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A Great Mills man was sentenced Monday to serve 18 months in jail from his guilty plea to a charge of criminally negligent manslaughter by motor vehicle in the death last year of a pedestrian in a neighborhood off Chancellor’s Run Road.

Thomas D. Gunn, 22, also had been charged with failing to stop, and failing to immediately return and remain, at the scene of the Nov. 11, 2012, accident that severely injured James Benjamin Clarke Jr. on Harrison Street, in the housing area where he lived.

“He was found off the roadway [later that morning], unconscious, with life-threatening injuries,” St. Mary’s Assistant State’s Attorney Laura Caspar said during the plea hearing.

Clarke, 65, died nine days later at a Baltimore hospital.

The day after the collision, Gunn went to the St. Mary’s sheriff’s office, and reported that he may have been the person that struck Clarke, according to the prosecutor, and damage found on Gunn’s truck was consistent with the vehicle having struck a pedestrian.

Caspar said that Gunn told police that he was not sure how the collision could have occurred, and that he also told the law officers that after he thought he might have hit something and briefly stopped, he “saw nothing behind him in the roadway, and continued on.”

Joshua Hubbard, one of Clarke’s children, also focused on what happened after the collision.

“When you leave somebody, it’s a crime,” Hubbard said as he stood close to Gunn. “I want him to go to jail.”

Caspar said that Gunn had no prior record whatsoever, and she asked that he be incarcerated in the local jail. “There is no way to make up for the loss in this case,” she said.

Bryan Dugan, Gunn’s lawyer, said of his client, “He believes that he fell asleep. He felt his truck hit something. Where he made the really critical mistake was he didn’t stop. He understands the terrible mistake he made that day.”

When it was his turn to speak, Gunn turned toward Clarke’s relatives and said, “I would like to apologize to the whole family. There’s nothing that I can ever do to go back and fix it.”

If their roles in the matter were reversed, Gunn added, “I would feel exactly the same way you guys do.”

St. Mary’s Circuit Judge Karen H. Abrams told Gunn that while there was no evidence that alcohol or the truck’s speed were factors in the accident, “The problem is you didn’t stay. It makes it all the worse.”

The judge sentenced Gunn to three years in prison, suspended to the 18-month jail term with work-release privileges, on the condition that he pay $8,582 in restitution and take a driver improvement class during three years of supervised probation. Gunn’s lawyer said his client is employed in masonry work.

Abrams said the active jail sentence was intended in part to send a message to other drivers to be aware of the possible consequences of dangerous behavior behind the wheel, whether it be falling asleep or sending text messages.

“People get hurt, people get killed,” the judge said.

The prosecutor said earlier this year that doctors had no opinion as to whether Clarke would have survived if he had received immediate medical care after he was injured, a factor complicated by uncertainty about exactly what time the collision occurred.

Clarke was employed for 15 years with Carroll’s Equipment in Dameron, according to an obituary, after earlier jobs as a tow truck driver for Dyson’s Service Center, as an employee of Great Mills Trading Post, and as a collections officer at the former First National Bank of St. Mary’s.

jwharton@somdnews.com