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Man enters plea in fatal hit-and-run accident

September 27, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.VA.

martinsburg@herald-mail.com

A Martinsburg man charged in a fatal hit-and-run accident last December involving a man walking home from work entered an Alford plea Monday afternoon to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving death.

Gregory L. White, 48, of 2050 Martins Landing, Apt. 615, entered the plea before Circuit Judge David Sanders.

Under an Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges the state has enough evidence to obtain a conviction.

White was charged with hitting Michael Briden, 45, also of the Martins Landing apartment complex, on Dec. 18, 2004, as Briden was walking home on Dry Run Road from his job at the Lowe's store in Martinsburg, police said.

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Briden, who was wearing a dark jacket, dark shoes and light-colored pants, was hit from behind. He was pronounced dead at the scene, police said.

The next morning, White went to City Hospital in Martinsburg asking whether anyone had been hit by a car and brought to the hospital, Berkeley County Prosecutor Pamela Games-Neely said.

White agreed to speak to police and initially told them that he thought he had hit a deer, but then changed his story and said he had hit a person but saw nobody when he got out of his car, police said.

White's car, a 1996 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, had damage to its hood, along with a shattered windshield on the passenger side. Blood on the windshield was matched to Briden's DNA, Games-Neely said.

After Games-Neely reviewed the facts of the case in court, Sanders turned to White and asked whether the information was true.

"Yes," White answered.

A sentencing hearing was scheduled for Dec. 5. At that time, White, witnesses on his behalf and Briden's family members may address the judge.

None of Briden's family members attended the hearing Monday, but the investigating officer, Detective Sgt. George Swartwood of the Martinsburg Police Department, said he agreed with White's plea.

White faces a sentence of up to three years in prison.

Games-Neely said after the hearing that she does not know whether Briden's life could have been saved had medical assistance been sought immediately. His body was not discovered for several hours, she said.

"Whether he died on impact or not, I don't know," Games-Neely said.

Briden suffered severe injuries, including head trauma and internal injuries, Games-Neely said.

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