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Saga continues for family of young woman killed in crash –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Haeley McGuire died in a car crash nearly nine years ago.

She was 18 and just weeks away from graduating from Col. Zadok Magruder High School.

The man who was driving the car, Kevin Coffay, had a blood alcohol level of twice the legal limit in Maryland, according to court records.

All of these years later, the nightmare continues for her parents, John and Elisa McGuire, as Coffay faces new court proceedings.

“People need to know the rest of the story, which is just a travesty,” John McGuire said.

Steve Chaikin, defense attorney for Coffay, said his client and his client’s family “have great respect for the victims and their families.”


That fateful night


Haeley, 18, and friends Spencer Datt, also 18, and Johnny Hoover, 20, died on May 15, 2011, from injuries sustained when a car driven by Coffay, then 20, crashed into a tree off the side of Olney-Laytonsville Road (Route 108), between Olney and Laytonsville.

The description of the crash scene is grisly, according to the documents.

One passenger survived.

Montgomery County Police say Coffay left the scene of the crash and was arrested at his home several hours later.

Court documents show that a blood sample, taken from Coffay three and a half hours after the crash, showed a blood alcohol content of .16. A driver can be cited at .08.

He pleaded guilty to three counts of vehicular manslaughter and one count of fleeing the scene of a fatal crash.

The initial sentence imposed on Jan. 5, 2012, was 40 years, with 20 years suspended, according to court proceedings.

On April 20, 2012, a three-judge review panel changed the sentence to 15 years, suspending all but eight years to be served.

Coffay was ordered to serve five years of probation when released.

Coffay was paroled from prison on March 16, 2016.

“His sentence was originally 40 years with 20 years suspended, then reduced again by the three-judge panel,” John McGuire said. “That’s four years out of 40 for killing three people and then running for three hours.”

McGuire said that at the time of Coffay’s sentencing that there was talk of Coffay being a “victim of society” and headlines painted the community as “divided” over the severity of his sentence.

“The community wasn’t divided,” McGuire said. “If it was someone else’s kid in that car, they’d feel the same way I do.”


The story continues


After he was paroled, Coffay was required to have an ignition interlock device installed in his vehicle in order to drive, according to court documents.

An ignition interlock device connects a motor vehicle’s ignition system to a breath analyzer that measures a driver’s breath alcohol concentration. The driver must blow into a mouthpiece connected to the device before starting the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol above the set limit, it will not allow the vehicle to start.

Last year, on Sept. 9, Coffay was stopped for a traffic violation. He was charged with knowingly driving an uninsured vehicle, driving a vehicle not equipped with an ignition interlock as required, driving a motor vehicle on the highway without required license and authorization, person driving motor vehicle on highway or public use property on suspended license and privilege, and failure of an individual driving on a highway to display license to uniformed police on demand, according to court documents.

On Oct. 28, he was sentenced to two years in jail for the traffic offenses. His court date for violation of probation is scheduled for Feb. 3 in Circuit Court.

Montgomery County Assistant State’s Attorney Bryan Roslund said prosecutors had asked for the maximum sentence that could be imposed — three years and two months.

“Standing on its own, that was a routine traffic case. He was stopped for not wearing a seatbelt,” Roslund said. “There was no victim or victim impact statements, but in the context of why it was different was because he had killed three people. Had he not killed three people, there is no way he would have gotten two years of jail time; he would have received a lesser sentence.”

The District Court case, based on traffic offenses, is the basis of the violation of probation case on Feb. 3.

“The fact that he entered pleas of guilty makes it very straightforward that it was a violation of probation,” Roslund said.

“Probation is a contract between a judge and a defendant,” he added. “The defendant makes a variety of promises and when he doesn’t keep those promises, the court decides what to do.”

Roslund said the judge could impose a sentence of jail time of up to seven years. If it is more than two years, the defendant can ask for a review of the sentence, he said.

Coffay’s attorney Chaikin said his client “is hoping for a sentence that will understandably include punishment and hoping for significant rehabilitation.”

Chaikin added, “Although nobody was injured and the underlying violation of probation is regarding traffic offenses, Mr. Coffay takes them very seriously. Mr. Coffay has extreme remorse.”

Chaikin said after Coffay was released from incarceration in 2016 and prior to this violation of probation hearing, Coffay graduated from college and was under treatment and rehabilitation.

Elisa McGuire always said she did not hate Coffay and thought that if she ever saw him, she would go up to him and tell him that she forgave him.

That was until she received a letter from the State’s Attorney’s Office informing her that he had violated his probation.

She said they have lived with this for almost nine years, and her biggest fear is that Coffay is going to get another slap on the wrist at the Feb. 3 court proceeding.

“Those families have been victimized twice having to go through it all again,” Roslund said.

Efforts to reach the families of Spencer Datt and Johnny Hoover were unsuccessful.

Coffay was removed from the Interlock Program in April of last year after attempting to start the vehicle multiple times with alcohol in his system, according to proceedings at the Oct. 28 court hearing.

At that hearing, the state referenced evidence that showed the interlock device registered that Coffay blew over .25 four times, and his privilege to drive was suspended on an emergency suspension in early April.

Roslund referenced additional evidence that showed that the interlock device registered that Coffay had alcohol on his breath 78 times, some during the hours of 3 and 4 a.m. He had a school and work restriction on when he was allowed to be driving.

An attempt to reach Chaikin for comment on that information and other comments was unsuccessful by press time.

Rich Leotta’s son Noah, a Montgomery County Police officer, was struck by a vehicle driven by a man whose blood alcohol content was .22, nearly three times the legal limit, while Noah Leotta was working on the Holiday Alcohol Task Force in December 2015. He succumbed to his injuries a week later.

Rich Leotta, of Olney, was instrumental in the passage of Noah’s Law, which requires an ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers.

Leotta said a person typically drives drunk 80 times before her or she is caught.

“If someone has been kicked out of the interlock program for alcohol violations, at that point they need tough love,” he said. “They didn’t learn their lesson. If they don’t learn their lesson they should go back to jail. If there are no consequences, they will continue to have bad behavior.”

Leotta said he continues to fight because “my son and other victims no longer have a voice, so I am that voice.”

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