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A Southern Maryland woman is scheduled to appear in a St. Mary’s courtroom later this week to be arraigned on a charge of criminally negligent manslaughter from a car crash last year on North Sandgates Road that killed her front-seat passenger.

Kelly Marie Cox, listed in the circuit court filing as a 22-year-old Mechanicsville area resident, was driving the 1996 Dodge Intrepid on April 28 when it went off the roadway, police reported at the time, and hit two utility poles, fatally injuring 23-year-old Brittany Lynn Lanham of Mechanicsville. Cox and another passenger were found conscious near the car and were taken to a hospital.

Lanham worked as a waitress at the Seabreeze Restaurant on South Sandgates Road, and a St. Mary’s prosecutor said this week that the car’s occupants were at the restaurant before the 2:26 a.m. crash.

Cox was not drinking alcohol, and declined offers of drinks when patrons would buy a round, according to St. Mary’s Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Caspar.

The car’s speed was the basis, the prosecutor said, for the filing of the criminal charge, a misdemeanor version of the state’s felony vehicular manslaughter law. A conviction for the misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison.

“It’s [a charge] more aimed at this particular type of situation,” Caspar said Monday at her office in the county courthouse. The road’s posted speed limit is 40 mph, she said, and the car’s damages indicated it was going a minimum of 50 mph when it hit the poles, and about 63 mph when it initially went out of control.

“It was definitely excessive,” Caspar said.

In a separate civil action, Cox is accused of negligence through a wrongful-death claim in a lawsuit seeking $250,000 in damages on behalf of Lanham’s 2-year-old daughter, filed by the child’s father through Lexington Park lawyer Bryan T. Dugan.

jwharton@somdnews.com