Dawn Baustert, her husband and two of their children were heading to Boston when both adults may have fallen asleep prior to the crash, Baustert’s husband told police at the crash scene. Stock photo via Pexels

This story by John Lippman first appeared in the Valley News on June 6.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A 46-year-old Vermont woman has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that she was driving drunk when her SUV crashed in Sharon last November, killing her 11-year-old son and injuring other family members.

In Windsor County Superior Court on Tuesday, Dawn Baustert, of Essex Junction, pleaded not guilty during arraignment on four felony counts and one misdemeanor count, including DUI with fatality resulting.

On Nov. 17, the Chevrolet Suburban she was driving crashed into rock ledges in the snow-covered median along the southbound lanes of Interstate 89 in Sharon.

The weather was clear and highway road conditions were dry at the time of the crash, according to police.

First responders informed police when they arrived at the scene at 3:22 p.m. that a male juvenile was deceased in the backseat behind the driver’s side and that Baustert was trapped behind the steering wheel with injuries and appeared “drowsy, sleepy, confused and disoriented,” the police affidavit filed in support of the charges states.

Crash team investigators found that the deceased juvenile “was found to be improperly restrained in the vehicle with only a lap belt restraint being used” and the shoulder belt was “behind the juvenile’s body against the back seat,” the affidavit says.

The child was killed by blunt trauma to the neck, torso and extremities, resulting in fatal injuries, investigators determined.

Police also later found in the vehicle six unopened “5ml nips” containing various liquors in a Louis Vuitton handbag.

Baustert’s Facebook profile describes her as a “homemaker” and “mother of seven.”

Brian Marsicovetere, a White River Junction attorney representing Baustert, said via email on Tuesday that his client would have “no comment at this time.”

Baustert, with her husband and two of their children in the SUV, had left their home in Essex Junction at 2:10 on a Thursday afternoon and were heading to Boston when Baustert and her husband may both have fallen asleep prior to the crash, Baustert’s husband, Timothy Baustert, told police at the crash scene, court documents say.

A Hartford drug recognition expert was unable to evaluate Baustert while she was being treated at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center following the crash due to her “medical condition,” the affidavit says.

But Vermont State Police were notified the day after the crash, on Nov. 18, by Vermont’s Department for Children and Families that it had received a report from DHMC indicating that Baustert’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level had been .228% at the time she was admitted to the hospital.

In Vermont, a person is considered legally drunk when their BAC level is 0.08% or greater.

A warrant to draw a sample of Baustert’s blood was granted to police about 10 hours after the time of the crash and her blood alcohol content level was revealed to be 0.045%, according to the affidavit.

Vermont State Police, seeking Baustert’s BAC result closer in time to the crash, sought and received a warrant to obtain Baustert’s blood samples from DHMC.

Those blood samples, five tubes drawn from Baustert at 4:41 p.m., which was about one hour and 20 minutes after the crash, were later found by the Vermont Forensic Laboratory to have an ethanol level of 0.195, the affidavit says.

Investigators also determined, citing the vehicle’s event data recorder, that the vehicle was traveling at a speed of between 77 miles per hour and 83 miles per hour in the seconds before the impact.

The Bausterts’ juvenile daughter suffered fractures to her right leg, right ankle and right foot, the report said.

The Valley News is the daily newspaper and website of the Upper Valley, online at www.vnews.com.