Fatal Crash Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

Springfield, Vt., Man Faces Hit-and-Run Allegations

Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, June 13, 2016

White River Junction — The 21-year-old Springfield, Vt., driver accused of hitting and killing a pedestrian and then leaving the scene of the crash told police he knew he hit someone but opted to drive home because he “didn’t know what to do,” according to a state police affidavit in the case.

James Ribeiro also told police that the incident happened when he glanced down at his cellphone, which was in the cup holder of his car, according to the affidavit.

“He stated that he looked down at the phone and when he looked back up, it was too late,” Sgt. Jeremy Fitzgibbons wrote in an affidavit filed in Windsor Superior Court in White River Junction.

Police allege Ribeiro struck two pedestrians on the evening of June 9 on River Street in Springfield, killing 37-year-old Steven Lapre. Police say 31-year-old Pamela Runnells suffered serious injuries; she complained of pain in her right leg and hip immediately after the accident. She was transported to Springfield Hospital and subsequently airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

A DHMC spokesperson on Monday said he wasn’t authorized to release an update on Runnells’ condition.

Ribeiro faces two felony charges of leaving the scene of a crash with a fatality resulting. He pleaded not guilty to both counts on Friday in Windsor Superior Court.

Ribeiro was released on $25,000 bail and conditions, including that he have no contact with Runnells.

On Monday, Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill said Ribeiro faces two counts because Vermont’s “leaving the scene” statute has two prongs, or parts. A prosecutor must prove that an individual failed to stop and render aid to the person who was injured or that the person failed to stop and give required information to law enforcement, including license, registration and insurance information.

“I charged one count per prong. But it’s not double jeopardy because even if a jury concluded that he violated both prongs, only one conviction would be entered,” Cahill said on Monday.

A message left for Ribeiro’s attorney, Jordana Levine, wasn’t returned.

According to the affidavit, police received a call around 10 p.m. on Thursday about a male subject who was “down” in the roadway on River Street. While on scene, police learned that a “distraught subject” who claimed he hit two people with his car was in the lobby of the Springfield Police Department.

Ribeiro told police he was having a text message conversation with his girlfriend at the McDonald’s off Route 11 in Springfield before the crash. When he left the fast-food restaurant, he said, he put his phone in the cup holder. While driving along River Street, he told police he heard his phone vibrate, which prompted him to look down at it, according to the affidavit.

After the crash — but before he turned himself in at the police station — Ribeiro told police he smoked marijuana, according to the affidavit. The investigation is ongoing.

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