ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Anne Arundel County State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess announced on Tuesday, April 20, 20201, that Thomas Coale Sr., 55, of Crownsville was sentenced to 10 years in jail suspend all but 18 months along with supervised probation and drug and alcohol treatment for one count of involuntary manslaughter in the death of George Jaeger, 76. The defendant was taken into custody at the plea hearing as he had not served any time pre-trial. He will serve his sentence at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center.
Coale entered a guilty plea on April 16, 2021 to both manslaughter and driving while under the influence of alcohol.
“The callous actions of the defendant contributed to the death of Mr. Jaeger as the evidence showed that after the victim fell off Mr. Coale’s boat into the water, the defendant failed to seek help by calling 911, and then left Mr. Jaeger in peril of drowning,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “Under the Maryland Criminal Code, Coale was charged with criminal manslaughter and then separately for manslaughter by vessel as well as driving his vehicle while impaired under the transportation code. The facts in this case showed that he was guilty of involuntary manslaughter for the grossly negligent act of failing to seek help on the victim’s behalf, leaving him in the water to drown and then only calling authorities long after he returned to shore and left the area. The police found Jaeger with a weak pulse, so he was still alive when Coale abandoned him. While the State could not prove the defendant was intoxicated while operating his boat at the time of the accident or that was the cause of Jaeger’s death, we could prove he knowingly abandoned his friend and was intoxicated when he operated his truck after leaving the marina and returning. I am grateful for the excellent investigation the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police and the U.S. Coast Guard conducted in this matter. I extend my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Mr. Jaeger during this challenging time. ”
Assistant State’s Attorney Carolynn Grammas prosecuted the case on behalf of the citizens of Anne Arundel County.
On May 6, 2019, Thomas Coale, Sr. and George Jaeger were at the Buffalo Wild Wings having lunch and drinks. In the late afternoon, Coale asked Jaeger if he wanted to go with him to check on his boat and take a short ride. They left and went to Liberty Marina in Edgewater where Coale had his boat docked. Surveillance videos showed the two men leaving the marina in Coale’s boat at 4:50 p.m. At 5:25 p.m., Coale returned to the marina alone in his boat. Coale was seen on the video sitting on his boat for 36 minutes doing something to the center console with a book in his hand before he left his boat and walked to his truck and drove out of the marina. Coale returned to the marina approximately seven minutes later and called 911 at 6:15 p.m. from the parking lot to report that his friend fell in the water and drowned. Anne Arundel County police officers responded to the marina and observed that Coale was extremely intoxicated. Coale was turned over to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police (DNR) and they took him to Anne Arundel Medical Center for a blood kit after he failed field sobriety tests.
During an interview with police, Coale stated that he put the boat into neutral so Jaeger could urinate off the back of the boat. During this time, the defendant went to the front of the boat, with his phone, to give him privacy. Coale advised he heard Jaeger say “Tom” but did not see him anymore. Coale said he tried to help Yaeger and even jumped into the water but was unable to get him back onto the boat. Coale described how Jaeger was unconscious and that “he died in his arms.” There was no safety equipment on the boat.
During the time that Coale was sitting on his boat, a 911 call was placed by a boater stating that there was a body floating in the South River. Anne Arundel County Police and Fire Department, Coast Guard and DNR police responded and recovered Jaeger from the water where he was found to have a weak pulse. First responders started CPR immediately while transporting him back to land where he was ultimately pronounced deceased at 6:13 p.m. Police recovered a baggie of cocaine in Jaeger’s pants pocket. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that Jaeger drowned and that the manner of death was accident. Jaeger had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 and tested positive for cocaine and diazepam (valium).
An analysis performed on the defendant’s blood found that he had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.11 and had cocaine in his system. Jeffrey Foster of the Coast Guard Investigative Service did a forensic analysis of the GPS device from Coale’s boat and found that there was no track data on it which indicated that the GPS device had to have been deleted because of the auto record mode for tracking. Prosecutors suspected Jaeger had deleted his GPS data after returning to shore and before calling police himself.