Recent High School Graduate Charged in Maryland Car Crash That Killed 2 Friends

A former high school quarterback — who police said was drunk and speeding when he wrecked his car after a house party, killing two of his friends — has been charged in their deaths.

Samuel Ellis, 19, of North Potomac, Maryland, turned himself in to police on Friday, and prosecutors announced Monday that a local parent has been cited for allowing underage teens to drink in his home, according to police.

Ellis and three friends went to a party June 25 in North Potomac, where police believe they had been drinking. They piled into Ellis' car and headed to another party. Police said Ellis sped along Dufief Mill Road and lost control, sending the car slamming into trees before it flipped. Ellis was apparently driving so fast that the car broke into pieces when it crashed, News4 reported.

Alexander Murk and Calvin Jia-Xing Li, both 18 and recent graduates of Wootton High School, were killed. A 16-year-old boy in the car suffered a serious spinal injury.

Ellis was found to have a blood alcohol level of 0.07 to 0.09, well above the legal limit of 0.02 for Maryland drivers younger than 21, The Washington Post reported.

He was indicted Thursday and charged with two counts of vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol, two counts of manslaughter by motor vehicle and one count of causing life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Ellis faces 23 years in prison if convicted and is out on bond, his lawyer said, declining further comment.

Prosecutors said Ellis and his friends had been drinking at the home of Kenneth Saltzman, who was home at the time and aware that alcohol was being served. He has been issued two citations for furnishing alcohol to a minor and faces a $5,000 fine.

Saltzman did not respond to calls for comment.

Montgomery County State's Attorney John McCarthy said the $2,500 fine for each citation is the maximum punishment allowed by law and he would like to see more.

"The legislature needs to act down in Annapolis to add a criminal sanction which includes not just a fine, but the possibility of incarceration to people who furnish alcohol to young people," he said.

McCarthy warned parents they can be charged with furnishing alcohol to youth even if they didn't buy it.

"You have a party in your house, you're allowing the kids to bring the beer in, have the party in the basement, have the party in your family room, and you're allowing that activity to go on," he explained. "You, under the law in Maryland, are furnishing."

The principal of another Montgomery County school, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, sent an email to parents this week urging them not to host parties where alcohol is consumed.

Dr. Alan Goodwin said he knows some parents think they're doing the right thing by providing a safe location for teenagers to do what they might otherwise do unsupervised.

"I've heard that rationale for a long time. Parents will say, 'I want to keep my child safe, so I'm going to host a party at our house.' And indeed, their child is safe, because they just go upstairs and go to bed when it's all over," Goodwin said. "The other children have to get home. How do they get home?"

The principal said he hoped the drinking-related deaths nearby would prevent other parents from allowing young people to drink.

"Having some examples, real-world examples, as tragic as they are, perhaps will prevent further tragedy," he said.

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