The driver of the car that killed five people Thursday in Woodlawn was speeding before the crash, the lead investigator in the case said yesterday -- contradicting the driver's explanation that he was forced off the road by another car.
Officer Patrick H. Zito said the driver, Raymond Charles Haney, will at a minimum face traffic charges in the accident that left a woman and four children dead. The victims, who were all related, were hit while standing at a bus stop.
"Right now it's just a straightforward accident. The gentleman was coming down Woodlawn Drive at an excessive speed, and he clipped the Camaro," Officer Zito said. Physical evidence found by police meshes with witness accounts suggesting that Mr. Haney was speeding and weaving through traffic before the accident, he said.
Baltimore County prosecutors have said they will await the results of the police investigation before deciding whether manslaughter or other criminal charges will be sought against Mr. Haney.
He was driving a red 1988 Mazda MX6 north on Woodlawn Drive when the car struck a Chevrolet Camaro and ran off the road into a bus stop near the Social Security Administration complex, police said. Dead at the scene were Kim Linair Dorsey, 25, her daughters, ages 7 and 3, and her young niece and nephew. Two other people were injured.
Mr. Haney, 32, was apparently on his way to work at a Reisterstown nursing home at the time of the crash. Unhurt in the accident, he took a Breathalyzer test, which registered a blood alcohol level of zero, police said.
Officer Zito added yesterday that there are no signs that Mr. Haney was impaired by either illegal drugs or prescription medication.
Police said Mr. Haney told them he was cut off by another car, but the driver of that car provided a different version of events when questioned.
After being read his legal rights by police, Mr. Haney declined to say anything else.
He was not charged Thursday and left the Woodlawn precinct station in tears, saying only that the crash was a tragic accident.
Attempts to reach Mr. Haney yesterday were unsuccessful.
Officer Zito, who has 15 years of experience as a traffic investigator, said, "This case is definitely going to court in some form. . . . From my past experience, the state's attorney's office will be charging him with something, but I can't say what."
If prosecutors decline to pursue criminal charges, Mr. Haney will likely be charged by police with speeding and improper passing, said Officer Zito.
He said county police officers will meet with state police to determine an estimate of the Mazda's speed. The speed limit in the accident area is 30 mph.
Baltimore County State's Attorney Sandra A. O'Connor said her office will review the case to determine whether vehicular manslaughter or other charges will be sought against Mr. Haney.
She said her office routinely reviews automobile-related deaths before any charges are filed. The intent, she said, is to avoid a situation in which someone pays a fine to resolve a minor traffic charge and, invoking the constitutional protection against being tried twice for the same crime, argues that more serious, related charges cannot be brought later.
Ms. O'Connor said results of an accident reconstruction, as well as autopsy reports and statements made to police by witnesses or the driver, will be examined to determine whether the driver acted with "gross negligence that rises to a wanton disregard for human life."
"It is a much greater amount of negligence than occurs in a normal traffic accident," she said. "It is someone who is acting in such a reckless manner that the law infers from their actions that they were operating in a total disregard for human life."
Factors include whether traffic violations were committed, whether the driver was familiar with the section of road and whether the driver was impaired by drugs, alcohol or lack of sleep.
Ms. O'Connor said a judge has discretion to decide whether a person's driving record can be used to establish proof of gross negligence.
Maryland motor vehicle officials suspended Mr. Haney's driver's license in February 1993 because of failure to pay a traffic citation received in Indiana. The suspension was lifted after Mr. Haney paid the ticket, said Jim Lang, a Motor Vehicle Administration spokesman.
No other citations are shown on his 36-month driver profile, records show.
Ms. O'Connor said that of the 42 fatal traffic accidents reviewed this year, eight have resulted in manslaughter charges.
Officer Zito said he and his partner, Officer Stephen M. Forster, continued yesterday to interview witnesses. He said police have talked to Social Security employees who saw the accident and have met with Vicki Stuart, a 35-year-old nursing student who was struck and injured by the car.
State police investigators have taken measurements at the scene, using a laser beam system that records data in a computer. That information will be fed to another computer that will generate a diagram.
Yesterday, state police inspected the Mazda, which has been impounded, but found no mechanical defects that would have played a role in the crash, Officer Zito said.
A re-enactment of the events leading to the crash is possible, but not likely, he added.
Officer Zito said the fact-gathering process should be complete by the middle of next week, and he and his partner will then write a report for review by superior officers. The final report will probably not be ready for review by prosecutors for at least four weeks, he said.