Man who caused crash sees mercy

The Baltimore Sun

When Michael A. Jacoby entered a Baltimore County courtroom last month to be sentenced for killing 20-year-old Jessica Vetter in an accident while driving drunk on York Road last year, the victim's father says he was taken aback by how frail and remorseful Jacoby looked.

"He was not the monster that I expected to see that day," Jeffrey Vetter said. "He's an average kid who made a bad choice."

Yesterday, in an unusual hearing that brought the two men back to the county courthouse, Vetter told a judge he had forgiven Jacoby and asked that Jacoby be released from the sentence of 18 months in the county detention center he received on June 10 after pleading guilty to manslaughter by vehicle.

Judge Robert N. Dugan, honoring Vetter's change of heart, resentenced Jacoby, of Cockeysville, who turned 24 Sunday, to 18 months of home detention, three years of supervised probation and 400 hours of community service, attorneys for both sides said.

Vetter, who lives in North East in Cecil County, said forgiving Jacoby - and working to have him freed from the detention center - in turn released him from the negative feelings that had taken over his life since his daughter's death.

"I had so much stress and anger and hate built up in me, and when I did that, it changed me into a completely different person," he said. "It's something I needed to do."

Vetter described his daughter as a tomboy who liked motorcycles and cars. She often spent time with him in his garage working on his vehicles. A graduate of Edgewood High School near where her mother lives, she was energetic and goal-oriented, he said. Jessica Vetter was killed April 21, 2007, on York Road when Jacoby's southbound car turned left at a traffic light near the state fairgrounds in Timonium and crashed into the northbound motorcycle on which she was a passenger. Both she and the driver of the motorcycle, Ryder Malone, were thrown from the motorcycle. Malone survived life-threatening injuries in the crash, prosecutors said.

Jacoby's blood-alcohol level at the time of the crash was 0.16 percent, twice Maryland's legal limit.

On his way home from the courtroom in June, Vetter said, he kept thinking about Jacoby and "the possibility that he wouldn't really do well" in the detention center.

He contacted Jacoby's family, and even went to the detention center and spoke with Jacoby, he said. He also talked with Baltimore County prosecutor Allan J. Webster.

"He basically told me that, at that point in time, he had some concern for the defendant at the jail and wouldn't be able to live with himself if something bad happened to him while he was incarcerated," Webster said.

Vetter said he has become involved with the Safe Teen Driver program, founded by Bruce Murakami, who speaks to groups of teens, accompanied by the teen driver who killed his wife and daughter while street racing in Florida. Vetter said he also wanted to talk to students about the dangers of driving drunk.

Part of the 400 hours of community service that Jacoby was sentenced to yesterday will be spent with Vetter speaking at high schools.

"We'll ... hopefully get through to some of the kids heading in the direction of drinking and driving," Vetter said. "We want to try to curb that. That's our plan."

Richard S. Miller, Jacoby's attorney, said Jacoby hopes the talks will save other families from similar tragedies.

"If that happens, then it was certainly the right choice, the right decision, that the court made," Miller said.

Jacoby was to be released yesterday, but Miller was unsure when. Miller said neither Jacoby nor his family wanted to speak to reporters, but said, "My client and his family are really appreciative of the concern, caring, compassion and forgiveness that the Vetter family have shown to him. They are really moved by that."

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