Rockville man faces 40 years in prison after guilty plea

Kate Ryan,

WASHINGTON — A 20-year-old Rockville man faces a possible 40 years in prison after pleading guilty in the case of a car crash that killed three friends.

Kevin Coffay appeared nervous, but otherwise without emotion as he entered his plea in Montgomery County Circuit Court on Thursday.

Coffay admitted he was behind the wheel of the Toyota Corolla that slammed into a telephone pole and two trees last May, killing three of his friends, 20-year-old John Hoover, of Rockville, and Haeley Maguire and Spencer Datt, both 18.

A fourth passenger, Charles Nardella, 19, of Gaithersburg, survived the wreck. The crash occurred at about 3 a.m. along Olney-Laytonsville Road in Olney.

Police say all the people in Coffay’s car that night — including Coffay — had been drinking. Coffay himself had attended two parties, and left one so drunk that he was told not to drive.

Prosecutors say eyewitnesses described Coffay as wobbly and bumping into walls, at one point knocking a framed picture to the ground and breaking it. Alcohol was served at both parties, and in both cases, the parents of the kids hosting the parties were not home.

In graphic testimony in court, prosecutor Bryan Roslund outlined the injuries sustained by Datt, Hoover and Maguire, eliciting sobs from grieving family members. Datt and Maquire had been partially ejected, and Roslund said a veteran police officer called the carnage among the worst he had seen.

The posted speed limit at the crash scene was 40 mph, police say there was no evidence of braking in the vicinity of the wreck.

Nardella, the surviving passenger, told police that Coffay fled the scene of the wreck immediately.

Nardella also told police that normally he didn’t wear a seat belt, but that night, sitting in the passenger seat behind the driver, he did.

When asked why, Nardella said he guessed it was because he was riding ‘With a f****** drunk driver.”

Nardella also said he had been trying desperately to get Coffay to slow down, grabbing the back of the driver’s seat and shaking it.

Coffay was tracked through a wooded area of Olney, but was able to elude police for three and a half hours. He was caught around 6:30 a.m. as he headed to his front door. At that time, he had a blood alcohol level of 0.16, twice the legal limit.

Coffay managed to get home after going to a friend’s house and telling him he needed a ride. Asked what happened, he said he’d had an accident and that he believed he’d “hit a small animal.” Asked who else was in the car he was driving he said “I have no idea.”

Coffay pleaded guilty to three counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of failing to remain at the scene of a crash where a death had occurred.

He will be sentenced in January.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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