WOODLAWN, Md. (WJZ) — A young Maryland couple was killed by a drunk driver as they watched an illegal street race.  Now a judge has put that driver behind bars for 20 years.

Weijia Jiang has emotional reaction from the victim’s family.

On Tuesday, a judge sentenced the man convicted of killing 20-year-old Mary-Kathryn Abernathy and 21-year-old Jonathan Henderson.  Donneil Raeburn, 28, of Pikesville was found guilty of two counts of automobile manslaughter.  He’ll spend the next 20 years in jail, the maximum punishment.

“The first thing he did was get up and apologize.  He apologized for his actions, he apologized for causing us so much pain and I saw a lot of emotion,” said David Abernathy.

In June 2009, Raeburn was driving near the Interstate 70 Park and Ride when he plowed into a group watching an illegal street race.  Prosecutors say he was driving 82 miles an hour when he crashed and that he never tried to use his brakes.  They also say even four hours after the accident, his blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit.

It was the second high-profile crash linked to Maryland street racing in as many years.  In 2008, eight people died when a Crown Victoria plowed into a group of spectators.  Since then, police have added rumble strips and cameras to at least 10 dragging hot spots.

Family members admit the young couple was in a dangerous situation but insist that’s not what caused the tragedy.

“An individual went out, had too much to drink, got behind the wheel of a car, basically turning it into a 3,500 pound killing machine,” Abernathy said.

The victims’ families are in the process of setting up scholarship funds in their honor.

Comments (53)
  1. Sylvan Finkelstein says:

    all these apologies never bring back the love ones

    1. Terry Frazer says:

      apologies a cheap and from him was just sorry he was caught

  2. Dee says:

    Three people lost their lives that day. SO SAD!

  3. Leigh Ann Erdman says:

    I am sorry for their loss and I can appreciate the families wanting to do something good out of tragedy but does anyone besides me see the irony of a scholarship for merit based on participating in an illegal activity?

    1. Patton Williams-Baltimore says:

      Correction to your comment is warranted. No illegal activity going on. Just a guy who broke the law by driving while extremely intoxicated who killed two people and injured another.

      1. Reality says:

        Who “hangs out” on an interstate highway late at night? That alone is illegal activity and is likely to cause an accident.

      2. Ken says:

        Any drag/street racing contest on public streets or highways is against the law which makes it illegal. I am sorry about the loss of life but agree with the ones who say there was illegal activity occurring.

      3. Peter Silvestri says:

        Reality, you are absolutely wrong. Obviously you don’t know the law like you think you do. Where the deceased were positioned, it is not illegal to park. In fact that was a point argued in the case and the judge (who knows the letter of the law) agreed that the two deceased and their friend were not breaking any laws.

        Again, it’s your opinion versus the facts. Guess what, the facts were weighed in court and a sentence was handed down.

      4. Peter Silvestri says:

        Ken, yes, street racing is illegal. But based on evidence presented in court, that was not happening.

      5. Reality says:

        Were they closer to I-695 entrance/exit or closer to the “legal” park and ride? It’s called a park and ride, not a park and party!

      6. Mike says:

        Street racing is an illegal activity. If they were at a street race, they were involved in illegal activity.

      7. Crys Marie Love says:

        i wish there was a LIKE button on here like Facebook. Perfectly said!

    2. Mary Toman says:

      I am Jonathan Henderson’s mother and there was no illegal streetrace taking place.

      1. Mary Toman says:

        They were closer to the I-695 entrance and as Peter said, the facts presented in court proved that there was not an illegal street race taking place. I wish that the reporters and everyone else would understand that and drop the street race that never existed.

  4. Gizzy says:

    Donta Stallworth did how much time?!?!?!

    1. Reality says:

      Excellent point! How can it be so blatant that those with money get a slap on the wrist and those without do hard time? It could not be more obvious that the legal system is a failure!

      1. Patton Williams- Baltimore says:

        This is not a case about the Haves versus the Have-Nots. All of the families involved, the defendants and the victims families, are in the same socio-economic bracket.

