Bike victim’s family introduces evidence in Gonyeau case
MIDDLEBURY — A woman who knew Kenneth Najarian, the bicyclist who was killed when a car driven by Holly Gonyeau struck him on Greenbush Road in Ferrisburgh on June 17, said she doesn’t buy the story that Najarian’s actions contributed to the tragic crash.
“He would not do a U-turn in front of a car,” the woman said outside a courtroom in the Addison Country courthouse on Monday morning after a hearing at which lawyers for Najarian’s widow, Kristine, requested that Judge Robert Mello consider new evidence before allowing Gonyeau to plead to a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence.
“He was a professional,” the woman said of Dr. Kenneth Najarian, a radiologist affiliated with the UVM Medical Center who lived in Charlotte. “He would ride his bike on Route 7, on Spear Street to get to work. He would not do that (turn in front of oncoming traffic).”
Kristine Najarian’s attorneys argue that new evidence has come to light, and on Monday Mello continued the case, setting the next hearing for Sept. 14.
Holly Gonyeau, 36, of Ferrisburgh last month pleaded innocent in Addison Superior Court’s Criminal Division to DUI during the June 17 accident, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $750 fine. According to court documents, Gonyeau’s blood-alcohol content at the site tested at 0.123, and two hours later her evidentiary test read 0.087. Vermont’s legal BAC limit for driving is 0.08. Gonyeau had also taken prescription medication the day of the crash.
A police affidavit states that Gonyeau told Vermont State Police that Najarian, 60, pulled a U-turn in front of her.
Najarian’s family and others have questioned why Gonyeau wasn’t charged with a more serious felony, and some have speculated that the fact that Gonyeau’s husband is a police officer in Williston may have impaired law enforcement agencies’ investigation into the case.
Addison County Deputy State’s Attorney Christopher Perkett last month told the Independent that the prosecutor needs to have evidence in order to change the charge against Gonyeau, and that the evidence was clear that the crash would have occurred whether Gonyeau had been impaired or not. A call to Addison County State’s Attorney David Fenster was not returned before the deadline for this story.
Benjamin Luna, a lawyer with Little & Cicchetti of Burlington representing Najarian, feared that Gonyeau was going to change her plea to “no contest” at Monday’s hearing. In a court filing, Luna asked Mello to reject a plea because his team had uncovered new evidence.
Luna said state police impounded Gonyeau’s car after the crash, but never inventoried its contents. After obtaining a court order, “bicycle accident reconstruction expert” John Allen was allowed to inspect the car. Luna’s court filing said, “The inspection … revealed evidence previously overlooked and unexamined by the Vermont State Police — dark orange chunks of plastic found under the hood towards the driver’s side,” which came off Najarian’s left cycling shoe.
Another Najarian family expert, forensic toxicologist Darcy Richardson, in the court filing questions why police did not list alcohol as a contributing factor to the accident and why the state police’s drug recognition expert (DRE) did not order a sample of Gonyeau’s blood on the day of the crash for potential analysis of drug content later.
“They know she had been drinking and taking (prescription drugs),” Luna said in an interview. “The DRE was there. As a matter of practice they take a blood draw (in other cases).
“The conclusion for this case should not be a misdemeanor DUI without further investigation,” Luna added.
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