When most kids are just starting to legally drive, 16-year-old James Companion is facing charges he drove drunk and killed his passenger in a fiery crash -- and police say he doesn't even have a license or a permit.
"He's really still in shock as can be expected. This is a tragedy for everybody who was involved," said Leroy Yoder, Companion's lawyer.
Police say the St. Albans teenager was driving more than double the posted speed limit on Bay Road in Colchester when he lost control, crossed the center line and slammed into a utility pole. Eyewitnesses say the car burst into flames. Police say the passenger, 25-year old Tasha Maring, was trapped inside the burning vehicle and died.
According to court papers, Companion told police the two were friends and they went out on Friday night to buy more beer. He also said he'd consumed five shots before getting behind the wheel. But when police asked him to take a breathalyzer test, he refused.
"It's a very serious case regardless of age and we're going to be treating it as such," said Chittenden County Dep. State's Attorney Bram Kranichfeld. Kranichfeld added that Companion's age will not impact how the case is prosecuted
In court, Companion pleaded not guilty, denying he was behind the wheel. He says Maring was driving. But police say the evidence puts her in the passenger seat.
If convicted, Companion faces up to 15 years behind bars. The judge set bail at 25-thousand dollars, but if the St. Albans teen cannot make bail, it is unclear where he will be held.
"A sixteen year old can be held in an adult facility, but cannot be put in adult population. But it appears that Woodside would be the placement at this point," Leroy Yoder said.
Companion and his mom hugged before the teen was led away in handcuffs.
Friday, April 18 2014 1:59 PM EDT2014-04-18 17:59:13 GMT
Vt. State Police say a small plane has crashed on Interstate 89 north in Highgate. A state airport official confirms that a single-engine aerobatic plane was in the vicinity of the Franklin County StateMore >>
Officials say a single-engine aerobatic plane was practicing when its engine failed. The pilot parachuted to safety.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 1:02 PM EDT2014-04-18 17:02:32 GMT
A sugaring season was cut short in Swanton overnight after a shed caught fire. Fire officials tell us they got the call around 1:30 a.m. Friday for the sugarhouse fire on Woods Hill Road. They say theMore >>
Sugaring season was cut short in Swanton early Friday morning after a shed caught fire. More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:36 PM EDT2014-04-18 16:36:37 GMT
New York lawmakers are engaging the public in the fight against the rise of opiate addiction. The state Senate has created a task force to hear from law enforcement, health care, social service and educationMore >>
New York lawmakers are engaging the public in the fight against the rise of opiate addiction.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 10:04 AM EDT2014-04-18 14:04:26 GMT
This week, the first line of emergency responders are being recognized for their work. National Telecommunicators Week ends Saturday. It's a national week honoring the men and women who work around-the-clockMore >>
This week, the first line of emergency responders are being recognized for their work.More >>