WaPo Headline Writers Obscure Story: Drunk-Driving Illegal Alien Kills Nun

A lot of newspaper readers just scan the headlines quickly and choose only a few stories to read, even on the front page. Newspapers are often accused of tabloidish, exaggerated headlines. But sometimes, they do the opposite, with duller headlines that seem designed not to inform -- or offend. 

The front page of Tuesday's Washington Post carried the headline "Va. driver had record of DUIs before fatal crash." Here's what it could have said: "Illegal alien had record of DUIs before fatal Sunday morning crash killed nun." The Post also bland-ified the headline inside the paper: "Driver had DUI record before fatal crash in Va." The caption for Carlos Montano on page A-12 also avoided his illegal status: "Carlos Montano, 23, is charged in the crash."

The story itself by Jennifer Buske and Paul Duggan didn't avoid the issue, so why would the headline writers try to dull down the story? It began:

An alleged drunk driver involved in a crash Sunday morning that killed a Catholic nun in Prince William County and left two other nuns gravely injured has a record of numerous motor vehicle violations in recent years, including two drunken-driving cases for which he served 20 days in jail, according to authorities and court records.

The suspect, Carlos A. Martinelly Montano, 23, an illegal immigrant from Bolivia, was also detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after a drunken-driving arrest in 2008. Montano was released on his own recognizance pending a deportation hearing, which has yet to occur because of a backlog, said ICE spokeswoman Cori Bassett.

Montano "has reported as required on a monthly basis to ICE" while awaiting the hearing, Bassett said. Gang members and other violent criminals are often jailed to await deportation hearings, but two drunken-driving arrests "aren't enough to warrant detention," said an immigration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the case against Montano is pending.

Prince William Commonwealth's Attorney Paul B. Ebert voiced anger about the case in an interview Monday.

"He's thumbed his nose at the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia for years," Ebert said of Montano. "He continued to drive, even though his privilege had been revoked and he didn't have the right to drive. And he continued to drive drunk, which led to this horrible, horrible situation."

Montano was intoxicated when the 1997 Subaru Outback he was driving in the Bristow area struck a guardrail on Bristow Road near Wright Lane shortly before 8:30 a.m. Sunday, police said. The Outback, traveling north, spun out of control and careered into the southbound lanes, colliding head-on with the nuns' 2003 Toyota Corolla.

Sister Denise Mosier, 66, a former missionary in Africa who was riding in the back seat, was killed. The driver, Sister Connie Ruth Lupton, 75, and the front-seat passenger, Sister Charlotte Lange, 70, were in critical condition Monday at Inova Fairfax Hospital, said Sister Glenna Smith, a spokeswoman for the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, the nuns' order.

Police did not say whether Lange and Lupton were wearing seat belts, but Mosier apparently was not wearing one.

Mosier, Lupton and Lange, residents of the Saint Benedict convent in Richmond, were on their way to a five-day religious retreat at the Benedictine Sisters monastery in Prince William [County]. As for the injured nuns' prognosis, Smith said: "We don't know yet. They're in the trauma unit on ventilators, the two of them. They're being kept sedated."

The lobbyists for amnesty for illegal aliens often insist that these immigrants are not "criminals," but why then would "objective" reporters or editors downplay their immigration status when they end up killing people -- especially when they plow into a car full of nuns?

Political correctness -- and perhaps the unwillingness to grant any talking points to conservative talk show hosts or bloggers -- overwhelmed the Post's simple task of fully informing readers on this story.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis