Suffield Teen Pleads No Contest To Charges After Fatal Crash
By DAVID OWENS, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hartford Courant
A 19-year-old Suffield woman faces no more than three years in prison after pleading no contest Thursday to manslaughter and assault for killing a friend and disfiguring another in a crash on I-91 in Enfield on Aug. 25, 2010.
Amanda Conway, who was 18 at the time, pulled onto I-91 from the Route 190 entrance ramp and collided with a northbound tractor-trailer around 2:30 a.m.
Ann Bauchiero, who was 19 at the time, was in the front passenger seat and was not wearing a seatbelt. Her face smashed into the windshield and she suffered disfiguring lacerations, prosecutor Christopher A. Parakilas told Enfield Superior Court Judge Michael Dannehy.
Alexa Crosby, 17, who was in the back seat, was fatally injured and pronounced dead a short time late at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield. Conway suffered minor injuries in the crash.
When police arrived at the crash scene, Conway, of 300 Taintor St. in Suffield, was “screaming that she was ‘going to jail for life for drinking and driving and killing her friend,'” according to the warrant for her arrest.
A half-empty bottle of vodka was found in the back seat of the Jeep, and witnesses told state police they saw Conway drinking before the crash.
The vehicle Conway was driving, a 1997 Jeep Grand Cherokee, was registered to her father, former state Rep. Matthew J. Conway, who at the time of the crash represented the 61st Assembly District towns of Suffield, East Windsor, and Granby in the General Assembly.
Amanda Conway faces a maximum of three years in prison under a plea agreement that her attorney, James A. Wade of the Hartford law firm Robinson & Cole, reached with Parakilas. Wade will have the right to argue for a lesser sentence and told the judge Thursday that he may call witnesses. He estimated the sentencing hearing would last 1-1/2 to 2 hours.
Wade also said that he has “some issues” with the state’s evidence and said he’d address those at the sentencing, which is scheduled for June 28.
She pleaded no contest to second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle and second-degree assault with a motor vehicle. Her blood-alcohol level, measured at the hospital after the crash, was .065 percent. The limit for anyone under 21 is .02 percent.
The maximum sentence for second-degree manslaughter with a motor vehicle is 10 years in prison, and five years for second-degree assault with a motor vehicle.
The Jeep went out of control on the on-ramp from Route 190 eastbound to I-91 north and crossed in front of a northbound tractor-trailer, state police said. The truck hit the Jeep, which then crashed off the right side of the road, police said.
Conway was arrested Nov. 24, 2010, and has been free since then on $50,000 bail.
Conway, Crosby, and Bauchiero were drinking at a house in Suffield on the evening before the accident, witnesses told police. Bauchiero told police that she didn’t know whose house it was, but that while she was there, she had several vodka-and-lemonade drinks, according to the arrest warrant.
One witness, 18-year-old Jeffrey Leonard, told police that Conway, Bauchiero, and Crosby arrived at the house about 11 p.m. and that Bauchiero walked in with a large bottle of Smirnoff vodka, according to the warrant. Bauchiero was making drinks, Leonard told police, and Conway drank two or three shots of vodka. Crosby did not drink, Leonard said.
Another witness, 20-year-old Edward Cerri Jr., told police he saw Conway drinking shots of vodka and once saw her drink directly from the bottle.
While they were at the party, Conway told Cerri that her parents had “questioned her ability to drive before going out,” thinking she had been drinking, Cerri told police.
Bauchiero told the police she wasn’t sure if Conway drank any alcohol at the house.
Later, Conway decided she wanted to go to McDonald’s on Elm Street in Enfield, Bauchiero told police, so the girls got into the Jeep and left the house. As they got onto I-91 north, Bauchiero told police, Conway was going “pretty fast” and the Jeep began to fishtail, according to the warrant.
Bauchiero told police she saw the truck coming toward them as they spun.
The driver of the tractor-trailer, Mark Sutinen of Pennsylvania, told police he tried to avoid Conway’s Jeep as it fishtailed in front of him. After the crash, he went to the Jeep to see if he could help, but he “quickly realized he would not be able to assist with medical treatment,” the warrant states.
An Enfield police officer responded to the scene and assisted Conway, who was “extremely emotional and upset about the accident,” the warrant reads. Conway admitted to drinking and driving, and while she was speaking to the officer, “suddenly, Amanda fell to the ground and became unresponsive,” the warrant states.
Crosby’s family was in the courtroom, with their lawyer John J. Houlihan Jr. of the Hartford law firm Riscassi and Davis. They are suing Conway and her father.