A 27-year-old Churchville man was sentenced Monday to serve five years in prison for causing a 2011 crash on Route 22 near Churchville that took the life of Joshua John Hanna, a 21-year-old Street resident.
Jordan Craig Stewart, of the 500 block of Bryarly Court, pleaded guilty before retired Harford County Circuit Court Judge Maurice Baldwin to charges of vehicular manslaughter and possessing heroin.
Stewart was sentenced to 10 years on the manslaughter charge, five of which were suspended, and four years on the heroin charge, which will be suspended but consecutive to the first sentence. He will also be placed on five years of probation upon release and must remain drug-free and alcohol-free, Vernon Gentile, the assistant state's attorney who prosecuted the case, said.
The accident happened at 3:50 p.m. on Nov. 5, 2011, when Mr. Hanna was driving east on Route 22 in a Hyundai Elantra, according to Maryland State Police, while Stewart was going west driving a Dodge Ram pickup.
State police said Stewart, in the pickup, failed to keep right of the center line, crossed into the other lane and hit the Elantra head-on, according to the follow-up State Police investigation. The accident occurred in the area of the junction with Route 156 (Aldino Road).
Stewart was taken to Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore with non-life threatening injuries. Mr. Hanna was flown by Maryland State Police Medevac to the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, where he was pronounced dead by medical personnel, according to an account of the accident published in The Aegis.
Heroin was found in Stewart's car, as well as two syringes, and he told emergency officials he was a heroin addict, Gentile said.
Stewart also said he was on his cell phone with his mother and either fell asleep or blacked out, Gentile said.
Photos of the accident scene belonging to the Hanna family show there was very little left intact from Mr. Hanna's vehicle after rescue personnel had finished cutting and freeing him from the wreckage.
Mr. Hanna graduated from Harford Technical High School in 2008 and had been working as a molding technician at D. Wheatley Enterprises Inc., according to family members. He had lived in Harford County most of his life, after being born in San Antonio, Texas.
In giving her victim impact statement during Monday's sentencing hearing, Denise Hanna, Mr. Hanna's mother, told Stewart the crash claimed the life of a promising young man.
She said her son had worked since age 12 and shortly before the crash had shared with her a five-year plan, which included a goal of entering the world of law enforcement.
Mr. Hanna was on his way to retrieve broken tools when the crash happened, she said.
"Jordan Stewart's negligent choice to knowingly disregard the law took Joshua from my life and the lives of so many people who need him," Denise Hanna told the court. "Joshua's being responsible put him on the direct path to Jordan Stewart and his irresponsible decision."
"My son was trapped in his car and responsive to voice commands for about 10 minutes until he lost consciousness," she continued, adding that his pain must have been unbelievable and noting he was alive for about an hour after the impact.
"These thoughts haunt me daily," she said. "Jordan Stewart was able to have his mother come be with him, while my son lay dying without me."
Denise Hanna said the tragedy has forced her to advocate on behalf of her son, whose "ravaged, broken body" had to wait six days for a funeral because she refused to have a closed casket.
She said she leaves a light on in his "untouched" bedroom and keeps a childhood letter that says, "Mom, I miss you," in front of her daily.
"My life and the lives of too many people have been destroyed by his death," she said.
Stewart listened to her quietly, without visible emotion. He later told the court he will use this situation as a learning experience for the future. Other relatives and friends in the courtroom cried as Denise Hanna read her account.
John Janowich, Stewart's public defender, said after the sentencing he believes Stewart was "sincere in his remorse."
The Hanna family continues to maintain a roadside memorial to Joshua Hanna on Route 22, near where his vehicle came to rest following the accident.