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Driver convicted in crash that killed two in Columbia

A Columbia man has been convicted of two counts of negligent manslaughter for causing a four-vehicle crash on Route 175 that killed two people in 2010.

Joseph Gary Lawrence, 23, of the 5200 block of Rivendell Lane, entered what is known as an "Alford plea" to those two counts, not pleading guilty but essentially admitting that prosecutors had enough evidence against him to get a conviction, according to T. Wayne Kirwan, spokesman for the Howard County State's Attorney's Office. Judge Timothy J. McCrone subsequently found Lawrence guilty.

The plea came at a hearing Wednesday at Howard County Circuit Court in Ellicott City. Lawrence, who is free on bond, is scheduled to be sentenced on June 20. Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of five years, with all but 18 months of that time suspended, followed by five years of probation.

Lawrence also had been facing one count each of reckless driving, negligent driving, failure to drive on the right side of the roadway, and speeding.

The crash occurred Nov. 10, 2010, on Route 175 between Tamar Drive and Dobbin Road, leaving two people dead: Matthew James Miranda, 22, and Urooj Zehra Isfahani, 31, both of Columbia.

Prosecutors said Lawrence was driving a Saturn Ion west on Route 175 at about 8 a.m. when his car went into the median and then into eastbound traffic. His car struck a minivan, which then collided with a sport-utility vehicle. The crash also threw the engine out of Lawrence's car; the engine hit another vehicle.

Miranda, who was a passenger in Lawrence's car, was thrown from the vehicle. He was taken to Howard County General Hospital and pronounced dead less than an hour later. Police said he was not wearing a seat belt.

Isfahani was driving the minivan, which suffered heavy damage to its front end. She died of multiple injuries at the Howard County General Hospital less than an hour later.

Lawrence was driving between 69 mph and nearly 74 mph in a 55 mph zone and driving on a spare tire, prosecutors said.

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