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Man to serve one year for accident that killed daughter

April 29, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

Tony Paul Gonder was sentenced to serve one year in jail Thursday for causing the death of his 5-year-old daughter in a car crash on the Sharpsburg Pike last July while he was legally drunk.

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick Wright originally imposed the maximum five-year prison term for homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated.

He suspended four of those years after hearing from Gonder's wife, Judy Garrett Gonder, and the mother of Toni Marie Gonder, who died in the crash.

"We have suffered a great loss," she said, haltingly. "Our family needs to rebuild and heal."

Judy Garrett Gonder said her husband suffers every day.

A welder and the main support of his wife and her three children from a previous marriage, Gonder will serve his year at the Washington County Detention Center. Work release was authorized.

After his release from jail, Gonder will be on probation for five years. Wright ordered periodic testing to make sure he remains abstinent.

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Except for answering Wright's questions about his trial rights, Gonder was silent throughout the proceedings.

He bowed his head as he listened to Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Susan Lochbaum recount the events of July 27, 1998. Gonder's 1988 Chevrolet Spectrum struck an embankment, a concrete culvert, a fence and a telephone pole on the Sharpsburg Pike at 5:54 a.m.

"A witness heard the crash and saw Gonder carrying his injured daughter," Lochbaum said.

Maryland State Police noticed that Gonder had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath.

"He told police he had been drinking heavily earlier and that he hadn't slept," Lochbaum said.

She said police wrote in their reports that Gonder kept saying, "what have I done?"

Gonder, 29, was charged with driving while intoxicated and homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated after his blood alcohol level was found to be .14.

The measure for intoxication in Maryland is .10.

The impact with the pole tore away the passenger side of the vehicle where the child was seated, Lochbaum said. Pieces of the pole entered the passenger side.

Gonder and his daughter were heading to the store to buy fishing bait. They planned to go fishing later that morning near their Sharpsburg home.

"Tony has been devastated by the loss of his only child at his own hands," said defense attorney Greg Bannon. "This is one DWI offender who will think about his victim every day of his life."

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