A Capitol Heights man charged with drunk driving and manslaughter in connection with a three-car accident that killed two members of a Northeast Washington family was held in jail yesterday after failing to post $10,000 bond.
Rodney J. Merrill, 26, of the 400 block of Goldleaf Avenue, was charged with two counts of manslaughter and one count each of driving while under the influence of alcohol, driving without a permit and reckless driving. Police said Merrill works as a construction laborer.
The accident, which occurred about 9 p.m. Monday in the 400 block of Rhode Island Avenue NE, killed Joseph Chapman Sr., 47, and his daughter Joyce, 19, and seriously injured two other members of the Chapman family.
Chapman, a waiter at the Mayflower Hotel, and his daughter, a recent graduate of McKinley High School, were pronounced dead on arrival at the Washington Hospital Center shortly after the accident.
Chapman's wife, Mary, 44, was in serious but stable condition yesterday at the hospital center. Joseph Chapman Jr., Joyce's twin, was in serious condition at Howard University Hospital last night, officials said.
Yesterday, neighbors of the Chapmans gathered informally outside the Benning Road NE apartment building where the close-knit family lived.
"This is a big loss to us," said George Jackson, 64, a neighbor at the Pentacle Apartments, where the Chapmans have lived since 1978. "He Joseph Chapman Sr. was very active in our tenant association. He loved children, always had a kind word for everybody."
Jackson added, "He impressed you as a person who believed that if he were to do the right thing, it would make him a better person."
"This is a terrible shame," said William McQueen, 69, a retired railroad porter. McQueen said that an allegation of drunk driving was involved "makes it worse."
Family members said the father, originally from East St. Louis, Ill., met his wife, a native of Charlestown, W.Va., here in Washington. Mary Chapman is a sales assistant at the Hecht Co.
A spokesman at the Mayflower described Joseph Chapman Sr. as a large, muscular man with a gentle manner. He had worked there since 1959, first as a busboy and later as a waiter in the main dining room, officials said.
"He was favored by a lot of notable politicians, dignitaries and other VIPs who frequented our Carvery dining room," said Stephen Solomon, director of personnel at the Mayflower. "They would often ask for him to be their waiter. He was very professional. The man had charisma, inner soul. When he smiled, you could see that the man had heart."
Police said the compact car in which the Chapmans were riding was making a legal U-turn when it was struck by Merrill's car, which was traveling southwest on Rhode Island Avenue NE.
The impact of the collision forced the Chapmans' car to skid into a curb and overturn. The daughter, who was driving the car, the father and the mother were thrown from the vehicle. Rescue workers removed the son from the car.
A third car, parked nearby, was also struck. Two passengers in that car were not seriously injured, police said.