Former Wootton Quarterback Charged with Vehicular Homicide in Deadly North Potomac Crash

Former Wootton Quarterback Charged with Vehicular Homicide in Deadly North Potomac Crash

Samuel Ellis faces criminal charges in the deaths of Alexander Murk and Calvin Li

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Friends of Alexander Murk and Calvin Li stand near a makeshift memorial at the scene of the deadly North Potomac crash

Andrew Metcalf

The former Thomas S. Wootton High School quarterback who police say was driving a car that crashed in June in North Potomac, killing two 18-year-old passengers, is facing up to 23 years in prison if convicted of charges related to the incident.

Samuel Joseph Ellis, 19, of Gaithersburg was indicted Thursday on two counts of homicide by motor vehicle and two counts of vehicular manslaughter. He also faces an additional count for causing life-threatening injury while intoxicated, according to the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Ellis allegedly had been drinking at a house party before he got behind the wheel and drove at more than 100 mph on the night of the June 25 crash, according to a police report released in September. The Dufief Mill Road crash killed recent Wootton graduates Alexander Murk and Calvin Li and injured a 17-year-old passenger, who was not named by police.

Ellis also suffered serious injuries, but was later released from the hospital. Ellis played quarterback for the Wootton football team before graduating in the spring. An attorney for Ellis, Michael McAullife, declined to comment on the charges.

Police reported the teens were drinking before the crash at a party hosted by the teenage daughter of Kenneth Saltzman 49, of North Potomac. Saltzman, who was reportedly home at the time of the party, has been charged with two counts of furnishing alcohol to a minor, according to online court records. Police reported that Saltzman had knowingly allowed about 25 teens to consume vodka and beer at his home.

The deaths of Li and Murk sent shockwaves through a tight Wootton high school community and highlighted the dangers of teen drinking.

In a recent interview, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger told Bethesda Beat that parents need to realize that they are putting teens at risk when they host underage drinking parties.

“These [cases] just break your heart because every one of these crashes that kill these young men and women are so preventable,” Manger said in an October interview. “It infuriates me when we find out that an adult knew what was going on and facilitated what was going on.

“The kids—I understand. I hope they hear the message. How many kids every year have to be killed before these kids realize they’re not invincible?” Manger said. “But it’s the parents, who have deluded themselves into thinking that they’ve done something good who need to get the message. If parents that do this are held accountable, both criminally, civilly, you name it, and those stories get out, maybe it will have an impact.”

Concern about underage drinking prompted Walt Whitman High School Principal Alan Goodwin to send an email to parents Thursday night after he learned that parents had recently hosted parties.

“Parents,” he wrote. “As we get close to another weekend, please do not host an underage drinking party as apparently some of you did last weekend. This must stop. The law says you can be fined a minimum of $2,500/underage drinker if the drinker(s) is at your residence and you are present. While the fine is steep, the stronger risk is that a teenager from your party will be injured or die either from excessive drinking or while in a car with a driver under the influence. Parents, find other ways to bond with your child. Please.” 

After the police report on the crash was released in September, Murk’s parents released a statement that urged prosecutors to pursue a just sentence for Ellis.

“Slaps on the wrist, or short jail sentences, will NOT deter other teenagers from acting as grossly irresponsibly as Sam Ellis did that night,” the statement from David and Pamela Murk said. “Of course the wrongdoer will show remorse after he has killed one or two friends. Remorse is after-the-fact. Remorse does not bring back our beloved Alex, or Calvin Li.”

A hearing in Ellis’ case is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Nov. 20, according to online court records.

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