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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Suspect's blood-alcohol level nearly three times over limit, authorities say

Charles E. Ramirez and Christina Stolarz / The Detroit News

ROSEVILLE-- A 47-year-old Mount Clemens woman accused of causing a crash Monday night that killed four St. Clair Shores teens on their way to get pizza had a blood-alcohol level of almost three times the legal limit, authorities said today. Frances Patricia Dingle is facing four counts of second-degree murder and four counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, causing death, according to Roseville police.

Roseville District Judge Joseph Boedeker arraigned Dingle from her bed at St. John Macomb-Oakland Hospital in Warren, where she was taken for observation "due to the violence of the crash," Deputy Police Chief James Berlin said. She is being held on a $1 million cash bond, Berlin said.

Dingle did not speak at the arraignment, he said. She will be released to the Macomb County Jail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for March 25.

Police are still investigating where Dingle was driving from and where she was going Monday night before the crash. Her blood-alcohol level was "almost three times the legal limit" of .08 in Michigan, Macomb Prosecutor Eric Smith said.

Dingle allegedly plowed a van into a red Chevy sedan that was carrying the four teens -- all students at Lake Shore High School -- and sitting at a traffic light at 8:30 p.m. Monday near Macomb Mall on Gratiot.

The driver of the teens' car, Devon Spurlock, 19, of St. Clair Shores, died in a local hospital about 5 a.m. today from injuries he suffered in the crash, Berlin said. The other victims are Erica Haudek, 15; Stephanie Currie, 16; and Jordan Michalak, 16, all of St. Clair Shores.

"It's heartbreaking," Smith said. "So often we see teenagers injured or killed in car accidents, and more often than not, their actions contribute in some way to their injuries. In this case, these poor kids were doing nothing wrong."

Smith said the group of friends was simply on their way to get pizza at Pizza Hut.

"If they're a few minutes later or a few minutes earlier, it's another dumb drunk who gets in a car accident and hurts herself," he said. "This has really been troubling people. I'm sure their parents or any other parents wouldn't worry about them being a victim of a drunk driving accident on Monday night at 8 p.m. I can't imagine what these parents are going through.

"We will prosecute this woman to the full extent of the law."

Smith said the second-degree murder charge carries a penalty of life or any term of years up to life with the possibility of parole. The operating while intoxicated, causing death, charges are 15-year felonies. However, Dingle can't be convicted of both homicide charges.

The four teens attended Lake Shore High School, District Superintendent Christopher Loria said. Spurlock was the only senior in the group; the three others were sophomores, he said.

Berlin said he's seen tragic accidents before, but none that involved four teenagers.

"That's what makes it that much more tragic in my eyes at least," he said. "A lot of the guys are taking it very hard. But, it's not as bad for us as these poor families."

Although Dingle has no alcohol or substance-abuse violations on her driving record, she was charged with drunken disorderly in 2005, according to court records from 41-B District Court in Clinton Township.

Dingle pleaded guilty on Feb. 26, 2006, to the drunken disorderly charge, and Chief Judge Linda Davis issued a $345 fine. Dingle was not given probation. The charge was dismissed on July 31, 2006, because Dingle paid the fine and didn't get into any other criminal matters.

Dingle also has had her driver's license suspended four times since April 2008 for failure to pay fines and fees, according to Michigan Secretary of State records.

Dingle received tickets on March 15, 2007, for no proof of insurance, and was involved in a two-vehicle accident -- that resulted in no injuries -- on Jan. 28, 2008, after failing to yield. Dingle received two points on her record and another fee for no proof of insurance related to the accident, according to records.

Dingle didn't pay either ticket in time, which caused her license to be suspended from April 11, 2008, until May 2, 2008. The tickets equaled two suspensions; however, they ran concurrently.

On July 23, 2008, her license was suspended for nonpayment of fees -- from July 23, 2008, until Sept. 26, 2008. Again, the tickets equaled two suspensions that ran concurrently.

You can reach Charles E. Ramirez (586) 468-2905 or cramirez@detnews.com.

 
 
 
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