Recent High School Graduate Sentenced in Maryland Drunken Driving Crash That Killed 2 Friends

The former Maryland high school quarterback who crashed his car while driving drunk last summer, killing two of his friends, was sentenced Thursday to serve four years in prison.

Samuel Ellis, 19, of North Potomac, was sentenced to 20 years in prison with all but 4 years suspended after the June 2015 crash that killed Alexander Murk and Calvin Jia-Xing Li, both 18.

He also was sentenced to five years on probation, during which he must have an ignition interlock device on his car, and 500 hours of community service. He will enter the state prison system, not a local jail. 

Ellis spoke in court Thursday. 

"I know I deserve to suffer, but I hope I can serve the community in a better way," he said. "It is hard for me to express my grief because of all the guilt I feel."

Ellis' sister asked for a light sentence and said her brother was remorseful and could be a great advocate of the dangers of drunken driving.

The prosecution focused on the pain of the victims' families and argued that Ellis had a history of reckless behavior. Murk's parents spoke about their constant pain.

"My son will never have the opportunity to meet the love of his life...and be the incredible father I'd know he'd become," said Murk's father, David Murk. "The list of the things he'll never have the opportunity to do goes on and on."

David Murk said his son's ashes are the first thing he touches in the morning and the last thing he touches before bed. He said his son's death was "senseless" and "not an accident."

"Some days I'm just in denial that this happened to us," Alexander Murk's mother, Pam Murk, said.

Ellis pleaded guilty in April to two counts of vehicular manslaughter. He had faced a maximum of 20 years in prison. 

On June 25, 2015, Ellis and three friends went to a party in North Potomac, where police said they had been drinking. They piled into Ellis' car to head to another party, but police said that as Ellis sped along Dufief Mill Road, he lost control and slammed the car into trees before it flipped.

Ellis apparently was driving so fast the car broke into pieces when it crashed, startling video from News4 shows.

Murk and Li were killed.They and Ellis were recent graduates of Wootton High School. 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 turned himself in to police in Nov. 2015, and initially was 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.

A high school principal in Montgomery County is warning parents about the dangers of hosting an underage drinking party. A graduate of a school nearby was indicted after a crash that killed two of his friends. News4’s Mark Segraves reports.

Prosecutors said that on the night of the party, Ellis and his friends had been drinking at the home of Kenneth Saltzman, a parent who was home at the time and aware alcohol was being served. Saltzman was cited and fined $5,000 for allowing teens to drink in his home, according to police. 

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