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Clear Spring man, 75, pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter

June 16, 2006|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN

A 75-year-old Clear Spring man pleaded guilty Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to causing a December 2005 car accident that claimed the life of a 21-year-old Hagerstown man.

Bowing a head of white curly hair, Wayne Eugene Baker Sr. pleaded guilty to vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence in the Dec. 1, 2005, accident in which Dalen Daniel Snell was killed. Baker was drunk when his car collided head-on with a car in which Snell was riding, Washington County Assistant State's Attorney John B. Dunlap said. Snell was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on U.S. 40 near Burkholder Lane, Dunlap said.

Baker was ordered held at the Washington County Detention Center pending sentencing.

Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. ordered that a background investigation be prepared for sentencing, a date for which was not set.

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"Considering the nature of the charges and the impact on the families involved, it's appropriate for a (presentence investigation) to be ordered," Long said.

Washington County State's Attorney Charles Strong said after the hearing that his office will seek the maximum sentences for both charges: A consecutive 10-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter and a 1-year sentence for driving under the influence.

"Dalen Snell never hit 22," Strong said. "We can't ignore the fact that Dalen Snell did nothing wrong and never spent Christmas (2005) with his family."

A large group of Snell's family and friends sobbed, one carrying a boxes of tissues, after the hearing. They declined to comment. Baker's family was upset, too, but did not wish to talk.

Baker's attorney, John Salvatore, called the case "a tragedy all around," but said Baker has "a good background," which he expects will help him at sentencing.

Dunlap said Baker's blood alcohol content was measured at .11 after the reported 8:30 p.m. accident. The measurement was taken more than two hours after the crash, according to a written release from pro USED secutors.

Snell was a passenger in a 2001 Saturn that was struck by a 2001 Ford Focus driven by Baker, according to Dunlap and published reports.

Had Baker's case gone to trial, Dunlap said Scott Rowe and Stacey Bishop would have testified that Baker followed their vehicle "within feet of it" before he pulled off onto the shoulder of U.S. 40's westbound lane, ran off the road "out into a field" and returned to the road, heading in the wrong direction.

Justin Arthur Davis, 23, the driver of the Saturn, sustained a fractured hip and wrist and was discharged honorably from the U.S. Navy after the crash, the release from prosecutors states.

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