A Springfield area high school senior has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for his role in a high-speed car crash that took the life of his passenger on Old Keene Mill Road in March, Fairfax County police said yesterday.
But the driver's family placed him in a residential center for troubled teens in Alabama and wants him to remain there for as long as a year, rather than return immediately to Fairfax to face charges. Fairfax authorities said they were seeking his extradition and want to try him as an adult.
The victim, Adam Foote, 17, a senior at West Springfield High School, was riding in a 1989 Ford Mustang driven by a schoolmate, whose name was not released because he was a juvenile. Police said they believe the Mustang was "engaged in an exhibition of speed" with a 1996 Chevrolet Camaro but have not been using the word "racing" because no street racing charges were filed.
Still, witnesses told police that both cars were driving very fast along Old Keene Mill Road in Springfield as they reached Huntsman Boulevard about 2:45 p.m. March 22. A dump truck turning left onto Huntsman pulled in front of the Mustang, police said, and the Mustang slammed into the rear of the dump truck and spun away.
The driver, who has since turned 18, suffered minor injuries. The driver of the Camaro, 17, slammed into a light post but was not seriously hurt.
The driver of the Mustang was deeply traumatized by his friend's death, his father said yesterday. "But being a 17-year-old boy, he did not know how to deal with that," the father said.
The driver's family waited for Fairfax prosecutors to file charges. "We were hoping that there was some kind of program that juvenile court could put him into," the father said, "to help him with the fallout."
But when no charges were filed by mid-May, the driver's family decided to place him in a treatment center for troubled adolescents in Alabama. State law there allows parents to obtain "extended guardianship," so that when a teen turns 18 he remains under his parents' control and cannot check himself out of treatment. The driver turned 18 in mid-May.
"We felt that this was our last chance to get him this kind of help," the father said. "We did not send him there to punish him. We did not send him there to avoid prosecution."
Later in May, Fairfax police searched the family's home and asked the family to withdraw him from treatment. The family refused, the father said.
On May 26, police obtained petitions in Fairfax juvenile court charging the driver with manslaughter and two counts of distribution of marijuana. Officer Bud Walker, a police spokesman, said the drug charges were unrelated to the crash.
Police asked sheriff's deputies in Jackson County, Alabama, to arrest the driver at the treatment center, and they did, Jackson County Chief Deputy Dennis Miller said yesterday.
The driver on May 26 was taken before a Jackson County district court judge, who allowed him to post a $20,000 bond and return to the treatment center.
Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney Robert F. Horan Jr. said proceedings were underway to extradite the driver to Virginia.
The driver's father said he hoped that his son would be allowed to stay in the Alabama center for the duration of its program, which is 12 to 14 months. "The whole point of the juvenile justice system is rehabilitation, not punishment," said the father, a former criminal defense lawyer in Fairfax. "And he is getting that rehabilitation, voluntarily."
The father said that he had received no paperwork or formal notification about the charges against his son and that Fairfax prosecutors reneged on a promise to meet with his lawyer before filing charges.
"The commonwealth's attorney wants to pull him out of the program where he's getting the treatment that he needs," the father said. "To punish him, it's wrong priorities, as far as I'm concerned."
The victim's mother, Jennifer Young-Foote, declined to comment yesterday on whether the driver should be allowed to continue to receive treatment in Alabama.
After Foote died, many of his organs were donated to viable recipients, which was what her son had wanted, Young-Foote said. She said Adam agreed to be an organ donor after watching a television show on transplants at age 7.
"Let them take whatever they want," his mother said Adam told her 10 years ago. "What am I going to do with it?"