Zackery Baumgardner
Zackery Baumgardner

An Adams County man who has never had a driver's license must spent at least 6-1/2 years in state prison for causing a 2010 drug-fueled crash in West Manchester Township that killed township resident Christine Flair.

Zackery Joseph Baumgardner, 25, of McSherrystown, was sentenced Tuesday to 6-1/2 to 16 years in state prison

Common Pleas Judge Richard K. Renn said he chose a sentence in the aggravated range because the defendant repeatedly drove without a license and was using drugs, according to defense attorney George Margetas.

Margetas said he asked for a three- to six-year sentence, followed by a lengthy period of probation so Baumgardner could remain under supervision.

Chief deputy prosecutor Tim Barker asked for a 7-1/2- to 20-year prison sentence, according to Margetas.

The background: Baumgardner caused a Dec. 7, 2010, crash on Route 30 that killed Christine Flair, 68, of Lawson Court.

West Manchester Township Police said he was driving a 1991 Geo Prizm westbound on Route 30 at a high rate of speed, weaving in and out of traffic, for about a 2-mile stretch prior to the crash, which happened near the East Berlin Road overpass.

Flair was driving a Pontiac Bonneville westbound when Baumgardner tried to make an unsafe lane change and struck Flair's car from behind, police said. Flair's car went off the right side of the highway and struck a tree head-on.

A blood test showed Baumgardner had marijuana and methadone in his system at the time of the crash, according to Barker, who said the defendant has never had a valid driver's license.

Addiction: Margetas said Baumgardner had legally taken methadone as part of his addiction-recovery treatment. The attorney noted that sometimes, recovering heroin addicts also use marijuana to help them stave off heroin relapse.

"My client is a recovering heroin addict and was doing what he needed to do (to stay clean)," Margetas said.

Barker said Baumgardner was actively intoxicated at the time of the crash from the mixture of pot and methadone, but Margetas disputes that.

Remorseful: Margetas said Baumgardner is genuinely remorseful and apologized Tuesday to Flair's family.

"He said if he could, he would change spots with her at any time," the attorney said.

Baumgardner cried during the hearing, as did his family and Flair's family, according to Margetas.

"Everybody was crying. I had a moment where I was welling up," he said. "It was a pretty emotional environment."

Two of Flair's family members spoke in court about the victim, and the grief her loved ones have struggled with, Margetas said.

Baumgardner's parents and his longtime girlfriend spoke on his behalf, the attorney said.

The charges: Baumgardner pleaded guilty in September to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, accidents involving death or personal injury while not properly licensed, DUI/drug impairment, driving without a license, careless driving, disregarding traffic lanes and driving at an unsafe speed.

In exchange for his plea, a charge of third-degree murder was dropped, Barker has said.

Barker said there was no agrered-upon sentence, so Baumgardner entered an open plea.

He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of three to six years, Barker said.

-- Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.