Benjamin Miller took one last look at his Bible before the judge sat down. The 18-year-old driver from Belvidere is charged with gross negligence, DUI and leaving the scene of an accident that killed a New Hampshire man in June.
"Everyone makes mistakes when you're younger, but this is a mistake that is going to stay with him for the rest of his life," Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux said.
Miller denied killing Ronald Turgeon, 56, of Berlin, N.H., pleading not guilty to all the three charges.
According to court documents, Miller was huffing dust cleaner moments before the crash. The compressed gas is meant to clean debris from electronic devices. But if inhaled, it can be fatal. Huffing made Miller black out. And police say his foot was still on the gas pedal, sending his Subaru zooming through Johnson on Route 15. Miller's passenger told police he tried to yell out to Benjamin but it was too late. Their car slammed into the back of the motorcycle and the operator rolled onto their hood, and then underneath their car.
"It's just very, very difficult for a family to absorb that," Marcoux said. "That someone would leave a loved one lying on the side of the road."
"Everybody started turning around," Bobbie Moulton said.
Moulton remembers thinking he ran into a fender bender that afternoon. He didn't know it was a hit-and-run, and had no idea Turgeon was left for dead on Route 15.
"I wasn't prepared to see that," Moulton said. "And the way he was in the road, I knew it wasn't good."
"It's a senseless waste of life," said Monty Springer of the Motorcycle Riders Foundation.
Springer didn't know Turgeon, but as a motorcycle rights advocate he says he'll continue to come to court until he gets justice for his fellow rider.
"I've got a 12-year-old son who rides with me," Springer said. "This could have been just as easily me and my son out there."
If convicted, Miller could face up to 15 years behind bars. He's currently enrolled in a residential rehabilitation program and under his conditions of release he cannot leave the facility without a parent.
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