Family and friends of Art and Peggy Moran watched as Alexis Gabree, 27, pleaded not guilty to two counts of gross negligent operation with death resulting for allegedly killing the beloved couple in a car crash last August.
"We're all having a very hard time with it," said Thomas Moran, the victims' son.
The elderly couple was killed in a crash on Route 105 in North Troy just minutes after they left Sunday morning mass. Police say Alexis Gabree was speeding and her license had been revoked for failing to pay traffic fines when she crossed the centerline and hit the couple head on.
"The speed was a huge factor, 17 mph over the limit over the brow of a hill is significant. Also, she was operating without a license and the ingestion of drugs played into the picture," Orleans County Assistant State's Attorney James Lillicrap said.
According to prosecutors, at the time of the accident, Gabree was headed to the state prison in Newport to visit her boyfriend. And her boyfriend had raised concerns before the crash about her ability to drive because she started abusing pills again. And court documents show Gabree admitted smoking marijuana the night before the deadly collision.
"We have a toxicology report of 11 different drugs in her bloodstream," Lillicrap said.
"These weren't two old people," Thomas Moran said. "They enjoyed life."
The victims' family calls the deaths needless and obscene. The Morans were devoted to each other, married for more than 50 years. They made an impact on their communities, first in Burlington and then in the Northeast Kingdom, where they ran the Jay Country Store.
"Issues were important to them," their son said.
They were champions for people with mental health needs and faithful to their local church.
"It's hard on a lot of people, my parent's death," Moran said. "It wasn't just the family who experienced, it was a lot of the community."
If convicted, Gabree faces up to 30 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Gabree was under the influence of drugs, but she is not charged with DUI. Prosecutors say that's because due to her years of prescription pill abuse, Gabree's system had built up a strong tolerance, and it's unclear how the abuse at the time of the crash had impacted her driving that day. And the penalty for DUI and gross negligent operation death resulting is the same-- a maximum of 15 years.
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