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Oct 19, 2002

HANDLING OF TRAFFIC FATALITY ANGERS MADD LEADER

The local president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants the city’s chief prosecutor to get involved in an involuntary manslaughter case involving a teen-ager charged this week.

Sara J. Becker, 18, was charged Sunday in connection with the death of a 20-year-old Virginia Beach man at the Oceanfront.

Mike Goodove, president of the Southside MADD, criticized the decision by Magistrate B.B. Cowell to set Becker free on a $2,500 personal recognizance bond while she awaits trial.

“This is shocking in a manslaughter case,” Goodove said. “It sends an inappropriate message to the community.”

Goodove called for Commonwealth’s Attorney Harvey L. Bryant III to ask for a hearing in front of a judge to reconsider the bond.

Becker, a college student who lives in Richmond, was driving a 2002 Honda Civic early Sunday morning on Baltic Avenue near 27th Street when she struck a pedestrian, police said.

She was charged with involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence and faces up to 11 years in prison.

The pedestrian, Joshua A. Davis, of the 500 block of Fountain Lake Drive, was pronounced dead at the scene. A passenger in Becker’s automobile suffered minor injuries.

Becker was not injured.

Her blood-alcohol level was .10, according to police. The legal limit in Virginia is .08.

Goodove said the court must determine whether Becker has an alcohol problem that would pose a threat. If a judge examines the case, Goodove said, more time could be spent investigating the woman’s background.

“It would be good to have another set of eyes look at her,” he said.

Bryant said on Friday that he had no specific information about the case. But he promised to “look into it.”

Becker’s bond was handled like all others involving a suspect charged by warrant and taken before a magistrate, Bryant said. In such cases, he explained, prosecutors aren’t involved.

The Virginia Beach magistrate’s office works under the chief judge of the Circuit Court, Thomas S. Shadrick.

Decisions about bonds – whether issued by a magistrate or a judge – are made after determining whether the person poses a public safety threat or a flight risk and whether the case is strong, Bryant said.

Virginia Beach Chief Magistrate Robert S. Hill Jr. could not be reached for comment Friday.