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Man gets probation in crash that injured a family of five

January 18, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Shawn Michael Schneider had just received his second dose of methadone - a narcotic used to treat heroin addiction - when he crashed his car head-on into a van, injuring a family of five, in April 2005, his attorney told a Washington County Circuit judge Tuesday.

"This is a very unfortunate case," Circuit Judge W. Kennedy Boone III said before pronouncing sentence for Schneider, 24, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and heroin possession for the April 14 accident on Leitersburg Pike.

Boone sentenced Schneider, who has two different Garnes Road addresses in Mercersburg, Pa. listed in charging documents, to a suspended four-year prison sentence for heroin possession and a suspended concurrent one-year sentence for DUI.

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Boone placed him on three years of probation, the first 18 months of which were ordered supervised.

"I frankly don't believe this time, a period of incarceration is appropriate," Boone said.

Charges from the accident were Schneider's first offense. His insurance company paid the family through a civil settlement.

Melissa Alexander was driving her husband, John Coleman, and children Deandra, 9, John, 7, and Jenna, 3, in the eastbound lane of Leitersburg Pike at 6:19 a.m. when Schneider crossed the double yellow lines in his Ford Escort and hit their Ford Aerostar head-on, according to charging documents and Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil.

John Coleman told Boone that although his family suffered injuries from the crash, he is "sympathetic" toward Schneider, who, as a result of the accident, walks with the assistance of a cane. His attorney, Timothy Gordon, said Schneider's injuries from the accident included a broken hip.

"We didn't have a choice in this matter," Coleman said, his voice shaking. "... He's the only one in this situation that had any type of choice."

In his victim impact statement, Coleman wrote that Jenna, his 3-year-old daughter, was flown to Hershey (Pa.) Medical Center after the accident - apart from her family, and still has "night terrors" from the accident. She had "bleeding from the brain," he wrote.

"When I pulled her from the car seat, she was convulsing and then began vomiting," he wrote.

Gordon told Boone that Schneider had entered a methadone clinic in Hagerstown for heroin addiction. He had received a dose of methadone at 6 a.m. and was on his way to work when the accident occurred.

Gordon said Schneider was warned to use caution while driving after taking the methadone, but was told by Schneider that it's common for people to get their dose at 6 a.m. and go to work.

At the scene of the accident, Maryland State Police troopers found a blue tin box with a plastic baggie containing .7 grams of heroin inside it, Veil said. Schneider told police he had used heroin the night before the accident, he said.

Coleman declined to comment after the hearing.

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