SNOW HILL — A Salisbury man who led allied law enforcement agencies on a high-speed chase in the wrong direction on Route 113 was found guilty this week and sentenced to over 17 years in jail.
Last October, Garland Moss, 50, of Salisbury, reportedly stole a flat-screen television from the Wal-Mart in Pocomoke, causing Pocomoke Police to give chase as the suspect fled the scene in a vehicle. Pocomoke Police pursued Moss’s vehicle as it headed north on Route 113 toward Berlin.
Pocomoke Police dropped their chase efforts when Moss traveled out of the municipality’s jurisdiction and the Worcester County Sheriff’s Office took up the pursuit. Moss’s vehicle headed north on Route 113 in the southbound lanes for several miles with speeds reaching in excess of 100 mph with Worcester County Sheriff’s deputies in pursuit.
Worcester County Sheriff’s deputies were able to disable Moss’s vehicle by blowing out its tires, but Moss continued to travel north in the southbound lanes. By then, the chase had covered 16 miles from where it began in Pocomoke before Moss’s vehicle burst into flames. Sheriff’s deputies were able to extricate Moss from the burning vehicle when it came to rest on the shoulder of Route 113 in the area of the Worcester County Technical High School.
Moss was charged initially with theft from the Wal-Mart incident, along with fleeing and eluding. However, because of the dangerous nature of the high-speed chase against oncoming traffic headed in the opposite direction along with the dangers caused to the sheriff’s deputy pursuing him, the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office also pursued second-degree assault charges against Moss. It was a unique approach in that some of the victims in the case were essentially the nameless John Does and Jane Does who placed 911 calls about Moss’s daring run through Worcester County.
Because the names of the various 911 callers were not taken when they called the dispatch center to report the wrong way driver, they were not identified and were basically unnamed victims. In terms of the other assault charge, Worcester County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Musgrave was also presented as a victim of second-degree assault in the case because Moss’s actions caused him great danger and represented an “intent to frighten,” according to Interim Worcester County State’s Attorney William McDermott.
Pursuing assault charges against a defendant in a case with no named victims presents challenges, but the Worcester County State’s Attorney has had some success with the approach in the past. There was a case in Ocean City last year when a suspect brandished a handgun at a crowd on the street during a motorized event before fleeing the scene. In that case, allied law enforcement directed their attention to the fleeing suspect and not the victims on the sidewalk, so there were no named victims, but prosecutors were able to gain convictions the suspect.
Following Moss’s trial on Tuesday, a Worcester County jury returned guilty convictions against the suspect on all counts including theft under $1,500, fleeing and eluding and two counts of second-degree assault. For the two assault convictions, Moss was sentenced to eight years for each. He was also sentenced to one year for fleeing and eluding and six months for the theft count, bringing his total sentence to 17-and-a-half years.
Following the trial, McDermott praised the actions of law enforcement involved in the case in general and Musgrave specifically.
“Thanks to the heroic actions of Deputy Musgrave and other members of law enforcement, countless lives were likely saved because they risked their own for the protection of this community,” he said.
McDermott also praised the nameless victims in the case, who called 911 and reported Moss’s dangerous pursuit up Route 113. One caller reported she was traveling with her daughter and nearly collided head-on with Moss’s vehicle during the chase. The 911 calls played an important part in the jury trial on Tuesday and helped build the assault cases against Moss.
“To the many people who anonymously called 911, and in particular to the mother who told the 911 operator that she and her daughter had almost been killed and asked that he be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, please know that we did and thank you so much,” said McDermott.