ROCKVILLE, Md. - A former Wootton High School student who pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter for a drunken driving crash that resulted in the deaths of two of his classmates last year has been sentenced to prison by a Montgomery County judge Thursday.
The state recommended 12 years of the possible 20-year maximum sentence for Ellis. Judge Robert Greenberg ultimately sentenced the 19-year-old to serve four years for the deaths of Calvin Li and Alexander Murk, all of them Wootton High School graduates who left a house party back on June 25 where alcohol had been served.
Ellis and the front seat passenger, Cameron Siasi, were both seriously injured, but made full recoveries, according to doctors.
Ellis was behind the wheel of the car in last year's crash and toxicology results showed he had consumed alcohol and was also under the influence of marijuana.
Ellis pleaded guilty to two charges of vehicular manslaughter in order to avoid trial. They are considered non-violent charges, which mean once he serves a quarter of his sentence, he is eligible for parole.
In addition, Ellis was given five years of probation with alcohol and drug treatment. He also faces five years of no alcohol while driving in addition to being required to have an interlock ignition device to operate a vehicle. Ellis will also be required to serve 500 hours of community service.
There was gut-wrenching evidence revealed during the sentencing phase, which included dash cam video of one of the first responding officers being guided by neighbors who heard the wreck. You can see the police cruiser stop directly in front of the mangled vehicle. Murk and Li had been partially ejected from the car.
The state wanted a tough and stiff sentence saying that Ellis showed no remorse and there were hundreds of hours of jailhouse conversations recorded. In those calls, he never mentioned the victims or showed what they said was any sort of remorse.
"Four years is time for Mr. Ellis to think about the things he's done," said Ramon Korionoff, spokesperson for the Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office. "Hopefully he will be able to serve the public good by doing the 500 hours of community service that Judge Greenberg imposed today, and it is our hope too that the ignition interlock system that has been ordered for him will prevent him from doing anything similar to this in the future."
There were long faces, deep sighs and tears as the judge read the sentence that many in the courtroom as they left said was unjust.
Murk's parents spoke to a courtroom so packed that they had to change locations because of the nearly 200 people in attendance. Their words evoked tears from people in the courtroom as they told the judge every single day before they went to court, they touched their son's urn that sits in their living room, which is their daily reminder of how their lives changed forever.
Li's parents did not attend Thursday's sentencing and did not provide letters to the judge, saying the entire ordeal was simply too painful for the family.
The homeowner who held the party that Ellis and his friends had attended pleaded guilty to furnishing alcohol to minors. Kenneth Saltzman paid the maximum penalty for the crime - a fine of $5,000, which is $2,500 for each count.
Thursday's sentencing comes in the wake of a deadly crash late Tuesday night that took the lives of three Clarksburg High School students. In that wreck, police have said alcohol does not appear to be involved, but they were investigating speeding and the inexperience of the driver as possible factors.