BURLINGTON — A Williston man charged with killing five Central Vermont teens in a fiery car crash believed he was controlled by lights on an ATM, music from his car radio and Morse Code from the static on his TV, a Boston-area psychiatrist testified on Monday.
Steven D. Bourgoin, 38, was clearly insane at the time of the wrong-way crash, Dr. David Rosmarin testified in Vermont Superior Court.
He said Bourgoin had mental health issues for much of his life, but he really took a spiral downward about a month before the fatal crash. Rosmarin said Bourgoin also thought he had been selected to be part of a secret government mission and he was getting all kinds of messages from various sources, including several electronics.
He also thought an emergency medical technician was there to extricate him for the government mission while he was being taken by ambulance to the hospital for his serious injuries.
“He almost died,” Rosmarin said about Bourgoin’s injuries, which included a fractured spine, various facial fractures and a broken hip. He also had seizures due to his head injuries.
Rosmarin explained his professional diagnosis was based in part on two personal visits with Bourgoin in prison that totaled about nine hours. The doctor said he also had the benefit of various witness statements, police reports and the findings of a psychiatrist retained by the state who also found Bourgoin insane.
Asked if he read the report by the second psychiatrist, Dr. Rena Kapoor, of Yale University, Rosmarin said he couldn’t because the prosecution told her not to write a report after she indicated she would be siding with the defense.
Bourgoin has pleaded not guilty to five counts of second-degree murder for crashing his truck into a car carrying the five teens on Interstate 89 in Williston at about 11:55 p.m. Oct. 8, 2016.
He also has denied two subsequent misdemeanor charges: aggravated operation of a Williston Police cruiser without permission and reckless driving of the police vehicle by driving it into the first crash scene.
Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury; Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown were trapped in the burning car, state police said. Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown, was ejected through a sun roof as the car went off I-89 and rolled into the median, police said.
Testimony indicated they are all believed to have died almost instantly from blunt force trauma.
Also Monday Judge Kevin Griffin denied a defense request for a mistrial on the grounds the prosecution failed to turn over all the case information as required.
The request, which came with the jury out of the courtroom, focused on testimony provided Friday by Bourgoin’s former fiancé, Anila Lawrence. She testified the defendant had told her at some point that there were no wrong way traffic signs on Interstate 89. Lawrence also testified that Bourgoin expressed interest in her studying of brain functioning.
Defense lawyer Robert Katims said both items were new information that had never been disclosed by the Chittenden County State’s Attorney’s Office before trial as required under the court rules. Katims, in his mistrial motion, said some of the information was “exceedingly prejudicial against the defendant.”
He said an extensive search after court on Friday showed nothing had been provided and the mistrial motion was prepared.
State’s Attorney Sarah George said she met with Lawrence twice and that she gave a 75-minute recorded statement. During a later conversation, Lawrence mentioned Bourgoin indicating there were no wrong way highway signs, said George, who is prosecuting the case with her deputy Susan Hardin.
George said she mentioned the no sign comment orally to the defense during a meeting this spring, and that the studying of the brain information was contained in a CD that was put in a pickup mailbox for the defense at the courthouse.
Katims said the CD was never received. The state acknowledged it never put a cover letter or any note with the CD or sent an email indicating that it was available for pickup.
George could not offer an explanation.
Katims, who is defending Bourgoin with public defender Sara Puls, said Lawrence gave an early statement to the defense, but was not cooperating and a decision was made not to seek her depositions before trial.
Griffin, a former public defender, said they could have taken a deposition.
The judge said he believes all four lawyers are ethical and it was hard to resolve the competing comments. He said he found the discovery rule had been violated by the state’s attorney’s office, but he would not declare a mistrial.
Griffin did agree to strike the portion of testimony about the no wrong way signs and later instructed the jury to forget they had heard that testimony.
It took the first two hours of the sixth day of the trial to resolve the issue before Rosmarin took the stand.
Bourgoin was trying to figure out what happened after the crash and was confused in the days leading up to it.
