Teen pleads guilty, felonies dropped

  • The trial for a Lyndenborough teen who struck and killed a woman in July 2016 is underway. (Abby Kessler / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Abby Kessler

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, January 22, 2018 5:40PM

A Lyndeborough teen who struck and killed a pedestrian in 2016 plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge after the state tossed out two felonies lodged against her.

Grace Wight, who was 17 years old at the time, was on her way home from a friend’s house in the early hours of July 15, 2016 when she struck Debess Rogers with a pickup truck. Dispatch helped Wight perform CPR on Rogers after the accident, but the efforts were completed to no avail. Rogers was pronounced dead at the scene. She was 60.

The state lodged three charges against Wight as a result of the accident, including negligent homicide and reckless conduct of a deadly weapon, which are both felonies, and vehicular assault, a misdemeanor. State Trooper First Class Michael Pelletier, who led accident reconstruction on the case, concluded in a report that speed and texting played a role in the accident.

On Friday, the state dismissed the most serious charges and Wight plead guilty to a misdemeanor under the motor vehicle code. Jim Rosenberg, Wight’s attorney, said she will receive a 90-day suspended sentence under the condition of good behavior. Rosenberg said Wight also must complete 200 hours of community service and will have a long-term license loss.

“This is a really sad case and just as [Wight] said through me in my opening statements, there is no winner here,” Rosenberg said in an interview with the Ledger-Transcript Monday morning. “We are heartened that there is no conviction or jail time. But Grace appreciates the loss to the family and to the community.”

He said the significance of this accident is “not lost on her.”

Rosenberg ripped holes in the state’s case throughout the weeklong trial at Hillsborough Superior Court in Manchester. Rosenberg grilled Pelletier for hours during the process, calling the trooper’s work on the case “slow, sluggish, and inaccurate.”

Rosenberg took the trooper to task for never completing a full interview with Wight after the accident. Pelletier said another trooper started interviewing Wight after the accident, but that the conversation was cut short after the teen’s mother intervened. The trooper told Wight and her mother that Pelletier would be in touch with them sometime in the following days after the accident to complete the interview, although no one ever did.

Rosenberg said in court on Thursday that he encouraged Pelletier to contact him and his client throughout the process, but that those efforts never resulted in a conversation between the two parties.

“I literally asked to talk to you. I literally asked if there was a good time for you,” Rosenberg said to Pelletier on Thursday. “You didn’t get back to me did you?”

Pelletier answered “correct.”

“You never followed up with me to see if [Wight] would submit to a statement, right?” Rosenberg continued later on.

Pelletier answered “correct” again.

Pelletier eventually said that he knew Wight had retained an attorney, which held him back from following up with her later on.

Rosenberg also skewered the officer about following up with witnesses, stating that Pelletier waited more than a month to follow up with the victim’s husband Guntis Grabazs, and nearly five months to interview Wight’s friend Kylee Flint, who was the last person to see Wight the night of the accident.

Pelletier used that interview with Flint to rule out sleep as a factor in the crash. Pelletier said Flint told him that her friend seemed fine when she left the house that morning. Flint told the officer that she wouldn’t have let Wight drive home if she thought otherwise.

Rosenberg said a continuation of questioning Pelletier’s work on the case in court on Friday led to another breakdown in the state’s case. Rosenberg said Pelletier had promised to supply notes to the defense from the night Wight was involved in the accident. Rosenberg said he was later told those notes didn’t exist. On Friday, it came to light that the notes did exist.

The information changed the direction of the trial, Rosenberg said.

Rosenberg said Wight’s plea to the misdemeanor charge will allow her “the liberty to take her next steps.”

He said she will resume her freshman year of college at SUNY-Morrisville where she is pursuing a degree in equestrian studies.

“[Wight] has been positive and productive throughout this entire process,” Rosenberg said.

He said the event happened between her junior and senior year in high school at Wilton-Lyndeborough. Still, Wight managed to be selected as the captain of her school’s soccer team, received the highest SAT score out of anyone in her class, and finished out the year fourth overall.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledgertranscript.com.