Driver pleads guilty to felony manslaughter in fatal I-695 crash

A 20-year-old driver charged in the Baltimore Beltway crash that killed six construction workers in March pleaded guilty Wednesday to six counts of manslaughter.

Melachi Duane Darnell Brown entered a guilty plea to six counts of felony vehicular manslaughter in Baltimore County Circuit Court before Judge Vicki Ballou-Watts.

Baltimore County Assistant State’s Attorney Felise Kelly said prosecutors are asking for a sentence of 60 years suspending all but 18 months, excluding Brown’s time in jail before trial. Each of the counts carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Brown was driving a white Volkswagen when another driver, Lisa Lea, struck his car and her gray Acura went through a gap in the construction site’s jersey barrier.

Kelly said a crash investigation found Brown was driving at 122 mph five seconds before the two cars collided. At the time of the collision, he was traveling at 111 mph, she said. Witnesses told investigators both drivers were previously going “at a very high rate of speed” and narrowly missing other cars.

Five employees of Concrete General and one inspector died in the March 22 crash on Interstate 695 north of Security Boulevard in Woodlawn. All of them died at the scene. Brothers Jose Armando Escobar, 52, and Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick were killed, along with Mahlon Simmons III, 31; his father, Mahlon Simmons II, of Union Bridge; Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; and Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46, of Glen Burnie.

Brown’s sentencing is set for March 28. Lea’s trial is scheduled for April.