Guilty Plea to Hit-and-Run

After Michael F. Smith backed his Oldsmobile Cutlass over Cheryl Beeson, he sped away, then returned and repeatedly asked, "Is she alive?" before driving off again, according to a 911 tape played in Fairfax County Circuit Court yesterday.

Smith, 23, of Kinnerly Court in Burke, pleaded guilty to felony hit-and-run, driving under the influence and driving without a license in the July 7 incident, which occurred less than three months after a previous drunken-driving conviction. Police said Smith had been drinking at a friend's house in Burke on July 7 and that when he wanted to leave, his friends tried to persuade him not to drive. Beeson, 18, lay down behind Smith's car and reportedly said she would not move until he handed over his car keys, defense attorney T. Lopez said.

Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Todd F. Sanders acknowledged that Smith did not intentionally run over Beeson. But his friends watched as Smith backed all four wheels of his 1976 car over Beeson in the driveway, causing pelvic fractures and lacerating her liver and spleen. On the 911 tape, after Smith's car is heard returning, Smith asks about Beeson and then the car squeals away.

"This is just a ghastly set of circumstances," Circuit Court Judge Kathleen H. McKay said. She will sentence Smith in February, and he will face up to six years in prison.

3-Year Term in Fatal Abduction

An 18-year-old Kingstowne area woman who admitted that last summer she lured a man to her house, where he was then beaten to death, was sentenced in Fairfax County Circuit Court yesterday to three years in prison.

Lisa Panko, of the 7300 block of Springleigh Way, pleaded guilty in September to abduction in the series of events leading to the July 10 murder of Justin R. Rhatigan, 21, also of Kingstowne. Three of Panko's friends were charged with Rhatigan's murder, including her boyfriend, Micah Bohn, 20, and Joseph Kern, 23, who both pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

Panko cooperated with police and testified at the trial of Timothy Jerman, 21, a third defendant who was convicted of second-degree murder. Panko said that Rhatigan had sold her friends phony Ecstasy and that she later persuaded Rhatigan to come to her house so they could confront him.

Panko offered a tearful apology to Rhatigan's family as Circuit Court Judge R. Terrence Ney imposed a five-year sentence and suspended two years. She faced a maximum 10-year term.


Homegrown Marijuana Alleged

Montgomery County police have arrested a 45-year-old Silver Spring man and charged him with growing marijuana in his home.

Police said the man, Richard Kaufman, of the 10000 block of Tenbrook Drive, was charged Monday with manufacturing marijuana, possession with intent to distribute, possession of marijuana and possession of cocaine.

The police department's special investigations unit, acting on information provided by a neighbor of Kaufman's, searched Kaufman's home about 3:15 p.m. Monday and found 124 marijuana plants, 25 pounds of dried marijuana and a three-room, indoor growing system.

Kaufman is being held at the Montgomery County Detention Center in Rockville on $15,000 bond.