        Your trollish comments are not based in any fact. It simply appears that you have some other ax to grind. You comment from no authority other than your own self-righteousness. If you want to create intelligent dialogue, order the court transcripts, read and comprehend them. Otherwise, you are just another person hiding anonymously behind the electronic fence.

      2. Travis Wayne Grynowicki says:

        Agree with Gizzy, and Reality 100%. If the system had given a punishment like this to Dante Stallworth then maybe these persons involved wouldnt have thought that they could get away with that. Since he walked free so easily many persons assumed that DUI manslaughter carries a small charge – one that they could handle if they did get caught.

      3. Sam Kenyon says:

        Reality — or Unreality it should be–Your standard for excellence is very low. If you are referring to Donte Stallworth of the Cleveland Browns, that incident happened in Florida. Florida has very different laws than Maryland. Unless you know the specific details of the case, you cannot make a judgment. Convictions and sentences boil down to the strength of the case presented. There is no comparison from case to case to be made as each case is adjudicated from it’s own evidence. From the convictions and sentence imposed in this Maryland case, there must have been very compelling evidence which you obviously are unaware of or can’t be bothered to investigate prior to posting.

      4. Reality says:

        I know they were hanging out outside of their vehicle on an interssate highway with a group of people at night. Is that not asking for trouble? Are they not responsible for their poor decision?

      5. Patton Williams- Baltimore says:

        Really? That’s what you “know?” How do you “know” this. By what you have read? What? New reports are always correct and based in fact. Then you are admitting that you really “know” nothing.

        They were not hanging out with a “group” of people. They were a mile away from a “group” of people. They stopped for a minute to wait for someone who got behind to catch up with them. They were there for only a minute before they were. hit. Was it a wise choice perhaps not. But they got the death penalty for that decision. There’s nothing more they can pay for that decision.

      6. all hail jon and mary says:

        yes general patton, they were god-fearing, church-going “angels” that never did anything wrong and were the best people on earth. why do so many people feel a need to embellish those that meet tragic, early deaths?

  5. Reality says:

    Those who died were not innocent. They were part of the group feeding the event. If you intentionally travel to where amatuers are drag racing on public streets, realize bad things may happen to you.

    1. Crys Marie Love says:

      OMG you really need a hobby!! How dare you?! If this was someone related to you i highly doubt you would even be writing IGNORANT and RUDE statements. let alone if you were a greiving parent, relative, and/or friend, would you be wanting to read some of the things you have wrote about the 2 deceased. Im a very good friend of Mary, she was an amazing person, leader, friend, role model, daughter, sister, etc.. and who exactly are you to judge anyways?!???? Mary probably has accomplished and done more serving the lord in her 21 years of life then you will probably ever do in your lifetime.. I am so offended that i have to even read statements of your kind from people like you when reading an update about my friend. A time where we are supposed to have some joy that this man was finally sentenced after 2 years, has simply turned to disgust from your opinons. Do us all a favor and keep them to YOURSELF. Thanks in advance!!

    2. chasmd says:

      Ahhh, so the penalty for atching a street race that has not been established by fact, should be death? You would fit in with the mullahs in Iran.

  6. Comparison says:

    It’s amazing how much time people serve for killing a pedestrian and how little, typically none, they serve for killing a cyclist…

    1. RileyfromtheBoondocks says:

      He killed a pedestrian while driving DRUNK.

      1. Reality says:

        He was wrong and deserves a consequence/punishment, but they were not pedestrians. They were loitering, partying kids hanging out on a freakin’ interstate highway! The problem is people who rape and murder with knives and guns get less time than 20 years.

    2. Tim Delss(CB) says:

      I could not agree with you more Comparision! This is a very sad situation and do not mean to go off topic but the laws for pedestrians and cyclists are very different. Up until this year a driver could not be charged with vehicular manslaughter for hitting a cyclist unless he was under the influence. Thankfully that was changed earlier this year and the laws for pedestrians and cyclists alike will continue to evolve to benefit those affected.

  7. hugh says:

    racing still takes place there at the I70 deadend. Kids have been street racing (and partying while doing it) for years and years. These kinds of accidents happen – it’s a risk the spectators and drivers take. I’m not saying it’s right, but it’s a fact.

