A newly-released toxicology report shows a quintuple murder suspect had a mix of substances in his system, including marijuana and fentanyl, the night he’s accused of intentionally crashing into a carload of teenagers from Vermont’s Harwood Union school district, killing all five of them.
However, the head prosecutor for Chittenden County says that report is “irrelevant” to her case.
Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury, Janie Chase Cozzi, 15, of Fayston, Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston, Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown, and Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown were killed last October on Interstate 89 in Williston as they headed home from a concert.
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Childhood friends, Brookens, Hale, Harris, and Zschau attended Harwood Union High School in Duxbury, and Chase Cozzi was a student at Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire.
The teens have been remembered as positive, upbeat kids who loved the outdoors and who brought joy to their many friends, relatives, and neighbors.
Steven Bourgoin, 37, pleaded not guilty to the deaths of the five students, and is in jail as the case against him proceeds. Late last year, Bourgoin’s defense did not contest whether he was competent to stand trial.
Despite this week’s release of the toxicology scan, Chittenden County State’s Attorney Sarah George told necn those drug findings actually don’t mean much at all to her.
“We believe that the actions he took that night were all extremely intentional and had nothing to do with anything in his system,” George said Tuesday.
George’s office charged Bourgoin with five counts of second-degree murder, believing he knew full well he could’ve badly hurt someone that night in October 2016 when he got on I-89 heading the wrong way into Williston.
Prosecutors have described Bourgoin as mentally erratic and said it was his foreclosure and financial troubles, a pending domestic assault charge, and a dispute over child custody that sent the suspect over the edge, not the marijuana or any of the other substances that were revealed in the toxicology scan.
“He was in a really bad place and felt like he nothing left to live for,” George said.
The state’s attorney added that Bourgoin was a regular marijuana user who might not have been impaired to a significant degree the night of the deadly crash.
George said she considers the release of the report by a Vermont State Police public records administrator, which followed multiple requests from veteran Vermont investigative journalist Mike Donoghue and others, a mistake.
“I asked them repeatedly to not release it,” George said, referring to the Vermont State Police. “Because I do believe it’s irrelevant.”
Donoghue reported in VTDigger that Vermont Rep. Ben Joseph, D-North Hero, was among those to push for the release. The retired judge had filed a Vermont public records request and received a copy of the toxicology report on Monday, Donoghue wrote.
“I am just starting to read the report. We had read newspaper accounts that said Bourgoin was under the influence of marijuana and this appears to confirm those news stories,” Joseph said in the VTDigger article.
Joseph said in Donoghue’s reporting that he had asked the state police to release the report because he feared state legislators will vote on possible marijuana legalization next year without knowing about the driver being impaired in the Williston crash.
However, George told necn Tuesday that she opposed the report’s release because she worried public exposure to the toxicology scan could taint the accounts of witnesses to the erratic drive and crash, as well as to a second wild wrong-way trip Bourgoin allegedly took in a stolen police cruiser.
But George added that her staff has promised the families of the five young victims their case is strong, pledging to work tirelessly for justice, always mindful of the vibrant lives lost so suddenly.
George said there are still more depositions to do in this case—both of police officers and witnesses. Those are scheduled for January.