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Driver in fatal Va. crash had previous DUI violations

By Jennifer Buske and Paul Duggan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 3, 2010; A01

An alleged drunk driver involved in a crash Sunday morning that killed a Catholic nun in Prince William County and left two other nuns gravely injured has a record of numerous motor vehicle violations in recent years, including two drunken-driving cases for which he served 20 days in jail, according to authorities and court records.

The suspect, Carlos A. Martinelly Montano, 23, an illegal immigrant from Bolivia, was also detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after a drunken-driving arrest in 2008. Montano was released on his own recognizance pending a deportation hearing, which has yet to occur because of a backlog, said ICE spokeswoman Cori Bassett.

Montano "has reported as required on a monthly basis to ICE" while awaiting the hearing, Bassett said. Gang members and other violent criminals are often jailed to await deportation hearings, but two drunken-driving arrests "aren't enough to warrant detention," said an immigration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the case against Montano is pending.

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert voiced anger about the case in an interview Monday.

"He's thumbed his nose at the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia for years," Ebert said of Montano. "He continued to drive, even though his privilege had been revoked and he didn't have the right to drive. And he continued to drive drunk, which led to this horrible, horrible situation."

Montano was intoxicated when the 1997 Subaru Outback he was driving in the Bristow area struck a guardrail on Bristow Road near Wright Lane shortly before 8:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. The Outback, traveling north, spun out of control and careered into the southbound lanes, colliding head-on with the nuns' 2003 Toyota Corolla.

Sister Denise Mosier, 66, a former missionary in Africa who was riding in the back seat, was killed. The driver, Sister Connie Ruth Lupton, 75, and the front-seat passenger, Sister Charlotte Lange, 70, were in critical condition Monday at Inova Fairfax Hospital, said Sister Glenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, the nuns' order.

Police did not say whether Lange and Lupton were wearing seat belts, but Mosier apparently was not wearing one.

Mosier, Lupton and Lange, residents of the Saint Benedict convent in Richmond, were on their way to a five-day religious retreat at the Benedictine Sisters monastery in Prince William. As for the injured nuns' prognosis, Smith said: "We don't know yet. They're in the trauma unit on ventilators, the two of them. They're being kept sedated."

The retreat began as scheduled Monday morning, Smith said, but would be "abbreviated."

Police would not disclose Montano's alleged level of intoxication or discuss other evidence.

Mosier, a native Pennsylvanian who entered the convent nearly a half-century ago at age 18, was "a good and faithful servant of the Lord," Bishop Paul S. Loverde, leader of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, said in a statement. "This tragedy, which comes allegedly as a result of a young man's drunk driving, was avoidable.

"The sisters now live with the consequences of this behavior, as do countless other families," Loverde said. "While we pray for the driver, let us also recommit ourselves to eliminating this absolutely unacceptable behavior."

Montano, hospitalized with injuries authorities said were not life-threatening, was charged with involuntary manslaughter, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and driving after an alcohol-related license revocation, which carries a potential one-year term, Ebert said.

Montano was also charged with drunken driving, Ebert said. Because the charge is Montano's third in less than five years, all in Prince William, it is punishable by up to five years in prison, Ebert said.

Reading from a computer printout, Ebert recited a list of Montano's arrests or citations -- under several names and Social Security numbers, he said -- for reckless driving in 2006; speeding on two occasions in 2007; public drunkenness in 2007; driving an uninspected vehicle in 2008; and three instances of driving after a license revocation, in 2008, last year and in April.

Ebert said Montano was not sentenced to jail for any of the offenses, all but one of which occurred in Northern Virginia.

The two cases that disturb him most, Ebert said, are Montano's drunken-driving convictions in 2007 and 2008.

About 3:15 a.m. on July 7, 2007, according to court documents, a police officer found Montano asleep behind the wheel of a car idling at a stop sign. After the officer ordered him to step out, Montano "was extremely unsteady on his feet and almost fell to the road," a police report says. It says Montano told the officer he had consumed about eight beers.

Tests showed Montano's blood-alcohol level was 0.13 percent, well above the 0.08 percent legal limit for driving in Virginia, court records show. His license was suspended after his conviction, but he was not sentenced to jail.

Just after 2 a.m. on Oct. 4, 2008, a police officer stopped Montano for driving erratically, court documents show. He told the officer that he had consumed five or six beers, a police report says. It says that a breath test given to Montano 90 minutes after his arrest found his blood-alcohol level to be 0.17 percent, more than twice the legal limit.

In Virginia, a second drunken-driving conviction within five years is punishable by up to a year in jail, and the defendant must serve at least 10 days. Montano was given a 363-day sentence with all but 20 days suspended, records show.

Mosier, who grew up in the northwestern Pennsylvania town of Kane, entered the convent after graduating from high school in the early 1960s and later received a bachelor's degree in English, Smith said. She said Mosier taught in parochial schools in Pennsylvania and Virginia and served as a missionary in Ethiopia and Tanzania for eight years in the 1970s and '80s.

For about the past 12 years, Mosier's main role in the religious order was as a spiritual counselor to groups and individuals.

"Denise was very special," said Smith. "She had a genuine love for all people. . . . Very personable, very outgoing. Almost always happy and upbeat. She was one of the most generous and forgiving people I've ever known."

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