A Northeast Baltimore woman implicated in a fatal hit-and-run accident when a gust of wind blew a tarp off her damaged car faces up to 10 years in prison after being convicted yesterday of automobile manslaughter.
Deanna Marie Deering, who had made a quick U-turn and driven off after running down 31-year-old George Richard Bittner on Feb. 14 on Harford Road, also was convicted by a Baltimore Circuit Court jury of failing to remain at the scene of an accident and other offenses.
The jury returned its verdict after an hour and a half of deliberations. Judge Kenneth Lavon Johnson then revoked the woman's bond and ordered her jailed pending sentencing Sept. 3.
As Deering, 33, was led handcuffed from the courtroom, Mr. Bittner's widow held the couple's only child and sobbed.
"Justice was done, but it doesn't bring my husband back or my baby's father back," said Cass Bittner, also 33. The couple's daughter, Alexandra Bittner, was born May 13 -- three months after her father's death.
Mrs. Bittner, who lives in Hillendale, also has a 9-year-old daughter from a prior relationship.
She said her husband of 14 months had been on his way home after an evening of bowling, planning to pick up a pizza to celebrate Valentine's Day and the two-year anniversary of their engagement, when he was struck.
Testimony in the trial showed that Deering was speeding and passing cars in the 6100 block of Harford Road when she struck Mr.Bittner as he stood on the center line attempting to cross.
"Her conduct demonstrated she didn't care what was in her path. All she cared about was getting where she wanted to go quickly," prosecutor Louis K. Coleman told the jury in closing arguments. "She failed in every single duty required morally and legally of a driver. That's gross negligence."
Deering was arrested a week after the accident, after a gust of wind blew a tarp off her 1991 Nissan Sentra, exposing extensive damage to its grille, hood, windshield and roof. Acting on a telephone tip, police found the car parked near her home in the 5700 block of Plainfield Ave.
Police found Mr. Bittner's Bic cigarette lighter embedded in the car near a windshield wiper.
"She left," Mr. Coleman reminded the jury. "She doesn't leave hername. She doesn't call an ambulance. She doesn't direct traffic. She doesn't do anything.
"She knows she's done something terrible. She's killed a human being because she didn't care what was ahead of her," the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney Leo Ryan Jr. admitted that his client was guilty of leaving the scene of the accident, but argued that the state did not prove "gross negligence" -- defined as a wanton disregard for life -- as required for a manslaughter conviction. He accused the prosecution of appealing to the jurors' emotions by playing up the woman's decision to flee.
No drugs or alcohol were involved in the incident, investigators concluded.
After the verdict, Mrs. Bittner, surrounded by more than 20 friends and relatives, said she hopes Deering receives the maximum 10-year-sentence for the auto manslaughter conviction.
"I'd like to see her in jail forever so she doesn't hurt anyone else," she said.