Norwich woman charged with striking two pedestrians, fleeing scene

Amalia Rivera looks back toward her family in the gallery after appearing in front of Judge Kevin McMahon in Norwich Superior Court Monday, October 15, 2012. Rivera faces charges in connection with a hit-and-run incident on Hamilton Avenue in Norwich Friday night.
Amalia Rivera looks back toward her family in the gallery after appearing in front of Judge Kevin McMahon in Norwich Superior Court Monday, October 15, 2012. Rivera faces charges in connection with a hit-and-run incident on Hamilton Avenue in Norwich Friday night. Sean D. Elliot/The Day

Norwich — A Norwich woman told police that she was gambling and drinking at Foxwoods Resort Casino Friday night before she drove into two pedestrians in a hit-and-run accident on Hamilton Avenue that left one of her victims with an amputated leg, according to a police report.

Amalia Rivera, 36, of 40 Donahue Drive, was arraigned Monday in Norwich Superior Court on two counts of second-degree assault, evading responsibility and failure to drive right.

Before setting Rivera's bond at $70,000, Judge Kevin McMahon called the crime "gruesome" and said that Rivera had gotten herself into "bad, bad trouble." Rivera's relatives were in court, some sobbing. They declined to comment.

McMahon said he reduced the bond slightly from her initial $100,000 because she had been employed full time at the Mohegan Sun casino for 16 years. A bail commissioner also said she had no criminal record. Her case was continued to Oct. 29.

When responding to the scene in the area of 365 Hamilton Ave. about 7:22 p.m. Friday, police saw heavy rear-end damage to an Acura, which was parked on the east side of Hamilton Avenue. They also found a 20-year-old woman, later identified as Melissa Laribee, with a partially amputated right leg.

Laribee was initially taken to the William W. Backus Hospital before she was transferred Hartford Hospital, where she was listed Monday in good condition.

The responding officer said he attempted to talk to Laribee, but she was unable to answer questions because she was screaming in pain. Witnesses were rendering medical aid to Laribee until emergency responders arrived.

Her boyfriend, Joseph Patch, was holding Laribee. He too was injured and was admitted to Backus with a partially collapsed lung. He was released Monday from the hospital, a spokesman said.

A woman who lives at 365 Hamilton Ave. told police she was folding laundry in her bedroom when she heard a screeching sound followed by a crash and a woman screaming.

The witness ran outside and saw a dark four-door car smash into a neighbor's car. The witness said she ran up to the car, and the driver, later identified as Rivera, looked at her and took off, the report said.

At the crash scene, police recovered a headlight assembly, which had the Chrysler logo. Police checked the area and found a Chrysler 300 with what appeared to be fresh front-end damage at 40 Donahue Drive.

An officer asked Rivera if she was driving the car earlier in day, which she said she had.

"Rivera stated 'this must be about the dog I hit,''' the report said. "Rivera said while on the way home from the casino she believed she hit a dog, but because it was too dark she just continued home."

Rivera was taken into custody. While at police headquarters, she told police that she had gone to Foxwoods Resort Casino about 5 p.m. She said she went alone and played the slot machines and drank two glasses of wine.

She told police that she left the casino traveling westbound on Route 2 and then took a right onto Hamilton Avenue. She said while driving home she remembered hitting something but did not know what she hit.

"Rivera stated she remembers it making a loud noise but believed she hit some sort of animal," the report said. "Rivera said she did not get out of the vehicle, she just drove home because she just wanted to go home. Rivera stated once she got home she just went into the house and told her daughter that she believed she hit something."

When police told her that had struck two people, she told police that she did not remember the events of the evening clearly.

She also told police that she could not say for certain if she heard someone yelling after her car struck the victims.

"Maybe, I really cannot remember, but there might have been someone yelling, but I just wanted to get home," she told police.

Rivera told police that she doesn't drink often and even small amounts of alcohol affect her.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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