A Rutland man is facing 45 years in jail after police said he was responsible for a Proctor crash in July that left a Pownal woman dead.
Gage Capen, 21, of Rutland, pleaded not guilty on Monday in Rutland criminal court to one felony count of grossly negligent driving that resulted in a fatality and two felony counts of grossly negligent driving that resulted in serious injuries.
Capen was released without bail but ordered not to drive any motor vehicle and not to have contact with witnesses in the case.
The charges are based on an affidavit written by Trooper Zachariah Shaughnessy, of the Vermont State Police, who said he was dispatched to a one-vehicle crash on West Street in Proctor on July 9 around 3:25 a.m.
Shaughnessy said when he got to the area he found a 2000 Saab 93 on its roof.
Kianna E. Peters, 18, of Pownal, was pronounced dead at the scene. Shaughnessy said she had been trapped under the car.
According to the affidavit, Tatiana Goulette, 23, and Kassandra Boardman, 19, both of Rutland, were sitting on the grass near the crash scene. Shaughnessy said they had been ejected from the car when it crashed.
Shaughnessy said he had spoken to the driver before he, along with Boardman and Goulette, were taken to Rutland Regional.
According to the affidavit, Capen spoke to police at the hospital. He told them he and the three women were on their way to Beaver Pond.
“I didn’t really know my way there and was kind of lost on the road,” Capen said, according to the affidavit. “All three passengers had been drinking and I knew that I didn’t have a license, but I was the only one sober so I drove.”
Shaughnessy said he was paraphrasing Capen’s statement.
The car was a convertible and Capen said Peters had been standing up in the car. He told police he tried to grab her and get her to sit down. He said he swerved to avoid an animal in the road and then again to avoid a utility pole and that’s when the car flipped over.
Capen told police he had been driving about 40 mph on the road, where the speed limit is 25 mph.
Shaughnessy said Capen showed no signs of impairment.
Boardman appeared to be “heavily intoxicated” and told police she didn’t remember much.
Goulette said she didn’t know Peters, but noted she kept standing up in her seat. She said Capen had picked up her and Boardman from her home in Rutland. She said Capen was “driving fast and crazy the whole time and at the end, just before we rolled, he was driving the fastest.”
Capen, Goulette and Boardman all suffered road rash. The affidavit said Capen also had minor head trauma, Boardman had a facial laceration and a broken clavicle, and Goulette had head trauma from a serious laceration.
The affidavit said Shaughnessy interviewed Capen again on Jan. 13. He said Capen did not mention swerving to avoid an animal in the road, but said he lost control of the car when he let go of the steering wheel to try to grab Peters and force her to sit down.
He also allegedly admitted to speeding during much of the trip on July 9, but continued to maintain he wasn’t speeding at the time of the crash.
All three charges against Capen are punishable by up to 15 years in jail if he is convicted.