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Father asks mercy for driver in son's death

February 20, 2004|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The father of a Hagerstown man who died in a traffic accident last year asked a Washington County judge Thursday to show mercy in sentencing the driver charged in his son's death.

Bryan Lee Markell, 20, of 10704 Timothy Drive in Williamsport, pleaded guilty to a charge of homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol in the Aug. 17, 2003, death of Bret Michael Crowell, 20, of Hagerstown. Crowell, a longtime friend, was a passenger in Markell's car.

Markell's attorney, Gregory Bannon, read from the impact statement of Crowell's father, Tom Crowell. Bannon said he agreed with the letter.

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In the letter, Crowell said, "I guess you might think my wife and I are crazy, but when it comes to 20-year-old boys, we do believe in second chances."

Washington County Circuit Judge Frederick C. Wright III sentenced Markell to five years in state prison, the maximum for the charge, but suspended four years and ordered him to spend one year in the Washington County Detention Center.

Upon completion of his sentence, Markell will be on probation for five years. The requirements of the probation include obeying all laws and completing a substance abuse program, Wright said.

"You get a ticket for going nine miles over the speed limit and you're going to the Division of Correction," he said.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said Markell's blood alcohol content was recorded at .22 after the accident at 1:30 a.m. on northbound Interstate 81 south of I-70. Markell's car went into the dividing lane's guardrails, and Crowell was thrown from the car.

The letter from Crowell said if his son had been behind the wheel that night, he would hope the Markell family also would ask the court to show mercy.

Crowell suggested it might be beneficial for Markell to speak to high school students about drinking and driving and how one night those actions took the life of his childhood friend.

Bannon said Markell has no prior criminal record.

"While we recognize that he is a good and decent kid, we recognize that there is another good and decent kid who is not here today," he said.

Markell, a student in Hagerstown Community College's graphic design program, said he will have to live the rest of his life knowing that he was responsible for his friend's death.

"I know what I've done is irresponsible. ... Nothing can change this now; what's done is done," he said.

Wright said he wouldn't comment further on the case in court.

"This is a tragedy for everybody involved," he said. "You do have to move forward."

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