On July 3, 2022, after crashing his boat into another and landing on top of Laura Slattery, a 63-year-old wife and mother who was a passenger in the other boat and would die in the next two hours, Hank Edds Jr. left the scene. He did not call for help on the water, nor when he made it to shore. The Cape St. Claire man testified at his trial on Monday that to him, there was “no harm, no foul.”
“I didn’t want to get police involved in an accident where I didn’t think there was any damage,” Edds told a jury.
As Edds spoke, Slattery’s family shook. Sitting on the bench closest to prosecutor Carolynn Grammas, they put their heads in their hands and reacted, each — father, daughter, friends — in their own way. Throughout the six-day trial, they would stand and excuse themselves from the courtroom during some of the testimony. During breaks, they wandered the halls. During court, they silenced their tears.
But after breaking for lunch Monday, Edds did not return to the witness stand. A plea deal had been struck: guilty to criminally negligent manslaughter and reckless endangerment, two of the seven original charges.
The plea agreement calls for an eight-year term of incarceration, with all of that time suspended except for 18 months. A sentencing hearing before Anne Arundel Circuit Judge J. Michael Wachs is set for Oct. 26.
Under the agreement, the 14 months Edds has served since his arrest in August 2022 will not count toward the 18 months he was ordered to serve on Monday.
When Wachs asked Grammas if the Slattery family knew about conditions of the plea, the prosecutor said they were “aware.” Meanwhile, Brian Slattery, Laura’s husband of “41 wonderful years,” was shaking his head in disbelief.
“It’s opened everything up again,” Amber Slattery, the victim’s youngest daughter, said in a phone interview. “It’s very raw. We’re devastated that the trial played out like this, based on one word.
Attorney John Henry Robinson III, who defended Edds alongside Brian Stubits, said the offer was “reasonable under the circumstances.”
“It’s a horrible case,” Robinson said walking out of the courtroom. “It’s a tragedy. Their loss is a tragedy.”
In a statement, Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess similarly said the Edds trial has “always been an extremely difficult case,” citing “minimal evidence” that the defendant was intoxicated at the time of the crash and a lack of witnesses who could say whether the Slattery boat had its navigation lights on — the crux of Edds’ defense.
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Leitess also cited an error in the Sept. 22 indictment, in which a wording issue caused Wachs to dismiss a separate negligent manslaughter count, according to the statement.
“While that count was no longer viable, the remaining counts that the defendant was willing to plead guilty to fairly and adequately address his conduct and provide punishment and accountability,” Leitess said.
Monday’s plea was itself an extension of the trial schedule. Initially slated to end Friday, Grammas’ prosecution did not rest until Monday. Edds agreed to testify as the defense’s first — and ultimately, only — witness.
On the stand, Edds was straightforward. After leaving a fireworks display on Gibson Island, where he had been anchored and drinking with friends, Edds said his vessel struck Slattery’s at the mouth of the Magothy River. His boat shot up into the air — Edds said at one point, he was looking toward the sky, corroborating other witness statements — before coming down onto Laura Slattery. A picture presented in court of Slattery’s sweatshirt showed a streak of blue paint along her stomach and shoulder. After other boaters guided her and her husband to a nearby marina, Slattery went into cardiac arrest and died at an area hospital.
After the crash, Edds’ boat sat idle in the water. A woman he had seen the fireworks show with was “hysterical,” he testified, claiming she had a fear of boats. When someone on another vessel offered to help, he said they were fine. When the person on the other boat asked if the police had been called, Edds said, “I would rather not,” and left soon thereafter.
What Edds did next was heavily questioned by Grammas, who attempted to establish a timeline of the day’s celebrations. Earlier in the day, Grammas pointed out, Edds testified he had been napping after a morning party, but Grammas produced phone records showing he had made multiple phone calls throughout the same time period.
After docking his boat and ensuring it was not taking on water, Edds went to his passenger’s house, where friends attempted to console her, according to his testimony.