SNOW HILL – The tragic story of a then 18-year-old Pennsylvania high school graduate Benjamin Walter, who struck and killed another recent graduate on Coastal Highway in June 2005, took another turn last week when Walter was sentenced to four months of jail time for violating the terms of his probation with a second DUI arrest in his home state.
On June 15, 2005, Walter struck and killed Justin Scheftel, another recent high school graduate in Ocean City for the annual Senior Week ritual, as Scheftel attempted to cross Coastal Highway at 77th Street. In 2006, Walter pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, DWI related, and was sentenced to over five years in jail, all of which but 12 months was suspended. As part of the plea arrangement, Walter was also required to spend 40 hours a year for three years making speeches at high schools and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) events about the dangers of drinking and driving and how the tragedy had forever changed his life.
Walter followed through on his end of the plea bargain, making countless speeches and presentations at high schools, often with the victim’s mother by his side. Last May, Walter’s tour brought him to Stephen Decatur High School in Berlin, not far from where the tragic accident occurred, just a few days before the school’s prom. He delivered an emotional two-hour presentation to the assembled Seahawk seniors about how a momentary lapse of judgment forever changed his life and urged the students to make good decisions as they prepared for their prom and beyond.
Unfortunately, Walter, who reportedly continues to suffer from depression and thoughts of suicide stemming from the accident in Ocean City three years ago, could not follow his own advice. On Jan. 12, Walter was stopped on a rural Berks County, Pa. road around 3:30 a.m. after getting clocked going over 93 mph.
According to police reports, there were empty beer bottles in the car and Walter appeared intoxicated. He failed field sobriety tests and registered a blood-alcohol concentration of .15. Consequently, Walter was arrested for his second DUI. He later pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 days to six months in jail in Pennsylvania, which he completed earlier this year.
However, Walter’s second DUI, this time in Pennsylvania, violated the terms of his plea arrangement reached in 2006 and he was extradited back to Worcester where his case was re-opened. Last week, he was sentenced to four months in the Worcester County Jail.