A White Plains, Maryland, man charged in the fatal crash that killed three young children on Indian Head Highway last year has pleaded guilty Monday to several counts against him, including vehicular manslaughter.
Thomas Hawks, 27, pleaded guilty to five of the 21 counts on which he was indicted earlier this year.
Prosecutors said Hawks was drunk when he left a Washington Redskins game on Dec. 30, 2018. He then crashed into another car in Oxon Hill, Maryland, killing 5-year-old twins Alexander and Rosalie Mejia, and their 1-year-old brother, Isaac.
The children’s parents, Juanita and Alexis Mejia, survived the crash.
Hawks admitted that he drank 10 beers at the game before getting behind the wheel of his Chevy Silverado and crashing into the Mejia family’s car on Indian Head Highway. The family was stopped at a light, heading home from church.
According to prosecutors the impact sent Hawks’ truck into the air, falling on top of the family’s car and causing the Mejias’ car to rear-end two other vehicles.
As the details of the crash were read in the court, the children’s father openly sobbed alongside his wife.
Police said Hawks had to be forcibly removed from his truck, and they could smell alcohol as they helped him to the side of the road.
Prosecutors said Hawks showed many signs of being intoxicated, including not being able to maintain his balance, falling off a guardrail he was told to sit on and falling asleep in the back of a police cruiser.
Hawks admitted that he told the officers walking him into the police station to “shoot him,” and he asked them what it would take for them to shoot him.
Officers on the crash scene said they heard him say, “I really messed up” and that he was “stupid for driving.”
“We are pleased that Mr. Hawks accepted responsibility,” said Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy after the hearing.
She said a trial in the case would have prolonged the family’s anguish and despair.
“It’s a bittersweet moment. We are so happy that this is almost over,” said the children’s mother, Juanita Mejia.
The father, Alexis Mejia, said that they have suffered enough. “We just can’t let this continue any further,” he said.
Dozens of family members and friends showed up to support the couple, many wearing buttons that had the names and faces of the three children.
Trying to hold back tears, the parents spoke about spending their first Mother’s and Father’s days without the children and marking what would have been the twins’ sixth birthday.
“We had to sit at their grave site,” Juanita Mejia said. The twins would have turned 6 years old last month. “We’ve missed so many precious moments with them that will forever hurt us.”
Hawks was released on bond earlier this year and will remain out on bond until his sentencing on Sept. 26 at Prince George’s County Circuit Court.
He faces up to 36 years in prison for three counts of vehicular manslaughter and two counts of life- threatening injury with a vehicle while under the influence.
Braveboy said many DUI cases involve people with no criminal history. “Even really good people make bad decisions, and they have to pay for those decisions,” Braveboy said.
Juanita Mejia hopes that this tragedy will bring more awareness to the dangers of drinking and driving. “You’re not just putting your life at risk; you’re putting other families at risk, innocent lives,” she said.