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Vt. Man Sentenced In Fatal Crash

  • Lauryn Moeller, of Plainfield, center, and her son Patrick Moeller, of Boston, right, return to their seats in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., after speaking to the court about husband and father William Moeller Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018. Kenneth Hendrick Jr., left, previously pleaded no contest to a charge of negligent operation with death resulting from the crash in which he crossed the centerline on Route 4 in West Woodstock in February 2017, killing Moeller. Hendrick will serve 30 days of a one-to two-year sentence. The Moellers said that Vermont law falls short of their expectation that people involved in traffic fatalities should be tested for drugs and alcohol. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Kenneth Hendrick Jr., of Bridgewater Corners, receives his sentence for negligent operation with death resulting in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Vt., Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 as the family of victim William Moeller looks on. Hendrick's vehicle crossed the center line on Route 4 in West Woodstock in February 2017, striking the SUV driven by Moeller, killing him. Hendrick's attorney Jordana Levine is at right. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

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



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 31, 2018

White River Junction — A 27-year-old Bridgewater Corners man will spend the next 30 days in jail for causing a fatal crash on Route 4 in West Woodstock that killed a Plainfield resident.

But at a sentencing hearing on Tuesday, the victim’s family said the sentence was much too lenient.

Kenneth Hendrick Jr. previously pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of negligent operation with death resulting for crossing the centerline on Feb. 24 and colliding with a vehicle driven by 76-year-old William Moeller, killing him. Hendrick initially told police he thought he fell asleep at the wheel, but at a December hearing, he said he couldn’t remember exactly how the events unfolded that day.

“This sentence ... is a sham for taking Bill’s life senselessly,” Moeller’s widow, Lauryn, said during the hearing on Tuesday in Windsor Superior Court. “I want to see you put in handcuffs and go to jail. I do not want to put one more ounce of energy into you. ... You may think I’m hitting you hard, but believe me when I say you have hit us hard.”

Lauryn Moeller said the charge of negligent operation seems “inadequate,” and she questioned whether Hendrick was “hiding something” to avoid a more serious charge or consequence.

One of the victim’s sons, Patrick Moeller, told Judge Timothy Tomasi that the family feels “let down” by the state — in particular, the fact that Vermont law doesn’t mandate alcohol or drug testing in car crashes in the absence of aggravating factors, something he said should be re-examined.

He also said he believes Hendrick’s story about what happened has changed, and if testing was done, his family would “at least feel better about the scenario.”

“We can’t take anything back at this point, but we would like to see real change from him and the state of Vermont,” said Patrick Moeller, who called his father “the centerpiece” of their family.

At the time of his death, William Moeller was working as a traveling salesman for a candy company. He was an avid skier and accordion player, according to his obituary.

“We would like to see some laws changed, and we would like to see a stricter sentence,” his son said.

Tomasi formally accepted Hendrick’s plea deal on Tuesday. Tomasi called the Moellers’ request for testing in fatal crashes “not an unreasonable thing to suggest,” and told the family that there will be “significant oversight” due to the way Hendrick’s sentence is structured.

Hendrick, who worked at Moe’s Southwest Grill in West Lebanon, addressed the family. He expressed remorse and asked for forgiveness.

“I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family of Mr. Moeller. I know that nothing I can say will ease the pain and anguish,” Hendrick said. “I would like to say that I am sorry for the pain that I have caused. ... I only hope that one day the family can see it in their hearts to forgive me.”

Hendrick could have faced up to two years in prison for the negligent operation charge, according to Vermont law.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, he will serve 30 days of a one- to two-year sentence in jail, with the remainder to be served as part of a supervised community sentence.

Hendrick initially had the option to serve the latter portion of his sentence at the Bridgewater Corners home he shared with his mother, but Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said in court that was no longer the case.

When a probation officer went to examine the home, the officer was bitten by the Hendricks’ dog, which didn’t have up-to-date shots, according to court documents. The Hendricks were “uncooperative” in making a plan to remove the dog, so Hartford Probation and Parole denied his request to serve the remainder of his sentence there, according to court documents.

Where Hendrick will reside when he is released from jail will be decided over the next 30 days.

Cahill said these types of court cases are some of the most difficult. There is an “enormously tragic consequence,” coupled with a defendant who had a “negligent” mental state, not one that was “intentional” or “reckless,” he said.

“Mr. Hendrick certainly should have gotten some more sleep that night. He certainly should have paid attention while he was driving. Most certainly should have kept his head up. ... He did none of those things,” Cahil said in court.

“The most we can do ... is impose a prison term of two years,” Cahill said. “Even if we did that, I feel like we would fall short of honoring Mr. William Moeller’s life. I just humbly submit to the court that we cannot do that. All we can do here today is to hold Mr. Hendrick accountable for what is available under the law.”

Hendrick doesn’t have a prior criminal record. There will be a restitution hearing scheduled within 60 days.

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