Vt. Man Accepts Plea Bargain For Sex Assaults, I-91 Incident
In Windsor Superior Court on Sept. 12, 2013, Quechee resident Shane Harlow, 48, pleaded guilty to two counts of sex assault for conduct with two underage girls and no contest to one count of leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly running over the body of Dartmouth College graduate student Mikhail Lomakin, 24, who was found dead on Interstate 91 last year. Next to Harlow is his attorney, Elizabeth Kruska. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — A Quechee man is going to prison for five years after being convicted of sexually abusing two young girls.
In Windsor Superior Court on Thursday, Shane Harlow, 48, pleaded guilty to two counts of sex assault. Harlow also pleaded no contest to an unrelated misdemeanor count of leaving the scene of an accident after allegedly running over the body of Mikhail Lomakin last October. The 24-year-old Dartmouth College graduate was found dead on Interstate 91 under mysterious circumstances.
Harlow faced the three charges simultaneously though the crimes occurred independently of each other. The sexual assaults occurred four years apart, in 2008 and in 2012, but the charges came three months after Harlow was charged in the I-91 incident.
Nearly all of Harlow’s sentence is punishment for the sex crimes. Harlow’s sentence for leaving the scene of an accident was 30 days.
In an interview on Thursday, Windsor County State’s Attorney Michael Kainen said he approved of the light sentence in connection with the I-91 incident because the autopsy and other evidence suggested that Lomakin was dead before Harlow, a former Dartmouth security guard who was on his way home from work, ran over his body
“I couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Lomakin was alive at the time,” Kainen said. “Chances are he was actually dead or (dying). If I could prove that he was alive, he would have been given a greater sentence.”
While he will be formally sentenced at a later date, Harlow’s plea deal calls for him to be sentenced to 10 to 30 years in prison, with all but five years of the minimum sentence suspended as long as he demonstrates good behavior.
Harlow’s attorney, Elizabeth Kruska, declined to comment after the hearing.
In March, while Harlow was awaiting trial for the I-91 incident, two girls came forward with allegations that they had been sexually assaulted by Harlow, whom they both knew.
As a general practice, the Valley News does not identify the victims of alleged sex crimes. Family members attended the hearing Thursday and declined to comment after.
Harlow admitted to assaulting the girls, according to a police affidavit, and told police that he “needed help” and had obtained counseling. He did not have a prior criminal record.
Lomakin, a physics student from Groton, Mass., who had just arrived in the Upper Valley, had been living in Norwich. Early in the morning of Oct. 7, he ended up on foot on the interstate near Exit 12 in Wilder under circumstances authorities have never been able to fully explain. Witnesses reported that Lomakin had been drinking in the hours before his death.
While lying on the pavement, he was struck by at least two vehicles.
“Even if (Harlow) rendered assistance … it wouldn’t have made a difference in the guy’s life,” Kainen said Thursday.
Vermont law requires drivers involved in an accident in which another person is injured or property is damaged to “immediately stop and render any assistance reasonably necessary,” and provide a name, address and license plate number to law enforcement.
Harlow said he called Hartford police shortly after hitting Lomakin. That telephone call was captured in court documents:
“Yeah, I was just, ah, driving 91 heading north …” Harlow said. (He was actually driving south, but mistakenly said north, according to court documents.)
“And there’s a vehicle pulled to the side of the road?” the Hartford dispatcher said. “On 91 southbound, correct?”
“Um, southbound, I don’t know, it looks like there was a guy in the road, looks like got run over,” Harlow said.
“Yeah, I got ambulance and police en route,” the dispatcher said.
“OK, great,” Harlow said.
“Thank you,” the dispatcher said.
“Yep, bye,” Harlow said.
Harlow did not tell the dispatcher that he struck Lomakin and did not provide his name or address, according to a State Police affidavit. The dispatcher never asked for that information, according to court documents.
Harlow later told police that he did not have time to stop or swerve to avoid Lomakin’s body, and instead tried to straddle the object in the road. As he passed over the object, Harlow said, he saw a head and then heard a bump under his car. He said he applied the brakes and slowed to roughly 50 mph, but did not stop. He went to his mother’s home in Hartford, checked his Toyota Highlander and saw no visible damage. He told police he had difficulty sleeping that night.
A state police crime scene team found blood under Harlow’s car.
A motorist who ran over Lomakin’s body after Harlow, Windsor resident Justin Ciccarelli, 37, was also on his way home after work on a Dartmouth security shift. Ciccarelli, a former police dispatcher who still works at Dartmouth, pulled over, called 911 and stayed on the scene for several hours. Ciccarelli was not charged.
The investigation into Lomakin’s death had no connection to the sex assault charges against Harlow. Investigators worked for months trying to piece together the final hours of Lomakin’s life, to understand how he ended up on the interstate and explored the possibility that an initial driver ran over Lomakin, before Harlow and Ciccarelli, all to no avail.
“The trail ran cold,” Kainen said. “A lot of unanswered questions.”
Mark Davis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3304.
This story has been amended to correct an earlier error. Windsor resident Justin Ciccarelli’s vehicle struck the body of Mikhail Lomakin on Interstate 91 after it had already been hit by a vehicle driven by Shane Harlow. Ciccarelli, a Dartmouth security officer, stopped at the scene and summoned authorities. An earlier version of this story on Harlow’s conviction in the October 2012 incident misstated the sequence of events.