Driver who killed bicyclist sentenced to 7-16 years
MIDDLEBURY — Twenty months ago mourners at the funeral of beloved local resident Kelly Boe filled the pews and spilled out of the doors at St. Mary’s Church.
On Monday locals packed the house for Boe again. This time it was at the Addison County Courthouse, where the man who was driving drunk when he struck and killed Boe was sentenced to a substantial jail term.
Judge Samuel Hoar sent 29-year-old Nathan C. Dearing to prison for seven-and-a-half to 16 years.
The courtroom gallery, which seats 75, was full. Extra chairs were brought in to accommodate the crowd.
“The only time I have seen that many people in the courtroom was in 2004,” Deputy State’s Attorney Chris Perkett said. That was during the trial of George Dean Martin, who was convicted of capsizing his boat on Lake Champlain while drunk, an incident that resulted in the deaths of two children.
Kelly Boe was 55 years old when he died on April 14, 2015. He was praised by those who knew him — and there were many — as a wonderful person, husband, father, friend and neighbor. He worked at Middlebury College as manger of the central biomass heating plant.
After work on that Tuesday evening, he and wife Kathy were biking on Hamilton Road in Weybridge when a red 1997 Subaru Impreza driven by Dearing crossed the center line and hit Kelly Boe in plain view of his wife. Boe could not be revived at the scene and was taken to Porter Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
At the time, the Boes’ daughter Sara was a 19-year-old freshman at McGill University in Montreal, and daughter Andi a 15-year-old freshman at Middlebury Union High School.
Under a Sept. 12 plea agreement, Dearing agreed to plead guilty to driving under the influence resulting in a fatality and driving with a criminally suspended license, fifth or subsequent time, for DUI; State’s Attorney David Fenster consented to not ask for more than 10-20 years of jail time.
At Monday’s sentencing hearing, three people gave testimony for Hoar to consider in sentencing.
Kelly’s friend Dan DaPolito, a local eye doctor, spoke on behalf of the community, telling Hoar that Kelly Boe’s life was “defined by service to others,” and his absence is widely felt.
“He surrounded everyone with kindness and carried with him a positive energy in a gentle, friendly manner,” DaPolito said. “He was selfless; always interested in everyone else’s life and wellbeing. He was charming, funny and always had a twinkle in his eye longing to make people laugh with his spontaneous witty comments. Just hearing his voice made everyone feel comfortable and at ease … There was a special bond between Kelly and Kathy; they were inseparable.”
Everyone who knew Kelly has said he was a devoted father.
In her statement in court Monday, daughter Andi Boe spoke of how she wakes up every day and misses her father, of her struggles to continue to live a normal life.
It was during Andi Boe’s presentation that Ed Hutchins rose from the gallery and began shouting and making a scene. Hutchins was described as a friend of Dearing’s and a father figure to him; at one time they shared the same address in Whiting.
Hutchins said he didn’t like the way Dearing was being vilified and that Dearing was hurting, just like everyone else was hurting. Judge Hoar told Hutchins that he had to be quiet and when he was not quiet, ordered Hutchins to leave the courtroom, which he did.
Everyone in the room was impressed with the grace with which the young Boe, a junior at MUHS, handled the interruption.
Some people may have been surprised that Sara Boe was not at the sentencing hearing, given the closeness of the family. Kathy Boe explained in an interview that when Kelly was killed in 2015, Sara had to leave McGill in the middle of final exams, deal with the loss of her father and then return to Montreal to finish those finals. This week she was again in the middle of final exams and her mother counseled Sara against dropping everything again.
“She was going to have to go through that again and come down here and just feel sad, and I wasn’t going to make her do that,” Kathy said.
All of Kelly’s family submitted to the judge written letters that described what his loss meant to them; they came from not only his widow and daughters, but also from his sisters and his brothers- and sisters-in-law.
Kathy herself addressed the court, taking the opportunity to tell everybody what Kelly meant to the family, addressing the loss of her best friend, speaking for long stretches without referring to her notes.
She also directly addressed Dearing, telling him that if he did half the things her husband did he would be a pretty decent man. She expressed hope that he could turn his life around.
In his own statement, Dearing told the Boes that he would switch places with Kelly if he could.
He apologized — “That meant a lot to us,” Kathy Boe said.
Dearing’s attorney, public defender Jim Gratton, said that his client had made efforts to turn himself around. While in jail awaiting trial, he has taken classes and earned a “Safe Serve” certificate for food service workers; he now works in the prison kitchen.
“He’s joined (Alcoholics Anonymous) for the first time, acknowledging his problems with alcohol,” Gratton said.
But Perkett noted that Dearing showed a pattern of disregard for the law and for the safety of others.
“Based on the way he was driving, it was not ‘if’ but ‘when’ he ended up taking someone’s life by driving recklessly,” he said.
Perkett said the prosecutor and the courts had given him chances. Dearing’s criminal record included a 2013 conviction for drunk driving in which he drove the car into a field and struck a tractor, Perkett said. Court records show a felony conviction (grand larceny in 2012) and five misdemeanor convictions, including for careless and negligent driving.
Perkett said that while Dearing’s was not the longest criminal record he had seen, “he had been given chance after chance.”
Perkett saw some progress in reducing such deadly incidents when the Legislature raised the minimum jail time that repeat drunk drivers must be sentenced to. For a second-offense DUI, a defendant must either serve 60 hours in jail or 200 hours of community service; 96 hours jail time for DUI number three; and 192 hours jail time for DUI number four.
Fenster hopes that continued education of the community could one day reduce the number of drunk driving fatalities.
In a long address from the bench, Judge Hoar spoke directly to Andi Boe, getting emotional when he told her how he had lost his own father. He spoke to Kathy Boe, urging her to keep living her life and to continue to bike and hike like she had with Kelly.
“It was quite moving,” DaPolito said.
Hoar told Dearing that he felt confident that he would be an asset to society once he served his time.
Because he has already been in jail a year and a half, Dearing will be behind bars for a minimum of six more years. He was also ordered to pay $354 in court fees, $100 to the DUI Enforcement Fund, $100 to the Public Defender Fund, and a $100 Special Investigations Unit surcharge.
Kathy Boe on Wednesday said she was not at a point were she could evaluate the sentence that Dearing will serve. She was glad that she got a chance to speak about what her husband meant to her and their family.
“This is a tragedy for everybody involved — for Kelly, for us, for Mr. Dearing and his family,” she said.