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A La Plata man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing a man in a March 2011 hit-and-run accident.

Justin Alexander Larkin, 26, was first charged in April with leaving the scene of a fatal accident in which he struck Darrell Gene Sallie, 57, of La Plata on Route 6 near Wheatley Road, leaving Sallie’s body to be found March 25, 2011, just west of Cooksey’s Store.

Investigators determined Sallie had left his home to go for a walk and was in the grass along westbound Route 6 when he was hit by a vehicle sometime between 10 p.m. the previous day and 11 a.m., when his body was found. Sallie was thrown nearly 60 feet into a roadside ditch, according to prosecutors.

The vehicle did not remain at the scene, and no one reported the accident to police.

Broken auto parts found near Sallie’s body indicated he had been hit by a 1997 or 1998 Ford F150 truck, according to Maryland State Police.

Investigators received a number of tips from citizens, but it wasn’t until a year ago that troopers with the MSP La Plata barrack received information indicating Larkin might have been the person who hit Sallie.

Troopers later learned Larkin had owned a 1998 Ford F150 but sold it May 12, 2011, weeks after the accident.

They tracked the truck to its new owner, who allowed police to examine the vehicle. Investigators confirmed that the broken parts found near Sallie’s body came from the truck.

The evidence was presented April 13 to a Charles County grand jury, which issued an indictment charging Larkin with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury or death. Larkin was arrested April 21 without incident at an Indian Head home.

Following his arrest, Larkin told investigators that the accident had occurred while he was addicted to heroin, according to Charles County Assistant State’s Attorney Francis J. Granados. He told police he had used heroin March 24, 2011, before the accident and “nodded off” while driving along Route 6.

Larkin said he woke up after feeling his truck strike something and stopped to inspect the vehicle, but he left the scene assuming he’d hit a roadside sign. He did not report the accident to police.

Given Larkin’s statement and admitted drug use prior to the accident, another grand jury indicted Larkin in July for negligent manslaughter and an additional count of leaving the scene of a fatal accident.

Following a two-day trial in August, a jury convicted Larkin of all three counts.

Friends and members of Sallie’s family spoke at Larkin’s sentencing hearing, which lasted nearly two hours. Carol Sallie said her husband was one year away from retirement and that the couple, married for 38 years, had been looking forward to spending their golden years together.

“It is unbearable seeing the empty place where Darrell sat every day, hearing the silence where laughter and joking once took place, and most of all, experiencing the absence of his voice,” Carol Sallie said. “We have been robbed of all he was, and [the] void is so loud.”

Several of Sallie’s co-workers at the Architect of the Capitol wrote letters to Charles County Circuit Judge Robert C. Nalley requesting that Larkin receive the maximum sentence allowable.

“What kind of person runs off the road, kills another person and doesn’t bother to tell anyone?” Granados asked at Larkin’s sentencing hearing. “Most people, if they struck an animal, would have the decency to get out and look. Justin Larkin didn’t have that decency for a human being.”

More than a dozen of Larkin’s family members, friends and co-workers also wrote Nalley letters, describing Larkin as a good person, loving father and hard worker.

Larkin apologized to Sallie’s family and friends in the courtroom.

“I couldn’t conceive the pain you feel for the loss of a loved one, and for that I will always be sorry and now I will go through life with this burden weighing on my conscience,” Larkin said. “My heart goes out to you. I can only imagine losing a loved one that has been here for me. I couldn’t contemplate the pain of never seeing them again.”

Nalley noted that “there is no correct sentence in these cases” before giving Larkin 10 years in prison and another 10 years suspended. He also ordered that Larkin serve five years of supervised probation upon his release.

“This case reminds us how dangerous drugged or drunk driving can be,” Charles County State’s Attorney Anthony B. Covington (D) said. “Judge Nalley’s sentence was perfectly appropriate. This defendant was high on heroin driving down our roadways and killed a man. We say don’t drive while under the influence, and people just don’t listen. Hopefully these 10 years will catch somebody’s attention.”

jnewman@somdnews.com