“He’s terrified. He’s grossly psychotic,” Rosmarin said. He said Bourgoin was sleeping downstairs at his condo because he feared that it might get burned down by Homeland Security.
Bourgoin also made hand signals out the window of his truck to what he thought was a drone flying overhead.
“He thought his garage was bugged,” the doctor said. Bourgoin also believed he was unable to share any information about the secret government mission because he was unsure who he could trust, Rosmarin said.
He did say Bourgoin never reported hearing voices. The doctor said that is often used by people who are faking. “They will add voices to fake it,” he said.
The doctor also reported Bourgoin was not suicidal.
“He has never tried to harm himself,” he said.
Bourgoin came from a split family and when his mother died of cancer when he was young, he went to live with an aunt, Rosmarin said. He said Bourgoin’s father was an alcoholic.
Bourgoin lost two close friends, both women, one to an overdose and another to suicide. Bourgoin had trouble at home, including financial issues, and he also assaulted Lawrence once in Massachusetts and later in Williston in May 2016.
Rosmarin said Bourgoin went to UVM Medical Center at about 8:45 a.m. the morning of the crash to try to get medical assistance. The medical staff realized he was in crisis and needed mental help, but he apparently walked out without anybody noticing.
Burlington lawyer Tris Coffin, of Downs Rachlin Martin law firm, which represents the hospital, was among those taking in the doctor’s testimony. Hospital personnel, including security guards, are expected to take the stand sometime after Rosmarin.
Katims was still questioning Rosmarin as court ended for the day. The prosecution will get a chance to cross examine him when the defense is done.
The only other witness offered Monday was Kenna M. Johnston, who worked for 17 years as a crash reconstruction specialist at the Crash Lab Inc. in Hampton, New Hampshire. Johnston, who recently left the private company, was called to dispute comments from one state witness about how close she was when the initial crash happened.
The River Street Bridge is slated for some much-needed attention this summer.
Rutland Public Works Commissioner Jeffrey Wennberg said Friday that representatives from the Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) would hold a pre-construction meeting in the next week to discuss to milling and grinding the surface of the state-owned bridge. The bridge goes over the railroad tracks just before River Street meets Strongs Avenue and turns into Madison Street.
“The purpose of that would be to buy about five years when they’re going to do a comprehensive evaluation because the bridge is at the end of its projected life and it needs to be replaced or rehabilitated,” Wennberg said.
Wennberg said he understood the state had about $100,000 set aside for work on the bridge this summer.
“It doesn’t fix the bridge, but it takes care of the road surface and gets the preliminary engineering done,” he said.
AOT spokesman Brent Curtis said Monday there were not a lot of details yet, with a bid opening scheduled for next week, but that the agency anticipates keeping the bridge open during the work and that the request for proposals specified a completion date of Sept. 6.
The bridge’s surface is one of the choppier bits of road in the city at present, and it has a history of other issues. In 2014, a chunk of concrete fell off one of the piers and landed in the Vermont Railway right-of-way.
Wennberg credited members of the city’s Legislative delegation with getting the project moved up on the state’s priority list. He specifically mentioned Rep. Mary Howard, D-Rutland. Howard said she worked with a number of her colleagues, particularly the chairman of the House Transportation Committee, Rep. Curt McCormack, D-Burlington.
“I’ve been working on it for like two years now and I’m very happy to have it on the books,” she said.
Howard said calls from her constituents who drive over it had her rating it the worst spot of road in the city.
“I have heard from so many people about that bridge,” she said. “It’s like a washboard.”
The bridge should not be confused with the one at the other end of River Street, which goes over Otter Creek and connects to Dorr Drive and is referred to as the Dorr Drive bridge.
CASTLETON — The sun broke through on what started as a dark and rainy Saturday at Castleton University as both the runners participating in Girls on the Run Vermont and its local founder raced toward their finish lines.
Girls on the Run Vermont is reaching its 20th year in 2019 and facing a big change. Founder Nancy Heydinger will be stepping down as executive director of the nonprofit at the end of the year.
