Court Documents: Plea Deal in Works for Driver Accused in Wrong-Way I-89 Collision

  • Daniel Cowdrey, 38, of Hartland, Vt., left, listens as attorney Paul Groce, right, speaks for him during his arraignment in Lebanon District Court on a charge of negligent homicide Thursday, May 26, 2016. Cowdrey is alleged to have been driving drunk, traveling north in the southbound lane of Interstate 89 in Lebanon, N.H. when he hit a car driven by Ellynn Koelsch, of Cranston, R.I. Koelsch was killed in the crash and her young son was seriously injured. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, November 27, 2017

North Haverhill — A 40-year-old Hartland man accused of killing a Rhode Island woman while driving the wrong way on Interstate 89 in Lebanon intends to plead guilty next week to negligent homicide and aggravated driving under the influence, according to court documents.

If the plea deal is accepted by a judge, Daniel Cowdrey would face prison time in connection with the May 25, 2016, collision that killed 34-year-old Cranston, R.I., resident Ellynn Koelsch and injured her then-4-year-old son near Exit 20.

There is a capped plea in place, according to documents filed in Grafton Superior Court. Under the terms, Cowdrey would serve six to 12 years in prison with up to 1½ years suspended, a court document indicates.

At the sentencing hearing, set for Dec. 6, the attorneys will argue before a judge about what an appropriate sentence is within the agreed-to range, a court clerk said on Monday.

The judge ultimately would decide the length of the sentence, or the plea could be rejected.

Most of the documents in Cowdrey’s case have been filed under seal, so there has been little insight on the potential outcome of the case.

Cowdrey has remained out on bail since his May 2016 arraignment on several charges in connection with the crash. He has pleaded not guilty to a total of seven charges.

Cowdrey told state police he “had a few beers with some friends” at the Peking Tokyo restaurant in downtown Lebanon, according to a police affidavit, and wound up driving his car north in the southbound lanes of I-89.

Prosecutors initially charged the restaurant’s owners with overserving Cowdrey, but that count of prohibited sales has since been dismissed.

Cowdrey allegedly hit another car on the Exit 19 off-ramp in Lebanon that night before colliding moments later with the Koelsches’ vehicle, according to the indictment paperwork.

Messages left for Cowdrey’s public defender, Jeremiah Newhall, weren’t returned on Monday.

Grafton County Attorney Lara Saffo said she couldn’t comment on the pending matter. Assistant Grafton County Attorney Viktoriya Kovalenko is prosecuting the case.

Attempts to reach Koelsch’s husband, Adam, were unsuccessful.

Ellynn Koelsch and her son were in the Upper Valley that weekend visiting a preschool. The Koelsches were planning on moving with their ministry to the University of Vermont, according to a post on the Facebook page of North Kingstown, R.I.’s West Bay Christian Academy shortly after the incident.

Cowdrey’s plea and sentencing hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 6.

Traffic court records indicate the May 2016 crash was the second such incident in which Cowdrey was involved.

Those records show he was at fault when he crossed the center line on Route 4 in Woodstock in 2001 and collided with an oncoming vehicle driven by an expectant mother who suffered several broken bones and a lacerated spleen.

He had a blood alcohol content of .046, which is below the legal limit for an adult driver of a passenger vehicle. He did not face criminal charges in that incident, but received a fine.

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