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Prosecutors dismiss charges in fatal 2015 crash

By DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader

March 13. 2017 9:49PM


MANCHESTER — Prosecutors have dismissed all charges against a Milford man accused of being behind the wheel of a pickup in a fatal crash in July 2015.

Jury selection was scheduled to begin Monday in the trial of Benjamin Cook, 20, on charges of negligent homicide, aggravated driving under the influence and driving after license suspension.

Public defender Julian Jefferson argued in a motion filed Feb. 17 in Hillsborough County Superior Court-Northern Division that the state lacked the evidence to definitively prove who was driving the truck when it rolled several times, ejecting the three occupants inside, on July 3, 2015, around 12:50 a.m. on Route 114 in Weare.

Prosecutors nolle prossed the charges on Feb. 27, according to court documents, dismissing the case against Cook.

Cook was 18 at the time of the crash. He was one of three people in a 1997 GMC pickup that a New Boston police officer attempted to pull over for operating without lights. The driver sped off and reached speeds in excess of 75 mph before losing control of the truck, which rolled several times and ejected the three occupants.

Police arrived at the scene and found Cook and Aaron Hodgdon of Weare with serious injuries.

Trevor Gonyer, a 17-year-old from Dunbarton, was dead at the scene.

Cook’s trial was delayed last fall after Jefferson took over as defense attorney and requested additional time to review the case.

Jefferson stated in his motion filed last month that Trooper Christopher Storm, who investigated the crash, should not be allowed to testify in the upcoming trial, and Jefferson challenged a number of Storm’s findings.

Jefferson noted all three occupants of the truck had been taken from the scene by the time Storm arrived. Jefferson also noted all three occupants were not wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the cab of the truck when it rolled.

“Trooper Storm, relying upon objective physical evidence, cannot say with certainty that Benjamin Cook was the driver of the pick-up truck,” wrote Jefferson, who interviewed Storm on Feb. 7.

Jefferson also stated that Storm, as a member of the State Police collision analysis and reconstruction team, was trained to determine the speed and sequence of events during the collision, not medical science.

“Trooper Storm has no training in forensic pathology. He is not a medical doctor,” Jefferson wrote. “Trooper Storm does not have the requisite level of knowledge and expertise to opine upon significance (if any) the injuries of any of the occupants in relation to whether they were the driver or a passenger in the pick-up truck.”

The court did not make a ruling on Jefferson’s motion before prosecutors dropped all charges against Cook on Feb. 27, the day of his 20th birthday. Cook appeared in court for a pretrial hearing March 1 and learned the case against him was closed.

Jefferson and Sarah Warecki, an assistant county attorney who was part of the prosecution team, declined comment Monday.

dalden@unionleader.com


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