“It’s really been an honor. It’s given my life purpose to be be able to help girls know that they can be strong and know that their potential limitless. I’ve been able to forge strong friendships all over Vermont. I’ve learned so much,” she said.
Saturday wasn’t quite Heydinger’s last official event. Girls on the Run Vermont will have its annual Southern Vermont run next week in Brattleboro and Northern Vermont event at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction on June 1.
Heydinger, who is from Brattleboro said she may no longer be the leader of the organization, but she will continue to be involved as a volunteer.
“I’m excited that we’re going to be leaving the organization in really wonderful hands. We have a really strong staff and board and our new executive director is our current program manager, Rachel Desautels, and she’s just going to lead us into the future really well,” Heydinger added.
Karen Scolforo, president of Castleton University, and Heydinger offered encouraging words to the runners before they had a “dance party” warm-up. But while the group sang “Happy Birthday” to mark the 20th anniversary of Girls on the Run Vermont and Heydinger’s retirement was announced, the focus of the event stayed on the third through fifth-grade students who are part of the Girls on the Run teams and the sixth- through eighth-grades students who are part of the Heart and Soul teams.
The Vermont organization will have participation from about 150 schools in the state and had participation from about 40 schools with almost 600 girls running on Saturday at Castleton.
Before the big annual running events, the girls meet for twice-weekly 90-minute sessions with their coaches for 10 weeks.
“They’re learning life skills and we’re using running as the tool to teach life skills It’s really not a running program per se, running is used to teach these girls these life skills of self-confidence, self-awareness, standing up for themselves, making intentional choices and decisions for themselves, making friends,” Heydinger said.
Trooper Katrina Ducharme was at the Saturday event with four colleagues, Trooper Adria Pickin, Trooper Jacqueline June and Trooper Casey Cole.
“For girls to be able to look up to us, not just as law-enforcement officers but females is very powerful for us and we’re very excited to be part of that,” she said.
Ducharme said Girls on the Run was also a way to get to know local students in a way that goes beyond the usual role for law enforcement officers.
Gail Regan, an associate professor at Castleton University, has coached a team at Fair Haven Elementary School, “One thing I like about it is I get college students involved and this year I have the most college students ever. I have eight college students helping the team. The little girls love it because they look forward to the college students helping,” Regan said.
Regan’s Fair Haven team had 11 members this year which is fewer than they’ve had in the past.
Castleton University student Adrienne Toof said she enjoyed being part of Girls on the Run, which she did for the first time this year.
“I really like running and I think it’s really important to have the youth just run and exercise and have healthy habits. Start them young,” said Toof, who runs cross-country and skis at Castleton.
Since Heydinger founded Girls on the Run Vermont, 45,000 girls went through the program and more than 6,000 coaches have volunteered.
“I can’t believe that I got to be part of helping girls to grow up strong. It’s been the biggest gift of my life to part of impacting girls’ lives. And it only happens because of the volunteers and all of the support the businesses and the state give us,” she said.
Heydinger said the program also brings families together as parents and siblings run with the girls.
After her run, Ellie Whalen, 9, a student at Rutland Town Elementary School, said her favorite part was “that I got to run with you,” and pointed to her mother Sheryn Whalen.
“You want to know the best part for me,” Sheryn Whallen said. “She stopped and grabbed my hand at the finish line.”
In less than one month, the community and communities past, including childhood friends from across the country, have rallied to raise $14,000 of a $20,000 GoFundMe campaign for Leonard “Big Lenny” Montuori, his hot dog business and his ailing heart.
“People are beautiful,” Montuori said on Monday. “I’m so overwhelmed with everything ... it was such a wonderful feeling to be able to write checks and pay my bills.”
After Rutland’s famous “Big Lenny” and his family were diagnosed with serious health issues in December, less than a year after opening his first indoor restaurant “Big Lenny’s Inside Job,” they had to close the restaurant temporarily and sacrifice the income to address their health.
