Robert “Bobby” Horne Jr. learned about service at an early age.

His mother, Nadine Heath, recalled on Friday inside the Elijah E. Cummings Courthouse how her son took part in the police explorer program in Montgomery County from 1989-1992. He worked in two police stations in Silver Spring, one in Bethesda and another in Rockville, and dressed up as McGruff the Crime Dog.

Since he was 2, Horne wanted to become a police officer, but a crash put his dream on hold. He later served as a public safety officer at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Horne was on the way home to Smithsburg, in Washington County, from work Aug. 13, 2023, when he pulled over on Interstate 395 near M&T Bank Stadium to help the driver of a broken-down vehicle. It’s something that he’d done in the past. He put on warning lights and directed traffic.

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That’s when Latrell Sanders crashed his SUV into a car and then hit Horne, sending him over the highway barrier into the water. Sanders had been driving at more than 100 mph at one point before the crash, and testing revealed that his blood alcohol level was 0.25% — more than three times the legal limit in Maryland.

The Baltimore City Fire Department recovered Horne’s body. He was 50.

Heath told Baltimore Circuit Judge Kendra Y. Ausby that she was in full support of a plea agreement in the case. She said she’s a Christian and believes in forgiveness.

“I’ll be praying for him,” Heath said, “so he can touch other peoples’ lives so they don’t make the same mistakes.”

Sanders, 29, of Windsor Mill, then pleaded guilty to involuntary vehicular manslaughter in exchange for a sentence of 15 years in prison, with seven years suspended, plus five years’ probation. He must also perform 50 hours of community service at Mothers Against Drunk Driving or a similar organization, abstain from alcohol, undergo random screening and install an ignition interlock.

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That’s along with submitting to a drug and alcohol screening and treatment.

Assistant State’s Attorneys Jennifer Brady and Marty Welch put a sketch of Horne on an easel and positioned it toward the judge, with the flag that draped his casket in a display case underneath.

Brady read Horne’s obituary on behalf of other family members who attended the hearing but did not wish to speak in court. She choked up when she got to the part that discussed the birth of his daughter, Kacy.

Mark Sobel, Sanders’ attorney, said his client understood that he needed to be punished.

When Sanders came to his office after the crash, Sobel said, he immediately wanted to write a letter to the Horne family.

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“He takes full responsibility for it,” Sobel said. “He’s very remorseful, very sorry.”

Sanders’ father, Lawrence, described his son as respectful, fun-loving and intelligent. He started to struggle with depression at 19 and 20.

Loved ones, his father said, got him into therapy and on medication. Later, though, Sanders turned to alcohol — a disease that ran in the family.

Sanders stood handcuffed and shackled in a yellow jumpsuit and read a letter in which he expressed his deepest regret and sorrow. Words, he said, could not adequately convey his guilt.

He said he takes full responsibility for the irreparable damage that he caused to the Horne family and was committed to seeking professional help.

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“I respect whatever emotions you might be feeling,” Sanders said. “I understand my words offer little solace.”

Following the hearing, Sobel walked up to Heath in the gallery of the courtroom. He then gave her the letter from his client, which she readily accepted.