Timothy Dowd spent just over three minutes in a Burlington courtroom Wednesday morning, but those three minutes set the stage for a possible lifetime in prison.
"I think the facts in this case are so egregious and so outrageous," Chittenden County Prosecutor T.J. Donovan said.
Prosecutors levied a murder charge against Dowd-- the first of its kind in Vermont-- for allegedly killing someone with his car. They say Dowd was drunk when he sped away from police and blew through 2 stop signs and 7 red lights-- hoping to outrun the cops and avoid jail time if he got a 5th DUI conviction.
Meanwhile-- Kaye Borneman had no clue Dowd was rocketing toward her. Borneman was just heading home from the movies-- when Dowd slammed into her car. "And because of that reckless behavior, Kathryn Borneman is no longer with us," Donovan said.
In other Vermont cases where wasted drivers killed people, prosecutors have typically brought a charge called DUI with death resulting. Convictions can bring 15 year prison sentences. But Dowd deserves more, State's Attorney T.J. Donovan argues. He says Dowd was heinously reckless and fully aware of the grave risks he was taking.
"He endangered all of us that night," Donovan said.
So Donovan brought a more serious count of second-degree murder.
T.J. Donovan: Frankly, I think the people of Chittenden County and the state of Vermont are fed up with repeat drunk drivers who go out and injure and kill people. We've had too many of them.
Reporter Jack Thurston: But do you think Vermont statute is on your side in terms of interpreting the laws the way they're written today?
Donovan: I think it is, in terms of the murder charge.
"If I were going to bring a second-degree murder charge, these are exactly the kinds of facts I would want," Vermont Law School Professor Cheryl Hanna said.
Hanna says more and more prosecutors around the country are treating deadly DUI crashes as murders. She says the legal theory is simple: that second-degree murder is a life lost due to disregard for danger. But she predicts trying it in Vermont will likely mean slow justice.
"We're going to expect lengthy appeals," Hanna said.
Dowd's defense lawyer, Bob Katims, entered not guilty pleas for his client. Katims declined comment on the upgraded charges as Dowd was brought back to jail in shackles.
Several of Kaye Borneman's friends were in court Wednesday, too. They didn't want to speak on camera, but wanted us to know their Kaye had a remarkable spirit and they're terribly sad to have had her taken away from them. They vowed to be in court every step of the way even though they know it could take a long time for this case to reach a conclusion.
The next step in this case will come later this week. Dowd is due back in court Friday. He'll be asking the judge to let him out of jail on bail, but the Burlington Police Department will back up the prosecutor's charges of how reckless Dowd was-- telling the judge how he led them on a simply wild chase that endangered the whole city.
While it is believed Dowd is Vermont's first repeated drunk driver charged with murder, another high-profile roadway death involving a police chase also brought second-degree murder charges. In 2003, Eric Daley swerved out of control after Vermont State Police laid down spike strips to end a high-speed chase. Daley killed Sgt. Michael Johnson, 39, of Bradford. Daley initially faced murder charges but ultimately was convicted of lesser offenses. He is currently serving a 26-33 year sentence.
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