D.C. woman pleads guilty to DUI crash that killed pedestrian

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Local,DC,Crime,Naomi Jagoda

A District woman who had been drinking alcohol and smoking crack cocaine before she drove a car up onto a sidewalk and killed a pedestrian last month in Southwest D.C. has pleaded guilty.

Maria N. Werts, 49, pleaded guilty Tuesday to charges of involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence in connection with the April 28 crash that killed 58-year-old Emmajean Gainey. Werts' plea deal calls for seven years in prison, and she is scheduled to be sentenced on July 26 in D.C. Superior Court, according to the District's U.S. Attorney's Office.

According to a court document, Werts told police that she had drank two 12 ounce malt liquors and smoked a "dime bag" of crack cocaine before getting into a 2010 Toyota Yaris. She also said that she drank two shots of what was later identified as "coconut vodka" before entering the vehicle.

Werts made an illegal right turn on a red light at the intersection of First Street SW and South Capitol Street, forcing another vehicle to swerve in order to avoid a collision. Werts "gestured wildly" at the vehicle she cut off and lost control of the Toyota, according to court documents.

The car then mounted a curb next to the southbound lanes of South Capitol Street. Gainey was walking on the sidewalk at the time with another pedestrian, and the pair tried to avoid being hit by the car. However, the Toyota struck Gainey head-on and pinned her against a tree. Gainey was killed immediately, prosecutors said.

Witnesses called 911 and tried to push the Toyota off of Gainey's body. Werts was seen getting out of the driver's seat of the vehicle and attempting to flee the scene, but witnesses stopped her from leaving before police arrived, prosecutors said.

When police got to the scene, they gave Werts field sobriety tests, which she failed. One of the tests involved Werts standing on one leg, and Werts swayed to maintain her balance and repeatedly set her leg down, according to a court document. After she was arrested, breath tests showed that Werts' blood-alcohol content was above the legal limit.

Werts told police that she was only a passenger in the car and got behind the wheel in order to move the car off of Gainey. However, witnesses identified Werts as the driver, prosecutors said.

njagoda@washingtonexaminer.com

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Naomi Jagoda

Staff reporter
The Washington Examiner