New Ken woman convicted in daughter's death in Maryland wreck

| Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2013, 1:00 p.m.

SALISBURY, Md. — A Maryland judge has found a New Ken-sington woman guilty of criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle in an August 2012 crash that killed her 11-year-old daughter.

Tabitha Dobrzynski, 39, also was found guilty Monday of driving while impaired by drugs in the crash that killed her daughter, Sophia.

In January, two similar charges were dismissed at district court.

But Wicomico County State's Attorney Matt Maciarello later filed charges after a drug test sent to a lab became available for the prosecution.

On Monday, Dobrzynski was found guilty of one of those charges filed in the summer, criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle.

Wicomico County Judge Kathleen Beckstead acquitted Dobrzynski of the other charge, negligent homicide by vehicle.

Early Aug. 5, 2012, Dobrzynski left a campground in West Virginia for a spontaneous trip to Ocean City with her four children, ages 9 through 13.

Dobrzynski was traveling on the Route 13 Bypass in Salisbury, about 30 miles west of Ocean City, when she lost control of her Jeep and it overturned.

Everyone was wearing a seat belt except for Sophia, who was sitting in the only seat without one, the back middle seat, according to her son, Charles, now 15.

Police say Sophia, who was known as “Rosie,” was thrown from the vehicle.

At the non-jury trial, Maryland State Police Trooper Mark Miller testified that Dobrzynski told him she had taken several prescription drugs before the crash and she did not do well on sobriety tests.

A pharmacology expert also testified. A lab found Vicodin, Prozac, the muscle relaxant Soma and painkiller oxycodone in Dobrzynski's system.

Miller testified that Dobrzynski had told police that she had taken to Vicodin at 5:30 a.m. and the other drugs at 10 a.m. The accident occurred at about 2:40 p.m.

In response to questions Monday, Charles testified often that he didn't remember. In a recorded interview from Aug. 5 that was played in court, Charles said his mom became a little tired, so to keep her awake, he kept asking her what state they were in and where they were going.

Dobrzynski didn't testify.

In seeking acquittal, Deputy District Public Defender Arch McFadden said there's a difference between no negligence, simple negligence and criminal negligence.

“Is driving a little tired, driving where you are maybe not 100 percent, fall under a criminally negligent standard?” he asked.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kristen Schultz said the son could see signs of impairment in his mother and said that she should have known better.

“If he can perceive the risk, we can all perceive the risk,” she argued.

In rendering her decision, Beckstead noted Dobrzynski's lack of sleep. The judge also noted that Dobrzynski had been warned that mixing drugs or taking too much was dangerous.

A prosecutor said sentencing could happen in February or early March.

On Tuesday, Schultz said Dobrzynski could be sentenced to anything from a suspended sentence to a maximum of 6 12 years in prison depending on what a pre-sentence investigation shows. That investigation and a drug evaluation must be done in Maryland.

Dobrzynski remains free pending sentencing.

Beckstead ordered Dobrzynski to not to drive with any juveniles in her vehicle.

Vanessa Junkin writes for VND staff writer Chuck Biedka contributed to this report.

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