(This story is by Jordan Cuddemi of the Valley News, in which it first appeared Oct. 11, 2017.)
A 22-year-old Vermont woman charged with killing two people in a head-on collision last month told police she was “buzzed” but felt comfortable driving when she left the Moose Lodge in Newport, New Hampshire, in her car, a prosecutor said in court Tuesday.
Kristin Lake faces charges of negligent homicide and aggravated driving under the influence. Assistant Sullivan County Attorney Justin Hersh said Lake told law enforcement she nodded off briefly around 11:15 p.m. on Sept. 22 and awoke to find that she had crossed the centerline on New Hampshire Route 10 in Croydon.
She attempted to swerve when she saw lights coming at her, but it was too late, and she slammed into the oncoming Volvo, Hersh said during Lake’s bail hearing in Newport District Court.
Michelle Fenimore, 20, and Nicholas Carpenter, 18, both former Northeast Kingdom residents, died from injuries they suffered in the crash.
“Two people (are) deceased on account of a poor decision Ms. Lake made that night,” Hersh said as he encouraged Newport District Court Judge Bruce Cardello to increase Lake’s $50,000 personal recognizance bail to $100,000 cash.
Fenimore was engaged to Carpenter’s brother, Trevor Morse, family members said outside the courthouse.
The three had moved to Newport, New Hampshire, from Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom about three months ago to be closer to family. Fenimore and Carpenter were returning home from working shifts at the J.C. Penney store in West Lebanon, New Hampshire, on the night of the crash, relatives said.
Lake’s attorney James Valente, of Burlington, argued against cash bail Tuesday. He said Lake isn’t a flight risk or a danger to herself or others, which are factors in imposing bail in New Hampshire.
She has no criminal record, has cooperated with investigators throughout the process and has a supportive family, including a mother who works as a guardian ad litem, Valente said.
Valente also mentioned two possible defenses. He said evidence appears to show Fenimore, who was driving, made a sudden turn into Lake’s lane that night. In addition, he said, it’s unclear if Lake’s blood alcohol content was over the legal limit of 0.08 percent at the time of the crash.
When hospital staff drew her blood at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center after the collision, the results showed she had a blood alcohol content of 0.114 percent, Hersh said in court.
But that level could have increased after the crash depending on when Lake consumed the alcohol, Valente said.
Lake told police she consumed two drinks with hard liquor with a friend at the lodge that evening and described the first one as “very strong,” Hersh said. She described herself as “buzzed” and characterized her level of impairment as a four on a scale of zero to 10.
The judge kept in place the personal recognizance bail order that was imposed on the night of the crash but doubled the amount to $100,000, meaning Lake would have to forfeit that amount if she failed to appear to court. Cardello also ordered Lake not to drink alcohol or drive a vehicle, among many other things.
Lake, who had a cast on her left leg and walked with crutches, waived her right to a probable cause hearing Tuesday, so her case will be bound over to Sullivan Superior Court for possible indictment. She currently faces four felonies: two negligent homicide charges and two aggravated driving under the influence charges. She hasn’t entered pleas.
Lake had been living and working in Sharon as a farmhand at the time of the crash. She now is residing with family in South Londonderry.
Fenimore’s grandparents Perley and Donna Rich, of Canaan, New Hampshire, attended the hearing and spoke highly of their granddaughter, who came into their lives at age 9, when their son met Fenimore’s mother.
“She was kind and loving,” Perley Rich said. “She was loved by so many. Her heart was never full. She always had room for others.”
The Riches said their granddaughter had already picked out a gown for her upcoming wedding and that they were juggling emotions.
“There is a difference between forgiveness and justice,” Perley Rich said. “We can forgive this young lady, but there needs to be justice.”
“We are not out for blood,” Donna Rich added. “Just some sort of justice.”
“It’s going to be three lives ruined plus family, and we understand that,” she said. “It’s just such a tragedy.”