Woman pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter for causing 2011 fatal accident near Bel Air

A 28-year-old Harford County woman accused of causing a fatal accident near Bel Air in July 2011 has pleaded guilty to a single count of manslaughter by motor vehicle, the county state's attorney said, and will serve a prison term of five years.

Nicole Ashley Albers entered the guilty plea in Harford County Circuit Court on Aug. 27, according to a news release issued last week by Harford County State's Attorney Joseph Cassilly.

Police and prosecutors said Albers was under the influence of drugs when the vehicle she was driving crossed a double yellow center line on Route 543 and collided with another vehicle on July 21, 2011, killing a Bel Air woman who was a passenger in the vehicle Albers hit.

Under a plea bargain between her lawyer and the state, Albers will receive the maximum 10-year sentence, with all but five years suspended, Cassilly's news release said. She will serve the five years in the Division of Corrections. Upon her release, she will be placed on a period of supervised probation for five years, which will include special conditions of drug treatment and testing.

Sentencing for Albers is scheduled for Oct. 1 in Harford County Circuit Court before retired Judge Maurice Baldwin Jr., who heard Albers plea last week.

"It's a good sentence," Deputy State's Attorney Diane Adkins Tobin, who prosecuted Albers, said Tuesday, noting that prison term agreed to is binding on all parties.

Tobin also said the family of the Carolyn Dicocco, who died in the accident, is satisfied with the plea agreement and the sentence.

Albers, who has addresses in the 1700 block of Fountain Rock Way in Edgewood and in the 700 block of Farnham Place in Bel Air, has been held at the Harford County Detention Center since her arrest in late May, when she was indicted on charges that included negligent manslaughter-auto, negligent homicide-auto, driving under the influence/while impaired-general, reckless driving, negligent driving, failure to control vehicle speed on highway to avoid collision, driving vehicle in excess of reasonable and prudent speed, failure to drive right of center and driving/attempting to drive a motor vehicle on the highway without the required license, according to Maryland online court records.

According to the police accident report, Albers was driving a 2002 Chrysler 300M north on Route 543, near Foxborough Drive and the entrance to the Fountain Green Swim Club, when her vehicle crossed the center line and struck a 2010 Lexus driven by Albert Dicocco, of Bel Air.

Carolyn Dicocco, 64, the passenger in the Lexus and Albert Dicocco's wife, was pronounced dead at the scene. In addition to her husband, her survivors included two sons, their wives and two grandchildren, according her death notice published in The Aegis last July.

Albers and her passenger, Alycia Hoffman, 23, of Bel Air, were flown by Medevac helicopters to Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. Albert Dicocco was transported to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore by Bel Air Volunteer Fire Company ambulance and released the same day.

According to the State's Attorney's Office's news release: "Subsequent investigation determined that the vehicle being driven by Ms. Albers was traveling in excess of the speed limit and crossed over the double yellow line into Mr. Dicocco's lane of travel. He swerved to avoid her and was struck on the passenger side of his vehicle. Subsequent testing of Ms. Albers' blood determined the presence of Alprazolam, a form of Xanax, methadone and amphetamine."

Alprazolam is a generic prescription medication "used to treat anxiety disorders and panic disorder (sudden, unexpected attacks of extreme fear and worry about these attacks)... it works by decreasing abnormal excitement in the brain," according to the website PubMed Health, which is run by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Tobin, the prosecutor, said the sentence is substantial for someone like Albers who had no prior record of drinking and driving or driving while impaired by drugs.

"She pleaded guilty to the most serious charge and will serve jail time," Tobin said. "The maximum sentence is 10 years and she will serve half that time."

Tobin said neither she nor the police have received any indication from Albers what may happened during the accident. Hoffman, Albers' passenger, was asleep at the time of the crash, she added.

"We do know she was speeding and she crossed a double-yellow line and made impact with Mr. Dicocco's vehicle," Tobin said.

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