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Friday, October 14, 2016

Steven Bourgoin Pleads Not Guilty to Five Counts of Murder

Posted By on Fri, Oct 14, 2016 at 11:43 AM

click to enlarge Steven Bourgoin is wheeled into his arraignment at the UVM Medical Center Friday morning. - GLENN RUSSELL/BURLINGTON FREE PRESS
  • Glenn Russell/Burlington Free Press
  • Steven Bourgoin is wheeled into his arraignment at the UVM Medical Center Friday morning.
Updated at 1:40 p.m.

Steven Bourgoin, the alleged wrong-way driver who slammed into a car, killing five teenagers, pleaded not guilty Friday to five counts of second-degree murder.

Bourgoin is being held without bail and is in the custody of the Department of Corrections at the UVM Medical Center, where he’s been a patient since the late Saturday wreck.

Judge James Crucitti arraigned Bourgoin in a UVM Medical Center conference room converted into a makeshift courtroom. Hospital personnel and a State Police officer wheeled the 36-year-old Williston man into the room on a partially reclined hospital bed. Bourgoin, his face still bruised, did not speak and his eyes remained closed throughout the appearance.

Instead, his attorneys — Robert Katims, a private lawyer contracted by the Office of the Defender General, and Sara Puls, a public defender — entered pleas on his behalf and requested a competency hearing. Crucitti granted the request.

The teens killed in the crash were Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown; and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown. Services for four of the high school students have been scheduled: 

  • Brookens’ service will be held at the Stowe Mountain Resort Midway Lodge on Saturday at 3 p.m. 
  • Zschau’s service will be held at the Inn at the Round Barn Farm in Waitsfield on Sunday at 3 p.m. 
  • Harris’ service will be held at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Waitsfield on Monday at 11 a.m. 
  • Hale’s service will be held at Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Church in Waitsfield on Tuesday at 10 a.m., followed by a reception at Lincoln Peak Gate House Lodge, Sugarbush Resort. 
After the brief hearing Friday morning, State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan addressed roughly a dozen reporters. “At this time, we have no reason to believe that Mr. Bourgoin is not competent,” he said.

Donovan also described additional evidence and eyewitness accounts that led his office to file the murder charges. A neighbor told investigators he observed Bourgoin, roughly 15 minutes before the crash, “aggressively” drive away from his house. A motorist who pulled over at the scene of the wreck told police that a distraught, nervous man matching Bourgoin’s description told him: “I don’t know what happened ... I just lost control.”

Donovan also noted that the black box in the truck that caused the crash showed that the driver had been wearing a seatbelt at the time of impact. Police say Bourgoin had a bruise across his chest that “was consistent with wearing an operator’s side shoulder and lap belt.”
click to enlarge From left to right: Liam Hale of Fayston, Mary Harris of Moretown, Eli Brookens of Waterbury, Cyrus Zschau of Moretown and Janie Cozzi of Fayston - FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM AND COURTESY PHOTOS
  • Facebook, Instagram and courtesy photos
  • From left to right: Liam Hale of Fayston, Mary Harris of Moretown, Eli Brookens of Waterbury, Cyrus Zschau of Moretown and Janie Cozzi of Fayston
The truck was traveling at 76 miles per hour at the moment it struck the Volkswagen Jetta full of the five teens just before midnight Saturday, the affidavit says. One witness, who saw the truck driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 moments before the wreck, said the driver was “hammering it” at an estimated 90 to 100 mph.

“To go five miles in the wrong way at night at a high rate of speed certainly exhibits an extreme indifference to the value of human life, and that’s why we brought the second-degree murder charge,” Donovan said.

Bourgoin had gone to the emergency room at the UVM Medical Center several times on Saturday morning. Donovan told reporters that, contrary to previous statements from him and Vermont State Police, it was “unclear” whether the Howard Center had been called after Bourgoin arrived at the medical center.

In a statement released Wednesday, the Howard Center said it had been contacted by police and was cooperating with the investigation.

An affidavit filed in support of the second-degree murder charges states that police searched Bourgoin’s home and found several items indicating financial distress, including: a foreclosure notice; a notice of a gas shut-off because of unpaid bills; a notice of a lien from the homeowners association; multiple medical bills; as well as legal paperwork pertaining to domestic assault and child custody cases.

Bourgoin’s supervisor at Lake Champlain Chocolates told police that Bourgoin left his job at the Williston warehouse early last Friday, and told her he was resigning because of money problems. A friend of Bourgoin’s, who had lunch with him that same day, told police Bourgoin was stressed about his job, along with his divorce and custody cases. Bourgoin’s ex-girlfriend was granted custody of their daughter in September.

The ex told police that Bourgoin suffered “mood swings” and used marijuana to stabilize. When he ran out of pot, Bourgoin would “not think clearly, and has no regard for those around him, even loved ones,” the ex-girlfriend told police.

Another witness driving north on Interstate 89 late Saturday told police she saw a truck driving north in the southbound lane. According to her account, the truck drove at a high speed past several honking cars. It was not swerving, and she told officers that the driver seemed to be “on a mission.”

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Alicia Freese

Alicia Freese

Alicia Freese is a Seven Days staff writer.

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