The teenager from Chevy Chase was vacationing at his family's country home in Vermont. The two others were small-town kids passing the final days of summer just before high school resumed.
The Maryland youth attended private school in Washington and was the son of a millionaire. The Vermont boys' parents worked at the firehouse and the pharmacy.
The wealthy boy, Charles Meyer, had a fast car, which he would later tell police his mother bought him. The local boys were impressed. One afternoon in 2004, the three went for a reckless drive near a place called Devil's Rock, and two wound up dead.
On Monday in a courthouse in northeastern Vermont -- five miles from the Canadian border -- Meyer stood before the parents of Norman Woolard, 16, and Philip Leno, 17, his passengers that day, and apologized. Meyer's mother, Julie Jensen, did, too: As her son sped along the country road that afternoon, he was 14.
The tragedy that has wrenched three families over the past year has played out amid the breathtaking wilderness, glacial lakes and sometimes harsh solitude of what locals call the northeast kingdom. Although one family comes from the well-to-do circles of suburban Washington and the others from local hamlets, all were deeply invested in the life of the area. And all have been devastated by what happened.
The accident seemed to point up the gulf between the rich out-of-staters who use Vermont as a summer haven and the residents who make a far more modest living in the local economy.
"This is David and Goliath," Philip Leno's father, Paul, said months ago. "I've felt that way from Day One. To them, the people around them are just utensils."
Elaine Cashin, Norman Woolard's mother, said last week: "Our children would have never owned a car like that."
But Jensen, 50, also had roots in the region.
"This woman has contacts with the northeast kingdom that go back 25 years," said the family's Barre, Vt., attorney, Richard Rubin. "She's part of that community. . . . She's not an East Coast princess. She has a summer home in Vermont that's a lot less fancy than a lot of summer homes in the state. . . . She's not living in a mansion on a hill overlooking the poor people down in the valley."
On Monday in the courtroom, Charles Meyer, now 15, read from a prepared statement as he addressed the parents of the dead teenagers.
"I am so sorry for what I did," he said. "I should never have asked to drive the car. . . . I want you to know how sorry I am for the pain and loss my actions have caused you. I will regret this for the rest of my life."
Cashin, 48, said: "That was one thing that was important to us. And he accepted responsibility for the accident, and that was also important to us."
Meyer's mother, a lawyer and philanthropist, apologized to Leno's parents and Woolard's mother in a separate meeting. But Leno's father, Paul, 44, was unmoved. "She didn't care," he said Wednesday. "We were just an inconvenience to her. She didn't show any emotion."
Woolard's stepfather, William Cashin, a volunteer firefighter, did not attend the meeting. "He's still too angry," his wife said.
After the apology and admission, Meyer's case was transferred from adult to juvenile court, as part of an agreement with prosecutors. Disposition of the case, which is expected to include probation, community service and an explanation of exactly what happened, is scheduled to take place in the next few weeks.
The accident occurred Aug. 24, 2004, about 4:20 p.m. on Route 5A, which runs along the eastern shore of Lake Willoughby, about 40 miles northeast of Montpelier, the state capital. Meyer, then a student at Washington's Parkmont School, was staying with his family in the summer home in Brownington.
His mother had purchased the car, a silver 330-horsepower 1994 Toyota Supra, a few months before and was about to have some fancy body work done, according to a state police report.
Meyer, a tall, strapping boy who looked older than 14, had boasted about how fast and powerful the car was. He had learned to drive it on the grounds but was forbidden to drive on the street, according to the families, attorneys and police.
Woolard, of nearby Westmore, who had gotten his driver's license a few weeks before, was working with a landscaping company on the grounds of Jensen's large log house and had gotten to know Meyer.
Woolard had been given permission by Jensen on Monday, Aug. 23, to drive himself and Meyer to a store and back. The next day, Jensen later told police, she gave another young man on the grounds crew permission to take the car, but it was Woolard who ended up in the vehicle with Meyer.
The two stopped to pick up Leno, a friend of Woolard's. Leno's father recalled that Meyer was driving -- and it was Meyer who was driving later as the car went speeding south along the road beside the lake.
The car was traveling so fast that people in the neighborhood called the state police. Woolard's father saw it speed by his house on 5A doing what looked like 100 mph. Another man later told police the car zoomed up behind him, tailgated and then passed. He said he saw two or three teenagers in the car, which was going 70 in a 35-mph zone. The motorist told police he thought somebody was going to get killed.
At 4:19 p.m., Meyer was speeding by Devil's Rock, where the road squeezes between the lake and a large outcropping. As he came over a hill, he lost control, he later told police.
The car spun out, leaving a long trail of skid marks on the pavement, smashed into the rocks and flipped. The right side was crushed down to the door. The left side was much less damaged.
A boater on the lake saw the crash and dialed 911 on a cell phone.
Leno, who apparently had been in the back seat, was pinned beneath the rear of the car. He was bleeding heavily from a severe head injury. Woolard, who had been the front-seat passenger, was pinned beneath the seat, with only an arm protruding from the wreckage.
Meyer crawled out the driver's window, walked about a quarter-mile north and, with bloodied arms, flagged down a passing motorist, Colin Fitzpatrick.
Fitzpatrick told police that Meyer said he was 14, had just been in an accident and feared that his two friends were dead. Fitzpatrick jogged to the wreck and called out, "Is anyone alive?"
When police arrived moments later, both teenagers were dead.
Meyer was taken for examination to a hospital, where his mother declined to let police interview him.
Jensen's Washington attorney, Lanny A. Breuer, a former White House special counsel in the Clinton administration, declined a request for an interview with Jensen last week. "I'm hopeful that healing after this tragic accident can occur for all the families involved," he said.
Jensen, a tax lawyer, is the daughter of Ronald L. Jensen, founder of the billion-dollar, Texas-based insurance company UICI Corp. He was killed this month in a car accident in Irving, Tex.
Julie Jensen is also the widow of Christopher Meyer, a lawyer and authority on copyright law who died of cancer at 52 in 1999.
He is buried on the grounds of the couple's Vermont home.
Both were philanthropists. In 1997, they established the Chasdrew Fund, named for their two sons, to fund programs for young people, and last year Jensen donated $1 million to the Washington Area Women's Foundation to help low-income families headed by women.
Rubin said Jensen also has made anonymous donations of more than $1 million to community agencies in Vermont.
After Monday's court proceeding, the mothers of the dead teenagers, Elaine Cashin and Elaine Leno, got their first up-close look at the crushed car, at a nearby state police barracks.
Cashin said: "It looked like our boys never had a chance."
Correspondent Jon Margolis contributed to this report.