Vermont woman to plead guilty in fatal wrong-way DUI crash

  • Sarah Love, of Waitsfield, Vt., right, is arraigned remotely before Vermont Superior Court judge Michael Kainen on Dec. 7, 2021, in White River Junction, Vt., for Love’s involvement as a driver in the Nov. 23 fatal crash on Interstate 91. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News file image — Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/23/2023 8:43:36 PM
Modified: 5/23/2023 8:41:06 PM

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — A Vermont woman intends to plead guilty to driving the wrong way on Interstate 91 while intoxicated in Windsor and crashing head-on into a vehicle, killing the other driver a few days before Thanksgiving in 2021.

Sarah Love, of Fayston, Vt., will plead guilty to the charges of driving under the influence with fatality resulting and negligent operation of a vehicle, according to a plea agreement she filed in Windsor County Superior Court.

The plea agreement, which Love signed May 8, calls for Love to be sentenced to five to 15 years in prison, all suspended except for three years. Probationary conditions include not consuming alcohol and successful completion of a restorative justice program.

Jury draw for a trial had been set for May 18.

Love, 36, is scheduled for a change of plea and sentencing at Windsor court in White River Junction on July 18, according to court records. She has been released on bail since charges were brought against her in December 2021.

Windsor County State’s Attorney Ward Goodenough, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment.

Love’s defense attorney, Robert Kaplan of Burlington, did not respond to messages seeking comment on Tuesday.

The Nov. 23 crash — which police said occurred when an intoxicated Love drove her SUV north in the southbound lanes on I-91 and collided with two other vehicles near mile marker 56 in Windsor — killed Kathleen Spence, 59, of Rockingham, Vt., the driver of one of the vehicles, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The other motorist suffered minor injuries.

At the time she was killed, Spence, a graduate of Bellows Falls Union High School, had been working as a server at Denny’s in West Lebanon. A talented seamstress who also sold cosmetics door-to-door, Spence had worked as a food server at various eateries in the region, including Exit Ate Diner in Ascutney and Father’s Restaurant in Westminster, Vt.

Police were first alerted by motorists on the afternoon of Nov. 23 of an erratic driver heading south on I-91 who had pulled over to the side of the highway briefly before making a U-turn and heading north in the southbound lane, according to the police affidavit.

Eleven minutes after Love’s vehicle was witnessed making the U-turn, police received a report of a head-on collision at mile marker 56.

When officers arrived at the scene, they found three vehicles strewn about the highway: a Nissan SUV with Love seat-belted inside; a Chevrolet Cavalier with Spence “possibly deceased and still in her vehicle,” and a Fiat 500 driven by a woman who said she had been driving southbound when she swerved to avoid a head-on crash with Love’s vehicle but was struck and spun into the median.

Love was observed by troopers at the scene to be impaired and showing signs of slurred speech as well as bloodshot and watery eyes along with the smell of alcohol, according to the affidavit. Cans of a high-alcohol-volume beer were inside her vehicle.

Police said that Love swung between being polite one moment and uncooperative the next and refused to get out of her vehicle.

Later, at the hospital, she refused to consent to an evaluation by a drug recognition expert and a voluntary blood draw, which police said they had to obtain a warrant to conduct.

Contact John Lippman at

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