Md. driver sentenced to 21 years for causing fatal crash while high on heroin

A Maryland man who authorities said was high on heroin and speeding when he caused a three-car crash that killed an 81-year-old woman last year has been sentenced to 21 years in prison.

Christopher Dillehunt, 29, of Queenstown, Maryland, was sentenced Wednesday in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, the state’s attorney’s office said in a news release. Dillehunt pleaded guilty in August to negligent manslaughter and second-degree assault charges stemming from the deadly crash.

Police said Dillehunt had been using heroin before he got behind the wheel of a Ford Taurus in March 2018. He was going 70 mph in a 40 mph when he crashed into a car driven by 81-year-old Laurel Zeiler, who was driving to a convenience store with her daughter.

After slamming into Zeiler’s Toyota Camry, Dillehunt’s car also struck a Ford F-150 pickup truck driven by Kathi Ridgeley, the police said.

Zeiler was rushed to the hospital, where she died; Ridgeley suffered “life-altering injuries,” according to prosecutors.

After the crash, first responders found Dillehunt unconscious and had to administer Naloxone to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

“This is another tragic case showing the deadly consequences made by an individual who chose to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs,” said Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess.

“A mother and daughter were making a routine trip to the convenience store when the defendant’s criminal actions caused the death of Laurel Zeiler. I hope that today’s sentence brings some sense of peace to the families and deters other drivers who think about driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.”

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Jack Moore

Jack Moore joined as a digital writer/editor in July 2016. Previous to his current role, he covered federal government management and technology as the news editor at, part of Government Executive Media Group.

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