WESTMINSTER -- Although John Golden, for religious reasons, does not drink liquor, alcohol has taken a horrible toll on his family.
Four and a half years ago, He lost his older son, John, who was 14 at the time, in a head-on automobile collision. The driver of the other car was drunk.
Now it appears that alcohol played a key role in the death of his younger son, Jared, who was riding a bicycle when he was killed in the early evening of March 28.
Jared, 15, was peddling north on rural Snydersburg Road, which cuts through rolling hills several miles east of Westminster. The boy lost control of his bike, slid in front of an oncoming car and was killed.
State police at first were at a loss to explain why Jared lost control. There was nothing on the road to cause the bike to skid.
But yesterday they had an explanation: Jared and four other teen-agers had spent nearly two hours before the accident in an abandoned barn on Snydersburg Road drinking liquor that had been purchased for them by an adult.
The state medical examiner told police that Jared's blood alcohol level at the time of his death was .07, only .03 less than Maryland's legal definition of intoxication.
Jared's parents, members of the Mormon Church, were surprised. "We were shocked, of course," the boy's father said.
And they were also stunned to learn that Jared's cousin -- John M. Moon, 22, of Frostburg -- was allegedly the adult who purchased the liquor for the teen-agers.
Mr. Moon, police say, took three teen-agers to the Westminster Village shopping center with him that morning, bought the liquor and dropped it off at the barn shortly after noon. About 2:15 p.m., Jared and four friends went to the barn and drank the liquor.
The party broke up about 4:50 p.m. Jared and two of his friends got on their bikes and headed north on Snydersburg Road.
Donald Keeney Jr., 17, told police that as he drove up Snydersburg Road, he saw Jared on his bike weaving back and forth on the road.
The young motorist said he tried to avoid hitting Jared but just as he came abreast of him, the cyclist turned toward his car, and he could not avoid the accident.
Mr. Moon is charged with obtaining alcoholic beverages for minors. The teen-agers are charged with possession of alcohol.
Mr. Golden said he and his wife -- who also have a daughter -- never suspected Jared was interested in drinking. "All the religious teaching isn't going to make a difference when they go out that door," the father said last night.
He noted that there is a lot a peer pressure on teens to drink. He said Jared, who was very popular and participated in a number of sports, may have felt that drinking was necessary to maintain his popularity.
"Anybody growing up these days is under tremendous pressure to drink," Mr. Golden remarked. "There are advertisements on television saying how glamorous drinking is. You can't be popular, handsome, sports-minded, or anything these days without drinking."
He would like to see ads for alcoholic beverages prohibited on television.
"It should be banned like cigarettes. With all these accidents, there are probably more people dying from alcohol than from cigarettes. Liquor is nothing more than Satan in a bottle," he said.
Mr. Golden has talked about the accident to his nephew, Mr. Moon, who was described as repentant. "He has a lot to suffer without me saying anything," Mr. Golden said.