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Driver pleads guilty in I-695 crash that killed six construction workers

Driver pleads guilty in I-695 crash that killed six construction workers
Driver pleads guilty in I-695 crash that killed six construction workers 02:33

BALTIMORE -- One of two drivers charged in a high-speed crash that killed six construction workers on I-695 last year pleaded guilty Wednesday morning to six felony manslaughter counts.

Melachi Brown, 20, pleaded guilty to these felony charges as part of a plea deal in the crash, which happened on March 22 near I-70 and Security Square Boulevard in Baltimore County.

State prosecutors recommended a sentence of 60 years, suspending all but 18 months, which means Brown could spend a year and a half in prison under this deal.

Prosecutors also recommend three years probation and 40 hours of community service after prison time.

Ultimately, it's up to the judge on what his sentence will be.

Each count carries a possibility of 3 months to 24 years in prison. His sentencing date is March 28. 

Brown still has the right to file for a new trial in 10 days, but he is limited in trying to get an appeal. He has to ask the appellate court for permission.

Brown and the second driver involved, Lisa Lea, faced a combined 55 charges. They were both charged with six counts of felony negligent manslaughter by vehicle, six counts of death of a vulnerable person and numerous traffic violations.  

Prosecutors said Brown was driving at 121 mph when his car was clipped by Lea, who was attempting to change lanes. Lea's car careened into the work zone and struck the workers.

Prosecutors said Lea was traveling at 108 mph at the time of the crash. She is still set for trial in April. 

Maryland State Police identified the six contractual workers who were killed as Rolando Ruiz, 46, of Laurel; Carlos Orlando Villatoro Escobar, 43, of Frederick; Jose Armando Escobar, 52, of Frederick; Mahlon Simmons III, 31, of Union Bridge; Mahlon Simmons II, 52, of Union Bridge; and Sybil Lee Dimaggio, 46, of Glen Burnie.  

 A video obtained by WJZ shows the two cars crashing at a high rate of speed.

Last summer, WJZ Investigator Mike Hellgren sat down with Dylan DiMaggio and Nora DiMaggio, the children of Sybil DiMaggio.

They talked about the pain of losing their mother, as well as calling for more precautions for construction workers in work zones.

"Just in an instant, your whole world is overturned, nothing is the same," Nora DiMaggio said. "You don't cope with it, you don't move on. It's just terrible."

As a result of the crash, Gov. Wes Moore created a work group to create safety changes for construction work zones. 

The group shared their recommendations in November, which included increasing state troopers in work zones and conducting more on-site inspections.

Dylan DiMaggio hopes all drivers can be safer on the road.

"Just think about your other fellow humans on the road," he said. "If you take a little more time out of your day to get don't need to speed."

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