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Man gets 4 years for fatal DUI crash

December 15, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

A Smithsburg man wept Monday as a judge sent him to prison for four years in connection with the death of a woman in a two-car accident last spring while he was driving under the influence of alcohol.

Kenneth Lee McDowell, 71, of 22916 Cavetown Church Road in Smithsburg, could have faced 10 years in prison. As a result of a plea agreement, however, the Washington County State's Attorney's Office agreed to seek five years in exchange for his guilty plea to a charge of negligent manslaughter.

Washington County Circuit Court Judge W. Kennedy Boone sentenced McDowell to 10 years, but suspended all but four years.

Boone said before he passed sentence that "whatever I do will not be satisfactory" to the family and friends of the victim.

"One moment they had a vibrant life ... and the next moment that life was removed from them," Boone said.

McDowell initially was charged with negligent manslaughter and negligent homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated in the death of Colleen Joy Parks of Hagerstown.

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McDowell was driving on Md. 64 near Twin Springs Drive at about 9 p.m. on May 4 when his 2001 Cadillac DeVille went left of center and struck a 2003 Hyundai Accent that was driven by Parks, Maryland State Police said.

Parks was pronounced dead at Washington County Hospital shortly after the accident. An autopsy showed that Parks' death was caused by injuries sustained in the accident.

Washington County Deputy State's Attorney Steven C. Kessell said Monday that state police reported McDowell smelled of alcohol at the scene, and his speech was slurred and his eyes bloodshot.

McDowell admitted to drinking three beers and four mixed drinks before the accident. Kessell said McDowell's blood-alcohol content was about twice the legal limit, which is .08.

Kessell asked Boone to consider other alcohol-related driving incidents in which McDowell was convicted during the mid-1980s and early 1990s.

Kessell requested that Boone sentence McDowell to the maximum five years agreed to as part of the plea bargain, saying that punishment was fairly common for this type of crime.

After Kessell spoke, Parks' daughter, Kerry Eckenrode, addressed the court on behalf of her family.

Eckenrode said she felt "horrible" to get the news of her mother's death and suggested that McDowell get the maximum sentence.

As she held pictures of her mother, Eckenrode said she was grateful the two had met earlier on the day of the accident.

"I'm just thankful I just got to ... tell her I loved her," Eckenrode said.

Defense attorney Edward N. Button told Boone that McDowell was in poor health and made an appeal for leniency because of McDowell's age.

"That remorse (McDowell) showed me that very first day ... has carried through every day that I've met with him," Button said.

McDowell then faced Parks' family members and apologized in a broken voice.

Park's husband, Harry Parks, told The Herald-Mail shortly after the accident that McDowell was a family friend for several years and that the two men played golf together.

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