DUNDALK, Md. - Nearly three months ago, bride-to-be Sunshine Royston was killed in Baltimore the night of the Patapsco High School graduate’s bachelorette party when a tractor-trailer made a left turn into her limousine.
The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, which investigated the case, last month determined there was no “gross negligence” on the part of the driver.
“The highway reconstruction report did not support a charge of [vehicular] manslaughter,” said Marty Burns, spokesperson for the state’s attorney’s office.
Several factors are considered for vehicular manslaughter, including drinking, speeding, force of impact, erratic driving, fleeing the scene, skid marks, damage to vehicles and the environment of the crash scene, according to Burns.
A Nov. 19 letter to Victoria Bull, Royston’s mother, explained the lack of criminal charges. Mark Cohen, assistant to the state’s attorney’s Homicide Division chief, wrote that there was not a sufficient legal basis to charge anyone with automobile manslaughter.
“The police investigation reveals an absence of gross negligence. Gross negligence is a necessary element of the crime of automobile manslaughter,” Cohen wrote.
Manslaughter by vehicle is punishable with 10 years in prison and/or a $5,000 fine.
“Driving an 18-wheeler in the city in the middle of the night, making a left-hand turn into a limousine sounds like negligence to me,” said Fred Thiess, Royston’s maternal grandfather and president of the Wells-McCommas Citizens Improvement Association.
The tractor-trailer’s driver may face traffic charges not subject to jail time, Burns said. Traffic charges are pending and are expected to be determined within the week.
“I just want [the driver] to understand the consequences of his behavior. I don’t think he’ll understand that when he stands in front of a traffic court judge,” Thiess said. “He needs to be reminded that what happened, can happen.”
Burns said the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Offices sees 20 to 30 vehicular manslaughter cases a year. In 2007, nine amounted to charges resulting in jail time.
Thiess said the fact that the driver’s toxicology report showed no drugs or alcohol is worse: “I know it was an accident and he didn’t mean to hurt anyone, but having said that, I know it was extremely reckless.”
Pennsylvania resident Cameron Ingool was pregnant and severely injured in the accident in the 4000 block of E. Monument Street. Her jaw is still wired shut and she will have to go in for another surgery after the holidays, Thiess said.
Royston, 28, had been living with her fiance, Joe Hillegas, and their three children in Dallastown, Pa., for two years. Makencie, at seven months old the youngest of the children, was still being breast-fed at the time of Royston’s death on Sept. 13.
“The whole family has had a lot of trouble with this,” Thiess said.
The community, in the midst of the tragedy, has been “fantastic,” Thiess said. “You see the best in people at the worst of times,” he said.
Source: The Dundalk Eagle