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Man Faces Alcohol Charge After Employee Dies



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 10, 2018

White River Junction — The owner of a snowmobile tour company in Vermont has pleaded not guilty to enabling a minor with alcohol, a charge that arose after an employee of the company died when he crashed a snowmobile on his way home from a shift at the Plymouth, Vt.-based business.

Michael Lynds of Snowmobile Vermont was arraigned on Tuesday in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction on the misdemeanor charge, and Judge Timothy Tomasi released him on conditions, including that he not allow anyone under the age of 21 to drink on his property.

Lynds, of Bridgewater Corners, allegedly let 20-year-old Stephen Titus, of Reading, Vt., drink alcohol after work with other employees at the shop, according to the affidavit. Located along Route 100A in Plymouth, it has long been known as Spike’s Place.

Titus left the business on the evening of March 19, but never made it home. Around 10 a.m. the following day, co-workers and friends found Titus’ body on a portion of a snowmobile trail about a mile east of the intersection of Brown School House Road and the Rich Trail in Reading.

Vermont State Police investigators concluded that Titus, who had a blood alcohol content of 0.18 and also had marijuana in his system, failed to negotiate a curve on his sled and collided with a tree. Speed also was a factor, police said. Titus was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, but it was unbuckled and came off of his head upon impact, according to court documents.

Police investigators interviewed several of Titus’ co-workers and friends in the weeks and months after the crash, some of whom said they had seen Titus drink after work at the business. At least one person who was with Titus on the night before he was found dead said Titus had been drinking that evening with other employees, non-employees and Lynds, who also goes by “Spike,” according to the affidavit.

Titus, a first-year employee, allegedly wasn’t the only underage person who Lynds knew drank on the property, the affidavit states.

“Mr. Lynds has allowed underaged drinking to occur ... on the property for years and had no specific plan to get people home safe,” Trooper Joseph Pregent wrote in the affidavit.

Lynds declined to be interviewed by police, and referred an officer to his attorney, according to the affidavit. A message left for his attorney, Matthew Branchaud, on Tuesday wasn’t returned, and neither were messages left for Lynds at his home and business.

One employee at the business told police that Titus sometimes lied about his age, telling people he was over the age of 21, while another employee said sometimes the tour guides would be tipped by customers in beer, the affidavit said. There was a refrigerator where employees would keep alcohol and anyone could access it, according to the affidavit.

Police initially cited Lynds into court on a felony-level charge of enabling consumption by a minor leading to death or serious bodily injury, but Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill charged Lynds with a misdemeanor.

Reached by telephone on Tuesday, Titus’ mother, Christina, said she had no comment and referred a reporter to the family’s attorney, Richard Windish. A message left for Windish wasn’t returned.

Titus’ parents have said their son was a group leader for Killington Snowmobile Tours, which is part of Snowmobile Vermont.

Lynds is next due in court on March 7.

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