Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

Cecil crash kills 3 teens

The Baltimore Sun

Eighteen-year-old Evan J. Weichert hollered to his father, "I'm going out!" as he left his Port Deposit home to visit his older sister in North East.

He was accompanied on the 13-mile trip through Cecil County by two friends, Christopher Ryan Lepore of Perryville and Randi Inez Taylor of Colora.

Four hours later, as they returned, their car was struck in the side by a Jeep Cherokee that state police said ran a traffic light. The three teenagers were pronounced dead at the scene.

Yesterday, Weichert's parents stood on the porch of their home, stunned by the death of their youngest child. His father, Edward Weichert, cupped his head in his hands, recalling what his son said as he left the house.

"It's just not reality yet," he said. "I keep expecting him to walk through the door."

The driver of the Jeep, identified by police as Stanley R. Gross Jr., 46, of Aberdeen, was flown to Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he was listed in serious but stable condition yesterday.

Police said no charges had been filed and that their investigation was continuing into the crash that occurred about 9:30 p.m. Thursday at U.S. 40 and Red Toad Road about a mile west of North East.

"Investigators are looking into whether drugs or alcohol were a contributing factor," Sgt. Arthur Betts said. "Speed is something the Maryland State Police crash team tries to determine."

"Tragically, three teens lost their lives, so you want to be ... thorough in getting all the data," Betts said.

Lepore, 18, was driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse, which had entered the U.S. 40 intersection while heading northbound on Red Toad Road, police said. It was not known whether the occupants of either vehicle were wearing seat belts.

Court records show that Stanley Roger Gross, 46, is scheduled to go to trial in Harford County District Court on April 29 on charges stemming from a traffic stop March 7 on Pulaski Highway.

He was pulled over in a 1999 Jeep and charged with driving with a suspended license, failure to display a license on demand, driving with a suspended registration and failure to keep right while driving below the normal speed of traffic, according to court records.

In Cecil County yesterday, families of the dead teens huddled with relatives and friends, struggling to make sense of the accident that ended the lives of their children.

Edward Weichert and his wife, Debbie, said their son had been a friend of Christopher Lepore since elementary school. He loved to strum his guitar and listen to music - typical teenager stuff, they said.

Weichert, a senior at Rising Sun High School, was looking forward to graduation in June. He was in the back seat of the car, they said.

In Perryville, families and friends gathered at Lepore's home. A man who answered the door said the family was too distraught to comment yesterday.

Teenagers stood outside, embracing one another and wiping away tears, remembering Lepore as a skateboarder and a natural handyman. "He could fix anything - skateboards, bikes - the guy always fixed anything," said Jordan Lewis, a friend.

Lepore was working on getting his GED after leaving Perryville High School last year, friends said.

The last time James Taylor saw his granddaughter, Randi Taylor, she chirped "howdy" and gave him a bear hug a week ago.

Randi Taylor, a 19-year-old aspiring nurse and a graduate of Rising Sun High School, often hid notes in his home office to surprise him - sometimes they were sketches of herself with a message: We love you.

A whiteboard hanging in his home office read: "Randi - I [Heart] You Grandpa."

Wiping tears with a handkerchief, Taylor described her as an adventuresome tomboy who was always on the go; she hardly watched television.

"You raise a child, you want nothing but them to be successful, to be fair and to have a family," Taylor said. "This puts it into perspective. We don't have any control."

Sun reporters Jennifer McMenamin and Nick Madigan contributed to this article.

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