An insurance company representing WRC-TV reporter Kelly D. Burke agreed yesterday to pay more than $2 million to the wife and two children of a man who was killed last July 1 after a head-on collision with Burke's van.
Burke, who has pleaded guilty to charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and failure to stay in the proper lane in the early morning crash in Darnestown that killed 32-year-old Dennis Lee Crouch of Poolesville, refused to comment on the settlement.
Crouch's 29-year-old widow, Sandra Leigh Crouch, who was eight months pregnant with the couple's first child when her husband was killed, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Under the terms of the settlement, Burke's insurance company, Allstate Life Insurance, will immediately pay Crouch's lawyer $10,000 in legal fees and $2,000 to Crouch. It will also pay $1,000 to Shawn Matthew, Crouch's 8-year-old son by his first marriage and to Denise Leigh, the Crouch's infant daughter.
Beginning in 1999, Crouch will receive from Allstate $22,800 annually for 21 years, with an increase of 0.04 percent each year, to total $480,719.97. Shawn Crouch will receive 20 yearly payments of $19,000 beginning in 2002 and increasing 0.04 percent annually, for a total of $381,447.36. Denise Leigh Crouch will receive 40 annual payments of $30,000 beginning in 2010, and increasing 0.04 percent annually, to total $1,209,407.42.
In his criminal case, Burke received a $500 fine and was placed on unsupervised probation for two years, on the condition that he produce a documentary on the consequences of drunk driving. Burke has drawn up a proposal for the documentary and shot some film, but has had trouble raising $40,000 he said it takes to produce it, according to another reporter at WRC-TV.
In exchange for his guilty plea, a more serious charge of homicide with a motor vehicle while intoxicated was dropped by Montgomery County prosecutors.
The reduced charges agreed to in the criminal case had drawn a great deal of criticism from Crouch's family and local chapters of Mothers Against Drunk Driving said that Burke was not being held responsible for his actions.
Yesterday's settlement was reached in a private meeting in Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge John J. Mitchell's chambers. As part of the agreement, Crouch's relatives were barred from filing civil suits against Burke. This settlement was reached before a case reached court.