New Canaan Police had sought at first to bring a charge of driving under the influence against the 51-year-old town woman who in October rear-ended a BMW at 64 mph on Silvermine Road, causing a near-fatal head-on collision, documents show.
But after an investigation in which hospital officials apparently failed to test her blood for drugs, the state’s attorney’s office declined to bring the more serious charge, according to an arrest warrant application and police affidavits obtained by NewCanaanite.com.
The woman had failed all field sobriety tests at the scene of the horrific accident, which saw a Stamford teen hospitalized for several weeks after suffering multiple traumatic injuries, according to the application.
She also appeared disoriented and, though her only physical ailment from the crash appeared to be a bloody nose, contradicted herself more than once while speaking to police in its immediate aftermath, according to multiple affidavits from New Canaan police officers on scene.
Police discovered that the woman had access to prescription drugs, and after a Breathalyzer test administered on scene showed no alcohol in her system, instructed emergency room physicians at Norwalk Hospital to test her blood for drugs, the application said.
However, “the hospital laboratory did not check for any other drugs despite the fact that [a New Canaan police officer] requested it be checked the night of the crash,” the application said.
As a result, the woman faces only one charge of reckless driving, a misdemeanor offense.
Even so, John Parese of New Haven-based Buckley & Wynne, counsel for Michael Bivona Jr., the Stamford teen seriously injured in the accident, told NewCanaanite.com that he is considering a civil claim for driving under the influence of drugs. The claim would be based on information in the police report and further developed by Parese’s own accident reconstruction engineers, the attorney said.
Meanwhile, many questions about the accident and subsequent investigation remain unanswered, such as where the woman had been immediately prior to the accident.
Also, it isn’t clear just what happened at the hospital or whether the woman’s blood is still available for drug screening.
Norwalk Hospital officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
According to Parese, the blood could be tested for drugs even now if the hospital had it, though it’s typically discarded about one week after it’s drawn and tested initially (in this case, it had been tested straightaway for the presence of alcohol, showing none).
The New Canaan Police Department’s application for an arrest warrant states unequivocally that ER staff were instructed to test for drugs: “After all patients were transported to Norwalk ER, [a New Canaan Police officer] was sent to follow up with emergency room staff. [The officer] made contact with emergency room nurses, and explained that he needed blood to be drawn from [the woman] because at the time it was believed the accident would result in a fatality. [The officer] requested the blood sample be checked for alcohol as well as any prescription and/or illegal drugs.”
(Note: The same officer in his statement in the police report does not say explicitly that he instructed the hospital staff to test the woman’s blood for drugs. This section of his affidavit reads: “Upon arrival I spoke with hospital staff and advised them a blood draw is requested because of the severity of injuries.” The officer did watch the hospital staff draw three tubes of blood from the woman’s right arm, he said.)
New Canaan Police about three weeks after the accident had a judge sign search warrants for the woman’s blood work, and obtained a copy of the results from the hospital, the police report said.
New Canaan Police appear to have been comfortable enough with their evidence to pursue a DUI charge, but the state’s attorney’s office was not, according to the police report.
One officer’s testimony reads: “On 1/7/15, I spoke to [a woman] in the state’s attorney’s office at Norwalk Court. I asked her about reviewing the case prior to writing an arrest warrant, and she stated they do not discuss cases prior to a warrant. We did discuss the case briefly, and we were in agreement to how to proceed. She recommended writing up an arrest warrant based on the information we had, and send it down for review. Supplements will follow as the warrant proceeds. On 1/21/15, I completed an arrest warrant for [the woman], for the charges of DWI and reckless driving. The warrant was reviewed by [the state’s attorney] on 2/5/15, and she advised me they would not pursue the DWI charge. She requested the DWI charge be removed, and the warrant re-submitted. On 2/23/15, the warrant was re-submitted to Norwalk Court.”
Reached by phone, an official in the state’s attorney’s office said the agency does not discuss individual cases.
Regardless of criminal charges or the woman’s blood-alcohol level, she was operating her SUV wildly, according to data obtained from the vehicles Electronic Data Recorder or “EDR.”
For example, she had the accelerator pushed virtually to the floor of the car all through the collision (the man she rear-ended had been traveling about 37 mph in the 30 mph zone, the report said, along Silvermine just up the hill from the intersection at Little Brook Road) and even after impact, according to the “EDR,” the woman never once stepped on the brakes.
Police after pulling her out of her SUV through a passenger-side window (the vehicle had rolled onto its side against a row of trees) found that she had a bloody nose but said she was otherwise “fine.” Officers said they could smell alcohol on her breath, and that the woman told them she had “half a glass of wine,” but then after she was reminded that she’d been in an accident, said, “I didn’t drink anything today,” according to the arrest warrant application.
The woman, in flip-flops that she opted to keep on, failed field sobriety tests, according to the application and an office’s testimony. She repeatedly lost her balance, couldn’t walk straight and was unable to stand on one foot, police said. “Once [the woman] put her foot down, she looked at me and said, ‘I’m done now,’ ” the officer recalled in the police report.
The woman told police that she’d been on her way to pick up her child from a horse-riding lesson, though she’d already passed the turn-off from Silvermine to get to the organization that supposedly was giving that lesson, police said.
Disoriented and confused, the woman asked police repeatedly whether she was on Harrison Avenue, and had to be told that no, she was on Silvermine Road.
She had not been recently to a doctor or dentist, police said.
The woman turned herself in to police on the reckless driving charge at 8:30 a.m. on March 19, according to police. She was released on $500 bond and scheduled to appear March 31 in state Superior Court in Norwalk. Her arraignment was continued to April 14, according to the Connecticut Judicial Branch.