," said his brother, Billy Gonder. "She always liked boy stuff. She helped her daddy work on his hot rod You couldn't get a dress on her."

After posting $10,000 bond on Monday, Gonder, his girlfriend, Judy Garrett, and their children went to Gonder's mother's house in Waynesboro, Pa., where they used to live. Gonder still had a Pennsylvania driver's license.

Ramona Gonder said her son was sleeping on the couch on Monday night. She said he and Toni were inseparable.

"She was always with him, except when he was working," she said. "He's a very loving father."

Billy Gonder said his brother was taking his daughter's death extremely hard.

"He's not doing too good. She was his little girl. They went everywhere together," he said.

Billy Gonder described his brother as a hard-working family man who never goes out. He said he works six days a week as a welder for Benju Corp. in Greencastle, Pa.

Billy Gonder said his brother's whole family likes to fish. The Potomac River is a short walk from their home.

Gonder said his brother began drinking when he got home from work on Saturday. Toni woke him up early the next morning to get fishing bait and they headed out in his 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum, he said.

"I guess he was still too tired," Billy Gonder said.

The car was heading north on Sharpsburg Pike shortly before 6 a.m. Sunday when it left the right side of the road south of Spielman Road, according to police.

After striking the culvert, police determined the car spun counterclockwise and collided with the telephone pole, according to the charging document filed in District Court.

Toni Gonder was sitting in the front passenger seat during the accident, police said. She was taken to Washington County Hospital, where she died.

When state troopers arrived, they smelled a strong odor of alcohol and noticed Tony Gonder's eyes were bloodshot, according to the charging documents.

According to charging documents, police did not conduct field sobriety tests because of Gonder's injuries. He was taken to the hospital, where a blood-alcohol test was conducted.

Police are awaiting the results of that test, according to court records.

Ramona Gonder said the family's golden retriever, Buddy, was also in the car during the accident. She said a neighbor reported seeing the dog circle the car after the wreck.

But the dog has been missing since then.

Ramona Gonder said Toni was vivacious and friendly.

"She was the joy of my life," she said. "She was a happy child. She was never sad. She was always smiling."

Ramona Gonder said her son and Garrett have had an on-again, off-again relationship for more than a decade. She said the family lived with her in Waynesboro before breaking up.

But the pair reconciled and moved into their Sharpsburg-area home about a year ago, she said.

Conviction on a charge of homicide by vehicle while intoxicated carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

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