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Man cries, apologizes for DUI crash that killed Brogue grandmother
A Chanceford Township man broke down in court Friday afternoon as he apologized to the family of a Brogue woman he killed in April while he was driving drunk.
Jarrod Ryan Miller, 36, said he wants to find a way to help educate others about the dangers of driving impaired.
"I'm not making any excuses for what I did," he said. "I was drinking and driving ... at a high rate of speed. Driving recklessly."
Miller admitted he knew better.
He caused a crash on Delta Road near Bacon Road in Chanceford Township about 7:50 p.m. April 11 that killed 70-year-old Sandra Howard.
She was a passenger in a car driven by her husband of more than 50 years, James Howard Sr., who escaped with a very minor injury, according to his daughters.
"Your honor, I've done the worst thing a person can do," Miller told presiding Common Pleas Judge Maria Musti Cook. "I'm ashamed."
Senior deputy prosecutor Sarah Buhite said Miller's blood-alcohol level after the crash was 0.218 percent, and he also had legal prescription drugs in his system. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.
Doesn't 'deserve' sympathy: Miller cried as he apologized to the Howard family.
"I don't take this lightly, and I don't expect your sympathy. I don't deserve it," he told them. "I wish I could go back and save you from my worst mistake."
He hung his head as Cook imposed the state prison sentence agreed upon in his negotiated plea agreement — a minimum of seven years and nine months to a maximum of 17 years. He will receive credit for the 263 days he's already spent locked up.
Cook dabbed at her eyes with a tissue as she handed down Miller's punishment, noting the Howard family approved of the plea agreement.
Miller pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence, homicide by vehicle, reckless endangerment and DUI.
The background: State police said witnesses saw Miller swerve into the southbound lane as he was driving north.
His car struck an embankment, nearly flipped over and came down on the passenger side of the Howards' van, according to court documents. One witness told police that when Miller came out of the vehicle, he seemed confused.
James Howard Sr. told police he pulled over to the shoulder to avoid a crash, but he saw the passenger side of Miller's vehicle coming at him and couldn't avoid it, police said. He said he immediately knew his wife had been killed.
Miller told police he had drunk six shots before the crash, police said, and an accident reconstruction determined he was going 84 mph when he lost control.
In court Friday, he said he didn't remember much of the crash or his actions leading up to it.
He also said he'd only recently been released from prison when the fatal crash happened.
Born to be a grandmother: Sandy Howard was well known in the Brogue area; she and her husband owned and ran James P. Howard Insurance in the Brogue/Felton for many years, according to their daughters, Amy Thompson and Lori Baker. They said the family business is now run by their brother, James Howard Jr.
Sandy Howard was beloved by her seven grandchildren, according to her daughters, who said she was born to be a grandmother.
Baker said their parents had begun a daily walking regimen and had gotten healthy doing it.
"They had a path at every park," she said, in both York and Lancaster counties, and had really started enjoying life.
The couple also was active in their church, Bethel United Methodist Church in the Brogue.
'Sandy Claus': Sandy Howard loved Christmas and did what she could to make the holiday memorable for her family, according to the daughters, who said watching her with her grandchildren warmed their hearts.
"We called her Sandy Claus," Baker said.
She was a great cook, an avid gardener and, like her husband, an enthusiastic fan of bluegrass music, according to Baker and Thompson, who said their mother never drank alcohol.
Thompson said she was struck by how many people at Sandy Howard's viewing talked about her smile.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.