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Man May Serve 30 Days For Fatal Route 4 Crash

  • William Moeller in an undated family photograph. (Family photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 20, 2017

White River Junction — If a Windsor Superior Court judge accepts the plea deal next month, a 26-year-old Bridgewater Corners man will serve 30 days in jail in connection with a February car crash that killed a 76-year-old Plainfield, N.H., man, according to the prosecutor in the case.

Kenneth Hendrick Jr. pleaded no contest last week to a misdemeanor charge of negligent operation with death resulting for crossing the centerline on Route 4 in West Woodstock on Feb. 24 and colliding with an SUV driven by William Moeller.

Hendrick initially told police he thought he fell asleep at the wheel, but said in court on Dec. 11 that he couldn’t remember exactly what happened, Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Hendrick did tell the judge he felt fatigued.

According to a police affidavit, Hendrick didn’t get much sleep on the night before he veered across the Route 4 centerline around 11:45 a.m. near the intersection with Echo Ledge Road.

Moeller died at the hospital from injuries he sustained in the crash.

There was no evidence at the scene that Hendrick had been texting or using drugs or alcohol, according to the affidavit.

He wasn’t given a blood or breath test, something that William Moeller’s son, Patrick, said he takes issue with.

Vermont law doesn’t mandate alcohol or drug testing in car crashes and the U.S. Constitution prevents searches and seizures without a warrant or probable cause to believe a crime was committed.

In this case, Cahill said he too wished Hendrick could have been tested after the accident, but understood why he wasn’t.

For example, Cahill said, if a police officer witnesses a motorist driving across a center-line, there is a “reasonable suspicion that civil traffic law has been violated,” but it still would require additional clues observed by police during a traffic stop to get to probable cause and a potential potential breath test or other roadside tests.

“When it comes to this specific proposal, our responsibilities butt right up against the Constitution,” Cahill said. “I’ve taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, but I’ve recognized that the Constitution is in some circumstances impeding the state from obtaining evidence.”

Patrick Moeller, of Boston, said he would like to see change come from this tragedy.

“We would like to see drug testing in all deaths that involve vehicles,” he said. “Our family was let down by the system.”

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Hendrick would serve 30 days of a one- to two-year sentence. He would serve the remainder of the sentence on “community supervision,” a status similar to furlough, Cahill said.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison.

Brendan Moeller, another son of the victim, said his family isn’t satisfied with the terms of the plea agreement.

“Everybody is under the general impression that this isn’t going to yield any change of behavior and it isn’t in the interest of the public good,” Brendan Moeller, of Florida, said on Monday. “Everyone is pretty upset over it.”

The end result in cases like this oftentimes “makes no one happy,” Cahill said

As a prosecutor, he said, he has to look closely at a person’s mental state at the time of the incident and charge the crime appropriately

“The system focuses on the degree of ill intent by the defendant and here, although the consequences of his conduct were unthinkable, his state of mind was negligent and not intentional,” Cahill said.

A message left for Hendrick’s public defender, Jordana Levine, wasn’t returned.

Hendrick’s sentencing hearing is scheduled for Jan. 30 in the White River Junction courthouse.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.