Driver pleads guilty to killing Hanover woman: Defendant lost control of van while on medication — (The Baltimore Sun)

SSRI Ed note: Man on methadone and antidepressants falls asleep at the wheel, kills a woman, keeps falling asleep even after the accident.

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The Baltimore Sun

March 05, 2010

By Andrea F. Siegel

A 27-year-old driver pleaded guilty Thursday to automobile manslaughter in the death last year of a Hanover woman as she waited to cross the street to attend Mass.

Matthew Evan Norwood of Linthicum Heights told Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge William C. Mulford II that he had fallen asleep after taking medication last Aug. 26 when his van jumped the curb and struck Mary Bernice Collins, 59, of Hanover.

Collins had been standing on the sidewalk waiting to cross Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard to go to Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Deputy State’s Attorney William D. Roessler said.

Norwood’s southbound Dodge Caravan went off the right side of the road, according to a witness, throwing Collins between 50 and 100 feet, and not stopping. An Anne Arundel County police officer saw the minivan minutes later in the parking lot of a nearby convenience store, its driver getting out and looking at the passenger-side rear flat tire, he said. When questioned, Roessler said, Norwood “swayed while [he] stood, and finally was asked to sit down because he kept dozing off while standing there.”

Norwood told police he was taking two medications: methadone and an antidepressant. Blood tests confirmed that, Roessler said.

“He fell asleep,” defense attorney Joseph Murtha said. Murtha said Norwood, a bakery warehouse worker, had finished dinner with his father and stepmother at the Seaside restaurant and was heading to the family’s home for birthday cake for his stepmother when he struck Collins.

Deputy State’s Attorney William D. Roessler said he will ask Mulford to sentence Norwood to more than 18 months so that he will be sent to a state prison. Murtha said he will seek less so that his client can remain in the county jail.

Collins, her husband, Donald, and a few friends started A Greyhound’s Wish, a rescue organization that placed more than 200 dogs in area homes over about a decade.

Friend and board member Gabriele Kamelak said Norwood “not only killed Mary, but he killed Donald, too.”

Kamelak of Mount Airy said Collins’ husband of 30 years died “of a broken heart” – a fatal heart attack.

She described the couple as kind and thoughtful. The couple’s death led to the end of the small organization last year.

“We closed it down. This really was Don and Mary’s group,” Kamelak said.

The couple took their dogs to meet the public at fairs, at events and in stores in the hope of interesting others in adopting a greyhound, she said.