The second driver charged in the deaths of six construction workers in a March Baltimore Beltway crash will remain in jail, a Baltimore County District Court judge ruled Thursday.
Judge Kathleen Murphy acknowledged the “horrific circumstances” of the crash before ordering Lisa Adrienne Lea, 54, who turned herself in to Maryland State Police on Wednesday, to be held without bond.
A grand jury on Monday indicted the Randallstown resident on a total of 28 counts, including negligent vehicular manslaughter and driving while impaired by drugs, but state police initially were not able to find her.
Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney Felise Kelly said Thursday that Maryland State Police troopers saw signs of impairment when Lea was hospitalized at Shock Trauma after the crash.
Kelly said Lea told police she had taken five prescriptions, including oxycodone, as well as marijuana prescribed to her. A blood test taken at the hospital showed the presence of THC, Kelly said. Lea reported having last smoked marijuana at 9 p.m. the previous evening.
Five Concrete General employees and one inspector died in the March 22 crash, which happened at about 12:30 p.m. on Interstate 695 north of Security Boulevard in Woodlawn. Lea, driving a gray Acura, tried to move into the left lane and collided with 20-year-old Melachi Brown’s white Volkswagen, police said. Her Acura spun “out of control” in the crash, according to an early report from the National Transportation Safety Board.
Video footage of the crash shows Lea’s car entering the work zone through a gap in temporary jersey barriers, where it overturned and hit the six workers. Kelly said the impact threw one one of the workers from the median into a lane on the outer loop of the Beltway.
“The damage she caused in this scene is unimaginable,” Kelly said.
After Lea was charged, Maryland State Police troopers attempted to serve a bench warrant at her address, where they spoke to her daughter and then visited the home of a second daughter, Kelly said. When a Maryland State Police corporal reached Lea by phone, she told him she was in Las Vegas, Kelly said.
Lea’s attorney, Isaac Klein, argued Lea has strong ties to the area and should be released on home detention.
“She turned herself in voluntarily yesterday; she did not attempt to flee,” Klein said.
Lea, who is married, has three children in the Baltimore area and is the caregiver for her mother and her father, Klein told Murphy.
The federal safety board report found both drivers were traveling faster than the speed limit and the flow of traffic at the time of the accident.
Kelly said Tuesday that Brown, whom Murphy ordered released on house arrest, was driving 111 mph when the two cars collided. Surveillance footage and witness accounts indicate both drivers were weaving in and out of traffic before the crash, Kelly said.
Lea was going 108 mph when she hit Brown’s Volkswagen and 121 mph “five seconds before the crash,” Kelly said Thursday, based on recorded vehicle data obtained by state police.
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Lea was treated for serious injuries at Shock Trauma, while Brown was unhurt. Her shoulder was fractured and four of her fingers were amputated, Klein said Thursday.
Lea appeared virtually from the Baltimore County Detention Center wearing orange scrubs.
After the hearing, Klein expressed surprise that Lea was denied bail when the other defendant was released on home detention. He said he did not believe Lea was in Las Vegas and that when she visited his office Wednesday, she was “totally lucid and responsive.”
“Just because someone died, some people died — it’s very sad, and my client has them in their prayers — it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a fault involved,” said Klein, adding that Lea was unsure of her speed.
He declined to say where Lea was heading on March 22 but said it was not anywhere “bad or illegitimate.” Asked about her alleged impairment, Klein said he had not yet seen a copy of Lea’s toxicology report.
Murphy also ordered Lea on Thursday not to contact relatives of the fatally struck workers and noted the “unimaginable devastation” of the crash for those families.
The six victims of the crash died at the scene. Brothers Jose Armando Escobar, 52, and Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick were killed, along with Mahlon Simmons III, 31; his father, Mahlon Simmons II, of Union Bridge; Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; and Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46, of Glen Burnie.