Courtroom gripped by grief, remorse

The Baltimore Sun

Weeping came from both sides of a Baltimore County courtroom yesterday where the drunken driver who fatally struck a Towson University freshman in an October hit-and-run was sentenced to 18 months in the county detention center.

Matthew David Miller, 26, of Loch Raven Heights pleaded guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday to one count of manslaughter by vehicle in the death of Kevin M. Ryan, 18, of Columbia, who was struck while walking on Hillen Road.

Dozens of Ryan's family and friends filled benches on the right side of the courtroom, while almost as many of Miller's family and friends filled the left. Many listened with tears in their eyes as prosecutor Allan J. Webster recounted the details of the case.

In the early morning of Oct. 12, Miller was driving drunk along Hillen Road near Goucher Boulevard when his car jumped the curb and struck Ryan, Webster said. The victim was thrown into Goucher Boulevard, where he was then struck by another vehicle, whose driver remained at the scene, he said.

Miller did not stop to help Ryan or call 911, Webster said. Miller hid his car in an alley two blocks away, ran to Joppa Road and called police to report that his car had been stolen, he said.

Police met Miller at LaSalle and Joppa roads, near where Ryan had been found. There police noticed glass shards in Miller's clothing consistent with damage to Miller's vehicle, which they had found in the alley, Webster said. They also found a piece of Miller's vehicle where Ryan was hit, he said.

In January, Miller was indicted on a charge of negligent homicide. His sentence yesterday was the result of a plea agreement with the state's attorney's office.

Before Judge Robert N. Dugan imposed the sentence, Ryan's father, mother, brother and aunt told the court how his death had affected them.

"This shameful act has changed our family. We're not the same, and we never will be," said his father, Charlie Ryan. "Without him, our family is not whole."

"I try not to think about the if - where would we all be now if Matthew had stopped?" said his mother, Angela Ryan. "No matter the time, the place or the location, there will always be a place too big to fill because Kevin is not there to share it with us."

His elder brother, Luke Ryan, spoke of getting closer to Kevin last summer: "We had grown past our childhood rivalries and become peers."

His family described Kevin Ryan as a 6-foot-3-inch teddy bear who served as a human jungle gym to adoring young cousins, who was stubborn but fiercely loyal and who showed the potential to become a successful businessman. He was a graduate of Atholton High School in Columbia and had been studying finance at Towson University.

They also spoke of a scholarship they established in his name at Towson University and how he had saved lives through his decision to be an organ donor. They said his heart now beats in a teacher, who contacted them with his thanks.

In sentencing Miller, Dugan said he had read "with great emotion" statements from family members of Miller and Ryan that described both of them as good men. Despite the "cowardly way in which [Miller] left the scene," Dugan said, he "could not in good conscience" send Miller to the state penitentiary, which he described as a "hellhole."

After the sentence was announced, Miller addressed Ryan's family, saying he hopes his story is a lesson for others not to make the same mistakes he did.

"All I want to do is apologize over and over and over again," Miller said through tears. "Not a moment passes that I don't think of your son."

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