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Jim Kenyon: Strafford Man Gets a Helping Hand After Prescription Drug DUI Case

  • Valley News columnist Jim Kenyon in West Lebanon, N.H., on September 15, 2016. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.


Sunday, January 06, 2019

The electric bill has been paid up. The old generator that was on the fritz has been replaced. The new heating fuel tank is scheduled to be filled any day now.

Life is slowly getting better for Scott Pixley and his disabled parents — thanks to the generosity of residents of the Upper Valley and beyond. The Pixleys, who live in an aging mobile home on the outskirts of Strafford, didn’t ask for help.

Which I think is partly the reason so many people — well over 100 people have donated to the Pixleys’ cause — have contributed in the family’s time of need.

“Scott is not huge on attention,” said Heather Cray, who once worked with him at Kendal, a Hanover retirement community. “He has a lot of pride. He wants to work for everything he gets.”

I met Scott Pixley, 42, in August after a Strafford couple told me about his predicament. A few days earlier, Pixley was driving to the Walmart pharmacy in West Lebanon to pick up prescriptions for his parents before heading to Kendal, where he’s been a dishwasher for going on eight years.

Another motorist, following behind Pixley on Route 14 in Hartford that morning, reported him to Hartford police for “erratic driving.” Shortly thereafter, Pixley was pulled over. He agreed to a roadside Breathalyzer test, which showed a reading of .000 percent.

Hartford cops still arrested him, however, on suspicion of driving under the influence. He was taken in handcuffs to the police station and later to Mt. Ascutney Hospital in Windsor for blood tests.

Hartford police later cited Pixley for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs. Considering that blood tests showed the only drugs in Pixley’s system were caffeine and a prescription antidepressant that he’d been taking for 10 years under a physician’s care, the cops’ decision to pursue the case seemed way over the top.

But fortunately, common sense — to some degree, at least — took over. Windsor County State’s Attorney David Cahill reduced the charge to negligent driving. In late November, Cahill and Lebanon attorney Charlie Buttrey, who took Pixley’s case pro bono, worked out a deal. In exchange for pleading guilty, Pixley received a deferred sentence that allows him to maintain his driving privileges, which he needs to keep his job and bring his parents, neither of whom drive, to medical appointments.

If Pixley stays out of trouble for a year, the conviction gets erased.

The plea arrangement also requires Pixley to take a six-hour “safe driver class,” offered by the Hartford Community Restorative Justice Center, that starts this week.

Tapping into a GoFundMe account started by a friend, Pixley bought new tires for his 2007 Chrysler minivan. He’s also purchased much-needed new work boots and a winter jacket.

A group in Strafford called Neighbors Helping Neighbors is paying for heating fuel (a Vermont program covered the cost of replacing an old tank that no longer met state regulations).

“We’re a lot better off now than we were three months ago,” Pixley said. “We never realized how many people out there cared about us.”

Marvin Pixley, 78, suffers from a heart ailment that hospitalized him in early November. Kandy Pixley, 63, gets around in a wheelchair, after losing her left leg below the knee to diabetes.

Randy Coffin, who helps run Neighbors Helping Neighbors, told me that more than 100 contributions have come in, including from people with no ties to Strafford.

“The way in which Scott was arrested and accused was such a shock,” Coffin said. “It just seemed extreme.

“Then there was the part of him being in trouble that he couldn’t readily get out of. People who knew the family wanted to help, and this was the way that they could.”

Neighbors Helping Neighbors has performed good deeds around Strafford for nearly 30 years. It uses donations to pay bills and make purchases on the behalf of struggling individuals and families.

Coffin didn’t want to say how much had been collected, preferring to keep the matter between the group and the Pixleys. “It added up to a substantial amount that helped resolve their issues,” she said.

When a heavy, wet snow followed by freezing temperatures hit after Thanksgiving, the Pixleys were among thousands of Vermonters to lose power for several days. The new generator that Scott Pixley bought with donated money was a lifesaver for his parents, he said.

Without it, “I would have had to take them someplace where it was warm. I wasn’t going to let them sit home for three days and get sick.”

After reading about everything Pixley had been through in recent months, Cray, his former co-worker at Kendal, checked in with him on Facebook to see how he was doing. Their conversation turned to his mother. Knowing that Cray was now a hair stylist at Just Paradise in West Lebanon, Pixley asked about making an appointment — he wanted to do something special for his mother before the holidays.

After the appointment, Pixley reached for his wallet. But Cray stopped him. “There’s no charge,” she said.

A few weeks later, Kandy Pixley was still talking about Cray’s act of kindness. “I got my hair done and I felt like a new person,” she said.

As the Pixleys have discovered, neighbors helping neighbors can stretch well beyond a town’s boundaries. And sometimes it takes a tricky predicament to find out just how many neighbors you have.

Jim Kenyon can be reached at jkenyon@vnews.com.