Police: I-89 crash survivor to face murder charge
Free Press Staff Writer
1:16 p.m. EDT August 6, 2015
A Barre woman whose car crossed the Interstate 89 median in Richmond and slammed head-on into a car, killing the driver, will face a charge of second-degree murder, the Vermont State Police say.
Karri Benoir, 23, remains hospitalized Thursday afternoon at the University of Vermont Medical Center with injuries received in the crash near exit 11 on I-89 in Richmond at about 7:30 p.m. July 30, the police said.
Her arraignment, which had been expected Thursday, was postponed indefinitely after the judge decided to avoid holding the proceeding at the hospital, Chittenden County Deputy State's Attorney Bram Kranichfeld said.
“Information developed following the incident revealed that Benoir intentionally crossed the center median in an attempt to take her own life by striking another vehicle,” state police spokesman Scott Waterman said in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
It remained unclear Thursday which lawyer is representing Benoir.
Brendon Cousino, 30, of Richmond, an emergency medical technician and seven-year veteran of Richmond Rescue, was killed in the crash. He was headed to the store to buy birthday party supplies for one of his three daughters. Cousino also is survived by his wife, Heidi, of more than nine years.
Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan said Wednesday he is limited in the comments he can make until a judge finds probable cause to file a criminal charge.
Donovan did confirm that a 12-page affidavit submitted by Detective Trooper Angela Baker to his office will be provided to the presiding judge Thursday morning for a proposed charge of second-degree murder.
Baker declined to speak with the Burlington Free Press.
Unclear Wednesday was whether Benoir’s arraignment would take place in her hospital room or at the Edward J. Costello Courthouse on Cherry Street in Burlington.
Waterman said he believes the murder charge is supported when there is sufficient evidence to suggest Benoir acted with “wanton disregard of the likelihood that death or great bodily harm would result.”
Waterman, a civilian employee of the state police, did not elaborate on the department’s written statement. He said it would be up to Donovan to explain the basis of the murder charge.
Benoir was not wearing a seat belt and was thrown from her car, state police reported. Benoir was southbound, and Cousino was northbound.
A witness to the crash, Amber Miles, wrote in several public Facebook posts that she was behind a car on I-89 when she saw the sedan drift into the grass median. The car “gained air and nose dived into the hood of another car going the opposite direction... Both cars were instantly in shreds,” Miles wrote.
“That was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. The person in the other lane never even saw it coming. My heart is really heavy right now. The car had just passed us, had to have been going at least 75-80,” her post stated.
“I’m just glad we let them pass us. I feel so terrible for the people in the car on the other side,” she wrote in another post.
A state trooper was dispatched to the hospital following the crash to ensure a blood or breath test was obtained from Benoir, said Lt. Garry Scott, head of the Vermont State Police Crash Reconstruction Team. Under Vermont law, all drivers involved in a fatal crash must be tested.
Cousino died at the scene after Benoir’s 2004 Toyota Corolla smashed into his 1999 Honda Civic.
Cousino was “heavily entrapped” in his sedan and had no pulse when emergency crews arrived, firefighter Prescott Nadeau of the Williston Fire Department, which responded to the scene.
Members of Richmond Rescue also were on the scene and soon learned they were dealing with the death of a well-respected colleague.
First responders treated Benoir and took her to the hospital in Burlington.
State police reported a third vehicle, a 2010 Ford pickup truck driven by Shane Libbey, 57, of Swanton, struck Benoir’s car after the initial impact. Libbey sustained minor injuries and declined to be treated at the hospital, the police said.
The cars driven by Benoir and Cousino were demolished; Libbey’s truck was slightly damaged. All three drivers were alone in their vehicles.
The wreck marks the second alleged botched suicide attempt on Interstate 89 in less than two years, according to officials.
A Sunapee, N.H., man admitted he killed a Wilder couple and their unborn child in a crash on I-89 in Lebanon, N.H., near the Vermont border on Dec. 7, 2013.
Prosecutors maintained Robert Dellinger, 54, steered his pickup truck through the I-89 median in a suicide attempt. The defendant disputed the suicide claim at his sentencing this April.
Dellinger, who pleaded guilty to two counts of negligent homicide, received a sentence of nine to 20 years in the deaths of Amanda Murphy, 24, who was eight months pregnant, and her fiance, Jason Timmons, 29. Dellinger also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault relating to the unborn child and received a suspended sentence of 3 1/2 to seven years.
This story was first posted online on Aug. 5, 2015. Contact Mike Donoghue at 660-1845 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mike on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/FreepsMikeD.