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Columbia man pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter

A Columbia man pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter last week in connection with the 2012 vehicular death of a woman, after police concluded he was under the influence of Xanax during the accident, according to State's attorney spokesman Wayne Kirwan.

Richard Junior Burgess, 42, of the 12000 block of Little Patuxent Parkway, pleaded guilty to criminal negligent manslaugter by motor vehicle on Friday, Feb. 1 in Howard County Circuit Court, Kirwan said.

According to Howard County Police, Burgess was driving his Ford Explorer eastbound on Route 32 at the Route 29 interchange on Feb. 21, 2012 when he struck a Toyota Avalon driven by the victim, Mary Ann Levant.

Rescue workers had to extricate Levant, who was trapped inside the vehicle. Once extricated, she was transported to University of Maryland Shock Trauma with life-threatening injuries.

She died four months later, on June 22, as a result of her injuries, Kirwan said.

According to police, Levant sustained a "severe spinal injury," and was paralyzed from the waist down.

On July 18, Burgess was indicted by a Howard County grand jury of manslaughter and six additional charges.

Kirwan said a sample of Burgess' blood taken on the night of the incident revealed he was under the influence of the anti-anxiety drug Alprazolam, also known as Xanax.

Burgess is scheduled to be sentenced on Mar. 29, Kirwan said.

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