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No Grounds For Criminal Charges In Dover Fatal Accident

CONTACT: John Treadwell, Assistant Attorney General, (802) 828-0280

June 28, 2008 - Windham County State's Attorney Tracy Kelly Shriver and Attorney General William Sorrell announced today that they have completed their independent reviews of an investigation by the Dover Police Department and the Vermont State Police of a fatal accident that occurred on December 9, 2007, in Dover, Vermont. The deceased was lying in the roadway when vehicles operated by Vermont State Police Troopers John Waitekus and Francis LaBombard struck him. State’s Attorney Shriver and Attorney General Sorrell have concluded that there is no evidence to support criminal charges against either Trooper.

According to the investigation, at approximately 2:50 a.m., after clearing from the area of an unrelated motor vehicle stop, the Troopers were traveling south, separately, on VT-100 with Trooper Waitekus approximately 100 yards ahead of Trooper LaBombard. Trooper Waitekus was traveling at about 40 m.p.h. when he saw something dark in his lane of travel but was unsure of what it was. The Trooper identified the object as a person and responded suddenly by braking and swerving to the left. However, Trooper Waitekus was unable to avoid striking the person. Trooper Waitekus then attempted to contact Trooper LaBombard to warn him. Trooper LaBombard had observed Trooper Waitekus hit his brakes and swerve. Trooper LaBombard did not see the person in the road or receive the radio transmission in time to avoid striking the person. An autopsy conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner determined that the decedent’s injuries were consistent with having been lying down when he was struck and that the injuries caused when he was struck by Trooper Waitekus’ cruiser were fatal.

The investigation included accident reconstruction and a detailed inquiry into the activities and movements of the Troopers and the deceased prior to the accident. Law enforcement officers conducted numerous interviews including both Troopers, who gave statements to investigators within hours of the accident.

The investigation revealed that road surface conditions in the area reduced visibility and contrast and that the surface was darker than normal. The investigation also revealed that the deceased was wearing dark clothing and lying in the traveled portion of the road when the Troopers came upon him. There was no evidence that the deceased took any evasive or protective action. The investigation was unable to determine why the deceased was lying in the roadway; however toxicology tests indicated that the deceased had consumed a significant amount of alcohol – his BAC was 0.25% – and had also ingested marijuana. The posted speed limit is 40 m.p.h. and there was no evidence to support a finding that the Troopers were traveling significantly in excess of the speed limit.

The Windham County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Vermont Attorney General’s Office have independently reviewed the investigation in order to determine whether, taking into account all of the evidence, either of the Troopers operated their cruisers in a manner that was criminally negligent. The Offices have each concluded that given all of the factors, including reduced visibility and the fact that the decedent was wearing dark clothes and lying in the road, the Troopers could not be found to have violated State motor vehicle or criminal law.

  Website consulting provided by The National Association of Attorneys General.