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Man pleads guilty in fatal DUI crash, faces victim's family

February 11, 2005|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - Asking Charles Edward Beard Jr. to look at her, Eileen Martin leaned forward from behind a Washington County Courthouse bench and told him through tears how she "wakes up every night" recalling the night she left her house to place a blanket over 17-year-old April Lynn Shumaker's body because Beard decided to drive drunk.

Beard, 33, whose last known address before his arrest was 106 S. Mont Valla Ave. in Hagerstown, pleaded guilty Thursday to manslaughter by motor vehicle and driving under the influence in connection with the Aug. 25, 2004, death of Shumaker.

Shumaker died when Beard's pickup truck struck from behind the motor scooter on which she was riding at 11:18 p.m.

In light of the emotional level in the courtroom Thursday, Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell ordered a presentence investigation for Beard, who could face up to 10 years in state prison for the offenses.

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Gretchen Hill, an assistant victim witness coordinator with the Washington County State's Attorney's Office, was tearful as she read a written statement from Shumaker's aunt, Mary Ann Socks. Rows of Shumaker's friends and family sobbed.

"She left on a scooter with a friend to go visit her boyfriend ... She told me she'd be back by 11:30 (p.m.)," Hill read from the statement. After searching for her niece, Socks arrived at the site of the accident on West Washington Street near Delwood Avenue, but could not get to her niece, whom she called "my daughter, my sidekick," Hill said.

Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Boyer said Beard admitted to drinking at least five beers that night before getting behind the wheel of his Dodge Ram and hitting the scooter driven by Bruce Gray.

Beard felt a "boom" but didn't stop after he hit the scooter, Boyer said. "He saw steam coming out of his truck, but he just wanted to get home" before his antifreeze ran out.

The truck dragged the scooter until it was dislodged near Beard's home, Boyer said. Gray survived the crash.

Boyer said Shumaker was the oldest of eight children and, although she had a "fairly tough upbringing, she was looking forward to her senior year in high school. She was looking forward to her life."

"That was the first day of her last year of school. She never had a chance," Hill said through tears, reading from Socks' statement.

Shumaker's sister, Tasheena Landaker, 14, also addressed Beard: "You had no right to get drunk and go out and kill an innocent girl ... Not to be mean, I hope you get what you deserve."

Martin said she wakes up imagining Shumaker's body on the road near her house. Her husband, a paramedic, went outside that night to try to revive Shumaker, but found she had no pulse. She was then hit by another vehicle, Boyer said. Eileen Martin covered Shumaker's body with a blanket.

"Do you have any idea?," Martin asked Beard, who stood with a straight face looking at her. A bright handmade cross dangled from his shirt collar.

Tears streaming down her face, Martin told him: "One beer is too many... That one death was too many."

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