With credit card bills staring him in the face, Montuori struggled to figure out how he could survive financially when he might have to have more stents put in his heart. He is a candidate for open-heart surgery.
What Montuori and his family didn’t realize was just how big their family really was.
“We were sitting in the living room, and I just thought, ‘We should start a GoFundMe,’” said the campaign’s founder, Carolyn Laird. “So we decided what to write.”
Laird said she’s known Montuori her entire life and grew up eating his food. She said her father has known Montuori for over 35 years, so when the news broke that Montuori was sick, the family sprang into action.
“He’s the most caring person I’ve ever met,” Laird said. “He would do anything for anybody ... it’s a hug and a kiss whenever I see him.”
Laird said the goal of $20,000 is a number organizers figured was not too high or too low, but didn’t foresee coming close to the goal.
“It’s unbelievable,” Laird said. “It’s amazing how big of an effect he has on the community. ... He knows every single person, every single story ... every interaction is special.
“He’s not just a business owner who finishes up and goes home.”
Rob “Sugar Bob” Hausslein, who purchased Vermont Maple Sriracha company from Montuori and his former business partner, donated $1,000 on behalf of his company, Sugar Bob’s Finest Kind.
“We know what it’s like in this business,” Hausslein said. “We know he would do the same for us if we were in this similar situation. ... He’s a guy who knows everybody, and he takes care of them. We believe in kismet and karma and paying it forward.”
Donations from over 150 people ranged from $10 to $1,000, including $100 from Mark and Kelly Foley.
“I’ve known him a long time,” Mark Foley said. “He’s a friend of a lot of people. He’s just an affable guy, a guy you want to cheer for.”
Montuori said he and his family are slowly but surely recovering, but the handfuls of medications are having adverse effects, like muscle aches and exhaustion, preventing him from getting down to his “Inside Job” every day.
Which is really the only thing Montuori wants to do: get back to work.
“I just want my strength back,” Montuori said. “I really want to believe I can get my heart strong again. ... Lenny likes being Lenny. Not this Lenny.”
Montuori said his spirits are lifted when his friends stop by and visit, or when he’s able to get into town, even for awhile. He is working on getting more physically fit with the help of equipment in friends’ home gyms.
“All in all, we’re going in the right direction,” Montuori said. “You don’t try to win the race, you just try to be in it.”
Donations have significantly lightened the stress on his bank accounts, as he was accustomed to paying his bills with his credit. Montuori is going on his sixth month without income from the “Inside Job.”
“I’m not the first person to go through this. ... I don’t expect anything,” Montuori said tearfully. “What a beautiful town.”
For Laird, Montuori convinced her to open her eyes, and her palate, by trying new things.
“I am a very picky eater,” Laird said. “I ask for the most plain food, and he would almost get jokingly offended.”
One day, when she was 17, Montuori wouldn’t accept her plain hotdog order, and began to carefully layer on sauteed peppers and a splash of his famous “Bada-Bing” sauce.
“I ate it, and it’s the only thing I’ll ever order,” Laird said. “He knew what I didn’t know.”
“To me, that’s living,” Montuori said of his days slinging his famous sauces onto hot dogs and sausages in his shop. “I love people. I see people. I’m proud to be one of them. ... I’m as touched by the person who wrote (on the GoFundMe page) about beautiful memories of the cart, as I am by the people who gave money.”
“We can’t expunge history, but we do well when we learn from it and take declarative steps to remediate its long-lasting effects and create a brighter history for future generations.”
A Wallingford snack stand reopens under new ownership and a new name, and has a big weekend. A2
The Rutland Town Fire Department gets a new leader following the prior chief’s retirement. A3
The Mill River softball and baseball teams came up with big victories on Monday. B1
A free showing of the award-winning film, “Glory” to highlight the installation of the new 54th Massachusetts regiment sculpture on Friday. 6:30-8:30 p.m. Paramount Theatre, 30 Center Street, Rutland, firstname.lastname@example.org, 802-775-7826.