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Man sentenced in 2004 accident that killed girl

April 09, 2005

pepperb@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN - A Hagerstown man was sentenced to five years in prison Friday for the death of a 17-year-old girl, who was killed in August when the man, under the influence of at least a dozen beers, hit the motor scooter on which the girl was riding with his pickup truck.

Charles Edward Beard Jr., 33, of 106 S. Mont Valla Ave. in Hagerstown, pleaded guilty in February to manslaughter by motor vehicle and driving under the influence in connection with the Aug. 25, 2004, death of April Lynn Shumaker, which occurred on Md. 144 near Delwood Avenue, west of Hagerstown, about 11:18 p.m.

On Friday, Washington County Circuit Judge John H. McDowell sentenced Beard to the maximum 10 years in prison for the manslaughter by motor vehicle conviction, but suspended five years, ordering that Beard be placed on five years of supervised probation upon his release. He ordered a concurrent one-year sentence for the DUI conviction, which also is the maximum allowed.

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Before McDowell pronounced sentence, he said April, a South Hagerstown High School senior, "had a full life ahead of her ... She was taken away from her family by Mr. Beard and his grossly negligent actions."

McDowell said he could have sentenced Beard to serve 10 years without suspending a portion of the sentence, but because the offense is not considered a crime of violence, Beard would have been released from prison in about two years. He said after the hearing that Beard would be eligible for more good behavior credits since the offense is not considered a crime of violence and will get credit for the time he's served in jail since his August arrest.

"I'm trying to do what's best for the community, the family, the defendant and society," he said.

Before sentencing, April's grandfather, Ralph Socks Sr., 70, and Beard addressed the court. Socks said he used to drink and drive and feels sorry for both Beard's family and his own. But he said, "There's nothing that can be done that will undo what was done."

Beard, whose head was lowered throughout most of the hearing, turned to face two rows of April's family and friends and said, "I'd like to extend all my feelings and sorrow to the family. I never meant for any of this stuff to happen ... I'll carry this burden with me for the rest of my life, too - every day."

On the night of the accident, Beard drank "at least a dozen beers and a shot of liquor" before going to one final bar before hitting Shumaker, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Mark Boyer said.

Beard did not recall how many drinks he had at that last bar, Boyer said. Beard's blood alcohol content was measured at 0.20, he said.

In Maryland, a driver with a 0.08 blood-alcohol content or above is presumed to be driving under the influence.

According to charging documents, after Beard's Dodge Ram hit the scooter, which was being driven by Bruce Luray Gray, he continued driving, dragging the scooter that was lodged beneath the truck toward his home on South Mont Valla Avenue. In the meantime, another car hit April, who was thrown from the scooter, but that second impact did not cause her death, police have said. It was on South Mont Valla Avenue where Beard struck two parked vehicles and the scooter dislodged from the truck, police have said. Gray was treated at Washington County Hospital and released, according to published reports.

After the hearing, Socks consoled Eileen Martin, a woman who witnessed the accident and placed a blanket over April's body. Martin's body convulsed into tears as she described the horrific events of the night. She said she was happy Beard got "as much as he could get."

"The judge summed it up when he said it's to protect society," she said.

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