- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
A Waldorf woman has been sentenced to serve eight days in the St. Mary’s jail starting today, Friday, from her guilty plea this week to a misdemeanor charge of criminally negligent manslaughter from an April 2012 car crash that killed her cousin.
Kelly Marie Cox, 23, tearfully declined to talk to the judge at the close of Thursday’s plea hearing from the death of 23-year-old Brittany Lynn Lanham of Mechanicsville. But moments earlier, the deceased woman’s sister, 26-year-old Brandie Lanham of Mechanicsville, explained in court the family’s loss, grief and compassion for the driver.
“When you hear the facts, it really sounds kind of harsh, [but] I never blamed her,” Lanham said. “Never once did I hate Kelly. I love her more than she could ever understand. I lost a sister, .... [but] she lost somebody, too, and there is nothing that will ever bring her back.”
As Cox sat nearby at the defense table, Lanham concluded, “I just want everybody to understand she’s not a bad person. She’s an awesome person.”
On April 28 of last year, St. Mary’s State’s Attorney Laura Caspar said during the hearing, Cox met Brittany Lanham and another friend at a Sandgates area restaurant, and they briefly stopped at the home of Lanham’s former boyfriend before the trio traveled on, with Cox at the wheel of a 1996 Dodge Intrepid going west on North Sandgates Road.
“All three of them were upset,” Caspar said, and Cox “failed to pay attention as she sped away,” going at least 63 mph in a 40-mph zone when the car went off the roadway at a curve and struck and broke two utility poles.
The sentencing guidelines range for Cox’s case was probation to two years, the prosecutor said, and most of Lanham’s family members wanted Cox’s penalty to be toward the low end of the guidelines, while one did not want her to be prosecuted at all.
Accepting the plea agreement, St. Mary’s Circuit Judge Karen H. Abrams sentenced Cox to three years in prison, suspended to the eight-day sentence with 40 hours of community service during the first six months of three years of supervised probation.
“I think it’s a very, very fair and appropriate plea agreement,” the judge said, noting that there was no evidence that alcohol or other drugs were involved in the crash.
“It’s not typically what we see in a situation like that,” she said to Cox. “It was reckless, and it was very unfortunate. I can clearly see how devastated you are.”