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Hartland Man Charged With Manslaughter in Wrong-Way Interstate 89 Crash 

  • Daniel Cowdrey, 38, of Hartland, Vt., left, listens as attorney Paul Groce, right, speaks for him during his arraignment in Lebanon District Court on a charge of negligent homicide Thursday, May 26, 2016. Cowdrey is alleged to have been driving drunk, traveling north in the southbound lane of Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H. when he hit a car driven by Ellynn Koelsch, of Cranston, R.I. Koelsch was killed in the crash and her young son was seriously injured. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, April 27, 2017

North Haverhill— A 39-year-old Hartland man has been indicted on a reckless manslaughter charge in connection with a wrong-way collision last spring on Interstate 89 in Lebanon that killed a Rhode Island woman, according to court documents released on Thursday.

Daniel Cowdrey was indicted last week by a Grafton County Superior Court jury on counts of negligent homicide-DUI; driving under the influence of drugs or liquor; first-degree assault; and the reckless manslaughter charge, an alternative theory to the negligent homicide charge.

Authorities say Cowdrey, who is free on bail, was driving north in the southbound lanes of I-89 on May 25, 2016, when he collided with a car driven by 34-year-old Ellynn Koelsch, of Cranston, R.I. She was killed, and her 4-year-old son, Anthony, suffered a broken leg.

The indictment, dated April 21 and released on Thursday, alleges that Cowdrey was under the influence of “intoxicating liquor and/or marijuana” or a “combination of both.”

Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo said she could not comment on the specifics of the case, but did say criminal charges against a Lebanon restaurant that had been connected to the matter had been dropped on Wednesday.

According to a state police affidavit released shortly after the crash, Cowdrey told Trooper Janell Smith he “had a few beers with some friends” at Peking Tokyo on the Lebanon Mall and was headed home to Vermont. The fatal crash occurred just south of Exit 20 in Lebanon; the affidavit said Cowdrey, who was driving a Subaru Legacy, minutes earlier had caused an accident with another car near Exit 19 in Lebanon.

Smith said she observed “very slurred speech, and glassy bloodshot eyes” from Cowdrey and that he “appeared to have an odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath,” the affidavit said. She also said that as Cowdrey was being brought into the hospital he said, “I’m just a drunk buffoon,” according to the police affidavit.

In December, a grand jury indicted two entities connected with Peking Tokyo with a single count each of prohibited sales, a Class B felony, for allegedly overserving alcohol to Cowdrey on the day of the crash.

That indictment alleged that the restaurant served Cowdrey two large “scorpion bowl” drinks, which contain several different types of liquor, on May 25.

Those charges are no longer in place, according to Saffo.

“The charges against Peking Tokyo were dropped yesterday, and I can’t comment until after the Cowdrey case is resolved, but I can at that time,” Saffo said.

Joseph Garrison, an attorney for PT Red Tree, which registered Peking Tokyo Restaurant as a trade name on April 11, 2016, and was one of the defendants, said his client had no comment.

Messages left for Mark Sisti, the attorney for C&R Rock, which had registered “Peking Tokyo of Lebanon” as a trade name and was also a defendant, were not returned.

A message left for Cowdrey’s attorney, Jeremiah Newhall, also was not returned.

Saffo said she could not comment on the charges under the indictment, but said prosecutors can “charge in alternative theories,” giving juries a choice between such charges as negligent homicide or manslaughter.

“Ultimately, defendants can only be convicted of one variant when we charge alternatively,” she said.

The negligent homicide-DUI charge alleges Cowdrey drove “negligently” and “under the influence” of alcohol and/or marijuana, “or a combination of both” and caused the fatal crash. It carries a maximum sentence of 7½ to 15 years in prison, she said.

The reckless manslaughter charge alleges that Cowdrey drove “recklessly” and caused Koelsh’s death, but does not mention any intoxication. If convicted of that charge, Cowdrey could face up to 30 years in prison.

Indictments are not a finding of guilt, but rather a finding by a grand jury that there is sufficient evidence for a prosecutor to proceed with a criminal case.

Cowdrey will be arraigned on the charges on May 8 in Grafton Superior Court. That appearance will double as a bail hearing; Cowdrey in June posted the $25,000 corporate surety bond leveled against him after the crash.

Koelsch, who worked as a physical therapist, was an active member in Chi Alpha ministry at Brown University.

She and her husband, Adam, were planning on moving with their ministry to the University of Vermont, according to a post on the Facebook page of West Bay Christian Academy, where the Koelsches’ son attends preschool.

According to the post, Koelsch and her son had been in Vermont visiting a potential preschool prior to the crash.

News staff writer John P. Gregg contributed to this report. Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.