OCEAN CITY — The proverbial other shoe dropped late last week for a local man now facing 11 additional charges, including two counts of causing a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance, after plowing into the back of a passenger vehicle on Coastal Highway in mid-December.
The Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office last Friday charged Andre Kaczynski, 48, of Ocean Pines, with 11 new counts including two counts of causing a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance. Kaczynski was arrested on Dec. 16, 2011 after he ran into the back of a passenger vehicle stopped at a traffic light on Coastal Highway at 142nd Street at a high rate of speed while allegedly under the influence of Phencyclidine (PCP).
The passenger car, occupied by Ann Marie DelRicco and her then-18-month-old daughter Ava, was crumpled in the high-speed collision as emergency responders worked to extricate the victims from the wreckage. The child, Ava DelRicco, was flown to the Johns Hopkins Trauma Center in Baltimore with serious injuries and continues along a slow road to recovery. Ann Marie DelRicco also suffered serious injuries and was later released from the hospital.
The investigation revealed an undisclosed amount of PCP in Kaczynski’s vehicle and during a subsequent interview, the suspect admitted to police he was under the influence of the drug at the time of the crash and that he regularly uses the drug. Just six days later, Kaczynski, out on bail after the initial accident, was spotted again driving erratically in Ocean City. Late that night, law enforcement officials executed a search and seizure warrant on his Ocean Pines home and turned up an undisclosed amount of PCP along with marijuana and paraphernalia.
Last week, the State’s Attorney’s Office filed criminal information in the Worcester County Circuit Court charging Kaczynski with 11 total counts including two counts of causing a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while impaired by CDS for both Ann Marie and Ava DelRicco along with two counts of possession of PCP, possession of marijuana, driving while impaired by CDS, aggressive driving, reckless driving, negligent driving, failing to control speed to avoid a collision and speeding. The first nine counts relate to the Dec. 16 accident while counts 10 and 11 relate to the Dec. 22 search warrant service at the suspect’s residence.
The two incidents were originally filed in District Court, but the formal filing of criminal information last Friday consolidates the cases for trial in the higher Worcester County Circuit Court.
“The Circuit Court was clearly the more appropriate venue for this trial based on the seriousness of this case,” said State’s Attorney Beau Oglesby.
Oglesby said this week the two life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while under the influence of PCP charges were the highest available under current Maryland law. They each carry a maximum sentence of two years in jail and/or a $3,000 fine. The maximum sentences are the same as those allowed for causing a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while driving while impaired by alcohol. Causing a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle while intoxicated by alcohol carries a maximum sentence of three years and/or a $5,000 fine, but there is no similar law on the books for driving under the influence of CDS.
“These are the two highest counts we can charge him with under current state law,” said Oglesby this week. “They are more on a par with driving while impaired because that’s what’s on the books right now. We’re working with the legislature right now on a bill to enhance the penalties and I’m going to testify tomorrow [Thursday] before a House Judiciary Committee on it.”
In the wake of the tragic accident, state lawmakers have introduced legislation in both the House and Senate, aptly called “Ava’s Law,” that would alter the penalty for causing a life-threatening injury while driving while impaired by CDS. If approved, the new law would raise the sentencing threshold to three years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Oddly enough, some of the other charges filed against Kaczynski last week include higher sentencing thresholds. For example, possession of PCP includes a maximum sentence of four years in jail. Kaczynski is set to be arraigned on March 28.
Meanwhile, the community continues to rally around Baby Ava, who appears to be on a slow road to recovery. Ava was released from the hospital on Feb. 24 and her family is temporarily residing in an apartment in Baltimore near the hospital. While her physical ailments are under control, she continues to make baby steps as her brain is being forced to re-learn everything. Doctors are waiting to see to what extent her brain will recover, according to a family statement. The family and Ava’s supporters plan to rally at the courthouse in Snow Hill every time Kaczynski makes a court appearance, according to the same statement.