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Man, 28, found guilty of vehicular homicide


A 28-year-old Columbia man will be sentenced Nov. 6 on his third alcohol-related offense -- the death of a Massachusetts teen-ager after he slammed into her car Jan. 26 as it was stopped on the shoulder of Interstate 95 in Arbutus.

Baltimore County Circuit Judge J. William Hinkel found Joseph Michael Helms guilty Wednesday of automobile manslaughter, homicide by motor vehicle while intoxicated, driving while intoxicated, failing to stay within a single lane, and driving on a restricted license.

The judge said that there was insufficient proof that Helms was driving under the influence of drugs. The manslaughter charge carries a 10-year maximum sentence, the longest sentence among the counts for which he was convicted.

Helms, of the 6600 block of Buttonhole Court, testified Wednesday that he didn't remember crashing his 1988 Suzuki Samurai and denied drinking before the 4 a.m. crash, despite the presence of alcohol, marijuana and the hallucinogen PCP in a blood sample taken four hours later.

Working from this sample, a doctor called by the prosecution said that Helms' blood-alcohol level would have been 0.15 or 0.16 at the time of the accident, above Maryland's 0.10 standard for driving while intoxicated.

Assistant State's Attorney John P. Cox said yesterday that Helms received probation before judgment in 1985 for driving under the influence, and that as a result of a September 1990 conviction, his driver's license was restricted to work or school-related trips in December -- a month before the crash.

The victim in the Jan. 26 crash, Hillary Suzanne Shedd, 18, of Lincoln, Mass., was trying to sleep in the back seat when the accident occurred, said Mark Morgan Barbour, 19, of Sudbury, Mass. He was driving Ms. Shedd's 1983 Honda Civic south between Caton Avenue and the Beltway.

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