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Md. Teens Had Been Drinking, Police Say

Driver and Passenger Died in Montgomery

By David Snyder and Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 29, 2004; Page B01

A 17-year-old motorist who died Saturday in a crash that also killed one of his teenage passengers had a blood-alcohol level of more than twice the legal limit for driving, Montgomery County police said yesterday.

Robert Middaugh, of the 15600 block of Straughn Drive in Laurel, was driving a 2004 Pontiac GTO when the car spun out of control and slammed into a steel light pole near Burtonsville, police said. The crash killed Middaugh and a passenger, Michelle Timchalk, also 17 and from Laurel.

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Toxicology tests performed by the Maryland medical examiner's office showed that Middaugh's blood-alcohol level exceeded 0.16, police said. For drivers 21 and older, the legal limit is 0.08. For drivers younger than 21, any level of alcohol in the blood is illegal.

Police said Timchalk also was under the influence of alcohol when the crash occurred. They did not make public her blood-alcohol level.

A third passenger in the car, Mary Kathleen Collins, 16, of Laurel, remained in critical condition yesterday at the Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore, police said.

A total of five young people died and four were injured in Montgomery in three weekend accidents, all of which involved excessive speed, police said. The victims were 16 to 19 years old.

The first accident occurred Friday night, when a car driven by Hersh Kapoor, 16, went off the road near Norbeck and Norwood roads in Aspen Hill. Alicia Betancourt, 16, died in the crash, and Kapoor was critically injured.

The third accident occurred early Sunday in Poolesville. Police said Edward Monterroza, 19, of Damascus was driving a 1991 Plymouth Laser with three passengers: Elmer Martinez, 18, of Wheaton; Rico Scott, 17, of Gaithersburg; and Alvin Monterroza, 16, of Montgomery Village. Edward Monterroza and Martinez died when the Laser veered off the road.

Middaugh, a senior at Atholton High School in Columbia, had transferred to the school in April from St. Vincent Pallotti High School, a private Catholic school in Laurel, said Ingrid Morton, a guidance counselor at Atholton.

Middaugh was known for his impish grin and old-fashioned manners -- "yes, ma'am" and "no, ma'am," "please" and "thank you," Morton said.

And even though he was the new kid in school, he managed to secure a date to the junior prom within a month.

Liz Gates, the registrar at Atholton, said: "The thing that impressed everybody from the moment he walked through the door is, you felt like you've known him. He was just one of those comfortable people. He made himself at home and jumped right in with both feet." Gates lived near Middaugh and worked with him last school year when he was a student aide in the guidance department.

In August, before classes started, Middaugh stopped by Atholton ostensibly to change his schedule so that he could work at Toys R Us for part of the school day. But Gates said he was proud of his new car, a shiny black 2004 GTO with black leather interior, and wanted to show it off.

He was so excited about his purchase that he brought Gates and Morton to the parking lot and had them sit inside the car.

"It was like a teenage boy's dream car," Gates said.

Gates and Morton said they were like his surrogate mothers, making sure he had a jacket if it was cold, asking if he was sick every time he sneezed. When they saw his new car, Morton said, they also gave him a warning: Drive safely. Don't speed.


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