The parents of a teenager who was killed in an alcohol-related crash over the summer say that they want more legal accountability for adults who allow underage drinking in their homes and that they hope the teen driver receives a harsh penalty as a message to others.
David and Pamela Murk released a statement Monday assailing the father who allegedly was inside his North Potomac, Md., home while a group of more than two dozen teenagers connected to Wootton High School were drinking there on June 25. After the party, four of the teens got into 18-year-old Samuel Ellis’s car, and police say he proceeded to drive at extremely high speeds before a horrific crash claimed the lives of rear-seat passengers Alex Murk and Calvin Li, both 18. Police have said that Ellis had a blood-alcohol content between 0.07 and 0.09 and that he tested positive for drugs.
The Murks said it is “appalling” that the parent — whom police have identified as Kenneth Saltzman — “apparently knew about and permitted underage drinking to occur in his very own house under his very own roof . . . and made light of it.” A police report indicated that Saltzman joked with a teenager as the youth entered the home with beer that night, asking if one of the 30-packs was for him.
“Those facts alone should shock the conscience of any law-abiding concerned parent,” the Murks said in the statement. “But what is even more shocking is the fact that under Maryland law, a first offense for behavior such as Mr. Saltzman’s carries no jail time, but merely a maximum fine of $2,500 . . . for something that results in the death of two young men. . . . That is the law that needs to change, if we want to have any chance of changing the way our society thinks and acts. Hold the adults responsible.”
Saltzman has not been charged with a crime; a police report said he was present at the residence during the gathering but did not provide alcohol or serve it to the teenagers. Saltzman declined to comment when reached Friday and did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
Capt. Tom Didone said Monday that Montgomery County police believe that “the homeowner was home at the time of the party and that he knew or should have known there was underage drinking going on.”
Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office, said prosecutors are reviewing the investigation and waiting for lab test results to come back.
“This is a terrible situation,” he said. “We are moving forward deliberately and diligently.”
Ellis, who, along with a front-seat passenger, was seriously injured in the crash and survived, also has not been charged in the case. Ellis’s attorney, Michael McAuliffe, declined to comment on the Murk family’s statement Monday. On Friday, he described his client as feeling devastated.
The Murks said the police report “reopens fresh wounds and our family is absolutely devastated.” They noted that their son would have turned 19 this month and had plans to attend Pennsylvania State University.
“While the completed investigation and report will never bring back our beloved Alex, it does give us a close-up glimpse into what has become all too common in our society — teenaged drinking and driving,” they wrote.
The couple noted in their statement that they were “extremely disappointed” that so many families and friends of the teenagers who died did not come forward and talk to police until they faced the threat of grand jury subpoenas.
The family also said they hope that the court makes an example of the teen driver with a strong sentence: “Slaps on the wrist, or short jail sentences, will not deter other teenagers from acting as grossly irresponsibly as Sam Ellis did that night,” they wrote. “Remorse is after-the-fact. Remorse does not bring back our beloved Alex, or Calvin Li.”