‘It Should Have Been Me’: Man Sentenced for Route 4 Car Crash That Killed Father, Son 

  • During his sentencing hearing  in Windsor Superior Court Joshua Ouimette, a 26-year-old Rutland man, speaks to the family and friends of the father and son killed in an accident that Ouimette was the driver in a vehicle that police say crossed the center line on Route 4 in Bridgewater on Jan. 15, 2012. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    During his sentencing hearing in Windsor Superior Court Joshua Ouimette, a 26-year-old Rutland man, speaks to the family and friends of the father and son killed in an accident that Ouimette was the driver in a vehicle that police say crossed the center line on Route 4 in Bridgewater on Jan. 15, 2012.
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • In Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Anastasia Raleigh listens during the sentencing hearing of Joshua Ouimette, Raleigh's husband and son were killed in an accident that police say Ouimette's vehicle crossed the center line on Route 4 in Bridgewater<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    In Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Anastasia Raleigh listens during the sentencing hearing of Joshua Ouimette, Raleigh's husband and son were killed in an accident that police say Ouimette's vehicle crossed the center line on Route 4 in Bridgewater
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • In Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction Judge Katherine Hayes speaks during the sentencing hearing of Joshua Ouimette <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    In Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction Judge Katherine Hayes speaks during the sentencing hearing of Joshua Ouimette
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • During his sentencing hearing  in Windsor Superior Court Joshua Ouimette, a 26-year-old Rutland man, speaks to the family and friends of the father and son killed in an accident that Ouimette was the driver in a vehicle that police say crossed the center line on Route 4 in Bridgewater on Jan. 15, 2012. <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • In Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction, Anastasia Raleigh listens during the sentencing hearing of Joshua Ouimette, Raleigh's husband and son were killed in an accident that police say Ouimette's vehicle crossed the center line on Route 4 in Bridgewater<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • In Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction Judge Katherine Hayes speaks during the sentencing hearing of Joshua Ouimette <br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

White River Junction — Anastasia Raleigh held up a framed portrait of her 10-year-old son and turned toward Joshua Ouimette in Windsor Superior Court.

“This is my Travis. He was a happy boy,” Raleigh said yesterday during a victim impact statement. “He loved the beach, he loved the water, he loved Vermont and he wanted to become an actor.”

Ouimette, the 26-year-old Rutland man whose car crossed the center line and slammed into the Raleighs’ oncoming vehicle on Route 4 in Bridgewater, killing Raleigh’s husband and son, began to sob. His attorney, Brian Marsicovetere, handed him a tissue.

It was an emotional day in Windsor Superior Court yesterday as Ouimette pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor counts of careless or negligent operation of a vehicle after a car crash that killed Las Vegas lawyer Christopher Raleigh and his son, Travis. Both the Ouimette and Raleigh families were in attendance yesterday, and even judge Katherine Hayes wept as she passed judgment in the case.

Hayes sentenced Ouimette to 30 days in prison, which he will serve on consecutive weekends starting at 6 p.m. today. Ouimette also will be placed on probation for three years and must complete 400 hours of community service . He cannot be convicted of any traffic violations during probation and also must pay a $2,000 fine.

Ouimette had initially been charged with gross negligent operation resulting in a fatality, but pleaded guilty yesterday to the lesser counts in a plea bargain.

On Jan. 15, 2012, Ouimette was driving west on Route 4 toward Killington with his fiancee and baby. The family had just left a family reunion in Manchester, N.H., and was returning home so Ouimette could go to work at the Killington Deli. At the same time, Anastasia Raleigh, her husband Christopher, their 13-year-old son James and 10-year-old son Travis were traveling east on Route 4 toward White River Junction. The family was visiting Vermont and had just attended a funeral for Christopher Raleigh’s mother.

Around 12:30 p.m., Ouimette drifted into the eastbound lane in Bridgewater, hitting the Raleighs’ 2011 Ford Escape. Neither driver braked.

Family members criticized Ouimette yesterday for not sharing why he was distracted, but Ouimette said in the court room that he doesn’t remember. Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said during the hearing that police officers investigating the crash determined that Ouimette likely turned and looked at his baby.

Members of the victims’ family gave statements that called Ouimette “worse than a monster” and described their disgust for him. But Ouimette’s employer and coworker at Killington Deli took the witness stand and described Ouimette as a meticulous, hard working father who is going to school.

Ouimette’s stepfather, Thomas Fuller, said when Ouimette found out from police that Christopher and Travis Raleigh had died, Fuller said Ouimette was devastated.

“He was crying and kept mumbling, ‘It should have been me, it should have been me,’ ” Fuller said from the witness stand.

Anastasia Raleigh gave her account of the accident. The family was traveling on a fairly straight section of Route 4, she said. When the cars collided, her family’s car went off the edge of the roadway and tipped onto the driver’s side. Her son James was sitting on the passenger side with his seat belt on, and when the vehicle came to a rest, Raleigh said, James found himself suspended over his brother’s lifeless body. James then broke the passenger side window so he could crawl out of the car.

“He broke the window so hard that he broke his arm,” Anastasia Raleigh said.

Back at home in Las Vegas, Travis’ friends held vigils and turned his empty school desk into a memorial, covering it with poems and pictures.

Her husband worked with her at a law firm in Las Vegas, but after Christopher Raleigh’s death, the law firm merged into a larger firm.

“Without his support, I find myself questioning most of my decisions,” Anastasia Raleigh said.

When it was Ouimette’s turn to speak, he turned the podium around so it was facing the audience. He looked at the Raleigh family as he said that when he is with his son, he is reminded of how much the Raleigh family has lost.

“What I did and what you lost will haunt me for the rest of my life,” Ouimette said as he began to cry. “Mr. Raleigh and Travis’ death completely changed my existence.”

He added that he has decided to dedicate his life to helping others and plans to be a nurse or study medicine.

“Whenever I feel like giving up, I think about your family,” Ouimette said.

Ouimette has been on conditions of release with no driving privileges for a year and a half, his attorney Marsicovetere said. Marsicovetere argued that the plea agreement was fair.

“This is a good person, judge,” Marsicovetere said. “This is a good person who made a terrible mistake.”

Before imposing the sentence, Hayes said most people have had a few moments of inattention while driving, and most people are very lucky for avoiding a similar tragedy.

After the hearing, Kainen said he thought the sentence was fair.

“I think the sentence we have is a message to society to say you can’t do this and there is a punishment,” Kainen said. “The inattention in this case may be an inattention that many of us have done, but it didn’t end as tragically as it did in this case.”

When the hearing was concluded, Anastasia Raleigh walked to the corner of the court room where Ouimette sat and spoke to him quietly while both their families stood around them watching.

When she was done speaking, Ouimette began to cry again, then they both filed out of the court room separately.

Outside, Anastasia Raleigh said, “My baby is gone. My husband is gone.”

She added that her husband loved Vermont. It is where he grew up and later attended Vermont Law School.

“Vermont was his home and it will always be his home,” she said.

Sarah Brubeck can be reached at sbrubeck@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Related

Letter: We Felt Sadness, Not Anger

Friday, July 5, 2013

To the Editor: Last Thursday my family and I attended a plea agreement hearing in Vermont Superior Court for Joshua Ouimette, who was involved in a tragic accident in January 2012 that took the lives of my brother, Chris, and my nephew, his 10-year-old son, Travis. As with any tragic event, a lot of people suffered immense pain and grief. …