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A Griswold man charged in a hit-and-run crash that claimed the life of pedestrian Grover Moree in Stonington on April 25 had been drinking with his co-workers for several hours prior to the incident, according to police.
Aaron J. Caswell, 30, drove away after striking Moree, 51, of Pawcatuck just after 5 a.m. near the intersection of Routes 2 and 78. Caswell turned up at the Stonington Police Department about four hours later with an attorney and provided a false statement, police allege in an arrest warrant affidavit. He denied drinking or using drugs the previous night. He could not be tested for intoxication due to the amount of time that had passed.
Moree, found lying face down on the side of Route 2 by passers-by who used their cars to block traffic, was conscious and speaking at the scene. He died later at Rhode Island Hospital.
Arrested Thursday on the strength of a warrant affidavit prepared by Patrolman Matthew B. Capalbo, Caswell was arraigned Friday in New London Superior Court on charges of evading responsibility, misconduct with a motor vehicle, second-degree false statement and tampering with a witness. He pleaded not guilty. Judge Kevin P. McMahon set his bond at $125,000 and ordered him not to drive. Should he make bond, the judge ordered Caswell to be monitored electronically and confined to his home except for work, medical and legal appointments. Caswell’s next court date is June 27.
At the police station on the morning of the incident, Caswell was noticeably upset and crying and smelled of alcohol but was able to speak clearly and said he had consumed only an energy drink, according to the affidavit.
An assembler at Davis-Standard, Caswell said he worked until 3 a.m. and went to the home of a co-worker in Westerly and played cards. He said he left at 4:30 a.m. in his Mazda Millenia, drove through downtown Westerly and turned onto Route 2. He said he was driving about 30 mph and reaching for an energy drink when he heard “a thud.” He thought he hit an animal and continued driving, he said. He noticed cold air in the car and pulled over about 2.5 miles away from the scene and discovered a “spider web” hole in the car’s windshield. He said he called his sister and drove back to the scene at her recommendation, but found the road blocked off. He said he went to his mother’s house, who advised him to call an attorney and go to the police department.
Police seized the Mazda, which had sustained extensive front-end damage, with a 1-foot hole in the windshield and glass scattered throughout the interior. Officers interviewed co-workers, including the man whose house Caswell claimed to visit. The co-workers said Caswell had gone to Hootie’s Goodtimes Cafe in Pawcatuck, where he drank Woodchuck Cider, and to the Pawcatuck home of co-worker Andrew Plante, where he consumed Gentleman Jack whiskey for several hours. Plante said Caswell was severely intoxicated and that he suggested “multiple times” that he should not drive.
Police recovered surveillance video from the bar showing Caswell drinking hard cider and shots of Dr. McGillicuddy’s schnapps and paying a $41 tab with a credit card. The time of day indicated on the video’s time ticker does not jibe with the time Caswell was witnessed drinking in the bar, according to the affidavit. The police also recovered video from Evans Mobil station on West Broad Street that showed a swaying Caswell purchasing two bags of Doritos and an energy drink at 5:06 a.m. Brenton Bilo, the co-worker whose home Caswell said he had visited, told police Caswell had called him, said he had hit someone with a car and lied about being at Bilo’s house because he “froze up.”
Caswell, who has a previous felony drug conviction in Rhode Island, faces up to 25 years if convicted.