  8. Tom says:

    So if you watch a murder arent you partaking in illegal activity? If cops showed up would they have ran or would they just remain there for they did no wrong. I agree its sad they lost their lives, its sad for anyone to die. These events are illegal so supporting them is supporting illegal activities which in turn could kill more people. Sorry for your loss but dont try to justify wrong doing as “ok” because someone lost their life.

  9. Elle says:

    For two years most of the press has incorrectly slanted this story toward drag racing because it is a sensational topic in eastern Maryland. It was proven in court with evidence and testimony that there was no drag race happening that morning. People had gathered there but nothing was happening. It was also proven with evidence and testimony that those killed and their friend who was injured were a mile away from the area where the rest of the people were waiting for another friend who had gotten lost to meet them so that they could continue to to where they were going. Yet most of the media continued to play up the drag race angle when there was never one there that evening. THIS IS NOT A STORY ABOUT DRAG RACING.

    This is a story about one man’s decision to drink himself to 3 times the legal limit– as measured two hours after the collision. It doesn’t matter where the two people were. They could have been anywhere along the drunk driver’s route that evening.

    Comments here based on opinion and on incorrect reporting are meaningless. What is real and true comes from the sworn testimony and evidence in the court proceeding and unless you sat through those five days like I did, you have no right to make judgements from your armchair about the deceased, their families, the defendant, the defendant’s families or the sentence. You know nothing if you weren’t there, didn’t sit through a five day trial or at least read court transcripts.

    As others have stated, a twenty year sentence is not an easy one acquired in the state of Maryland. There are several conditions which must be proven in court to fulfill manslaughter charges. Those conditions were met. This is further proof that the judge saw this case for what it truly is– a case about driving while intoxicated– and he sentenced accordingly.

    1. E.Randall says:

      thank you! nicely put!

      *Jon and Mary keep watching over us!

  10. Heather says:

    20 years ago, the drunk driver who killed my 3 year old brother who was in our back yard (the car traveled 250 off the road and up a hill) only got 3 years in prison. I’m glad they are cracking down harder on drunk drivers, they should raise the maximum to life.

    If you get in car drunk it’s like waving around a loaded gun and randomly firing it. You may not be intending to kill someone but odds are you will eventually.

  11. Elle says:

    Heather, I am sincerely sorry for the loss your family suffered.

    The state of Maryland likes to claim that it has tough laws against drunk driving. Yet the majority of sentences handed out are light. What good are tough laws when the sentencing doesn’t match? It sends the wrong message to offenders and to those who don’t consider the consequences of the decisions they make to drink and drive.

  12. MIke says:

    The people commenting here are making their comments based on the story written by the reporter Weija Jang.
    If she does not have the facts correct than take it up with her. Contact her and have her verify her story with the facts.
    Otherwise the comments made about street racing and illegal activity are correct based on the story written.

    1. on the low down says:


  13. Alli says:

    RIP Jon and Mary Justice has been served and for all those who did not know these two individuals , you need to keep their negative comments to themselves. The world truly loss two wonderful and beautiful people who, unfortunately were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bottom line is that Mr. Raeburn was drinking and driving and had he not been speeding and under the influence none of this would have happened.

  14. Mary Toman says:

    All the people who want to comment negatively and as Sammy Kenyon said “ASSume that you know the facts” are totally incorrect. As other people have stated, unless you sat through the trial, sentencing or read the transcripts you have no clue what you are talking about. We, the families of Jonathan and Mary-Kathryn have lost our children. Your impersonal and think you know it all comments are not appreciated. If you really want to know the true facts, get a copy of the transcript and read it for yourself, or ask us. We will tell you the true facts about what transpired that morning. The bottom line is this: We lost our children to a person who decided to be irresponsible and drink and then get in a car and drive. END OF STORY!!!!!!!

  15. joe says:

    Lots of us broke the law racing and lots of us watched those races. None of us expected to be killed by a random drunk driver. This tragedy never had to happen.

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