Gibson Won't Face Charges For Friend's Death In Car Crash

By Guy Leonard, County Times

LEONARDTOWN, Md. (May 29, 2008)—Sean Thomas Gibson, 18, who police believe was responsible for the car crash that killed his longtime friend and Chopticon High School classmate Ethan Chewning will not face manslaughter charges according to the prosecutor who investigated the tragic case.

Assistant State’s Attorney Robyn Riddle said the decision not to prosecute Gibson for any offenses that would result in jail time came after a lengthy investigation, including talking to Chewning’s surviving family.

“There will be no manslaughter charges,” Riddle told The County Times last week. “They feel [Gibson] is suffering greatly already, because they were best friends.

“They did not prefer that he be charged with any offenses [that carried the penalty of incarceration.”

Riddle said the family’s wishes did not decide the outcome of their investigation, but they were in accord with the state’s attorney’s office findings.

“They are an exceptionally compassionate family,” Riddle said of Chewning’s relatives.

The accident occurred last April when Gibson was driving a 1998 Dodge Neon westbound on Sunnyside Road near the intersection with Colton’s Point Road when he lost control of the vehicle after failing to make a turn.

The car collided head on with a 2000 Pontiac Grand Am after crossing over the center lines of the roadway.

Chewning, 16, of Chaptico died on the scene. Amber Russell, then 20, of Clements, who drove the Grand Am, was injured and treated at Suburban Hospital in Bethesda. Gibson, who was also incapacitated after the accident, according to police reports, received care for his injuries at the same hospital.

The passenger in the back seat of Gibson’s vehicle, Nathaniel Fitch, then 16, of Clements, received life-threatening injuries and had to be flown out by Maryland State Police helicopter to Prince George’s Hospital Center’s trauma unit.

The death of Chewning, who was popular among his classmates, rocked the Chaptico and Clements communities.

Tearful memorials and candlelight vigils soon followed, and Chewning’s classmates memorialized him with messages at school that could be seen from the roadway.

Chewning was affectionately known as “ninja” for his affinity for the martial arts and was recognized for turning around lagging grades in his sophomore year at Chopticon High School.

Gibson made a tearful apology to Chewning’s family last year at a memorial service to the young man for the accident, which was accepted.

Gibson is set to appear in St. Mary’s County District Court in June on nine separate charges stemming from the April 4, 2007 accident.

Those charges include speeding, negligent driving and failing to control a motor vehicle to avoid a collision.

Virginia Quade, Chewning’s grandmother, said the family is still dealing with the loss of their young loved one.

“We know that charging Sean is not going to bring Ethan back,” Quade told The County Times. “We believe he [Gibson] was responsible. “It’s still hard but we want this boy to have a life.”

Quade said she and the family believed Gibson would never have intentionally caused his friend any harm.

“These two boys were very good friends,” she said. “[Gibson] has to miss his friend.”

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