Arrest warrant details fatal hit-and-run in New London

The accused driver in a hit-and-run crash that killed a Connecticut College student on Dec. 18 had been drinking at several local bars and told a friend in the hours after the collision that he knew he hit a person because he had found a backpack strap on his car window, according to a court document.

The victim, Ahmad Anique Ashraf, also was drinking that night at a gathering of students who were celebrating a film exhibition.

James "Jamie" Sposito, 25, of 6 Clark Place, Quaker Hill, was charged last week with second-degree manslaughter, misconduct with a motor vehicle, tampering with a witness, tampering with physical evidence and evading responsibility.

Sposito posted a $150,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in New London Superior Court on Feb. 4. He has retained attorney Michael L. Chambers.

Sposito has no prior criminal record in Connecticut, but has a conviction in Massachusetts for resisting arrest and one in Maine for unlawful drug possession, according to a court document.

Details of the incident are contained in an arrest warrant written by New London patrolman Jeremy Zelinski, a trained accident investigator.

According to the warrant, Ashraf, a 20-year-old college junior from Lahore, Pakistan, was struck and killed while walking to his dormitory on the main campus from a friend's apartment on Winchester Road, which is located on the northbound side of Route 32 across from the main gate of the campus.

A driver who did not see the collision called police at 2:12 a.m. to report the victim was lying in the breakdown lane on the northbound side of the highway.

Connecticut College student Emma Radest told police that she and her classmates in the college's film program had gathered at her apartment to celebrate after a film exhibition and that all of them, including Ashraf, were drinking alcoholic beverages.

She said Ashraf had left the apartment at 1:15 a.m., then returned because he forgot his backpack, she said. He left again at about 2 a.m.

Ashraf, lying in a prone position against the curb, his arms over his head, was unresponsive when police arrived.

He was pronounced dead at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital, and the state Office of the Chief Medical examiner later determined the cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and torso.

Police said Ashraf smelled of alcohol at the scene. The medical examiner is awaiting toxicology results to determine his blood alcohol content.

Responding officers found the lower grille of a Chrysler 200 sedan at the scene and advised officers to be on the lookout for a Chrysler 200 with damage to its right side.

New London Sgt. Kevin McBride located a damaged Chrysler 200 parked in front of Sposito's house, less than 3 miles away from the accident scene.

Police spoke with Sposito, who said he had struck a deer on Route 32 on his way home from his friend Tyler McDonald's house in southern New London.

While the warrant does not indicate how many hours had passed since the collision, only blood tests taken within two hours of an incident are admissible in court under Connecticut state law pertaining to driving under the influence.

The police seized Sposito's car, which had extensive damage to the passenger side hood and windshield, a missing lower grille and hair, fibers and blood on the windshield, roof and trunk.

They spoke with McDonald and other friends of Sposito who had been out with him on the night of Dec. 17. McDonald said Sposito had picked him up at about 7 p.m. in the Chrysler, which was a rental car.

McDonald said they went to Stash's Cafe on Pequot Avenue in New London and had one beer, according to the warrant.

They met a friend, Landon Marino, at Stash's and Sposito drove them to Hot Rod Cafe on Bank Street in New London, where McDonald said they had one beer.

They went to Hanafin's Pub on State Street, where McDonald said they stayed the rest of the night and where, he believed, Sposito continued to drink beer.

McDonald said they drove to McDonald's mother's house, where nobody drank any alcohol, and that Sposito left alone at approximately 1:30 or 1:45 a.m.

McDonald said Sposito called him at 11 the next morning, upset, and said he hit "something" near Connecticut College.

Sposito told McDonald he thought he hit a deer, so he slowed down and looked in his mirror but didn't see anything and continued driving home.

Marino told police a similar story, but said the men had gone to the Black Sheep Pub in Niantic after leaving Stash's.

He said when Sposito left Hanafin's to drive to Tyler's mother's house, he believed Sposito was "buzzed," but not drunk.

McDonald and Marino said Sposito was communicating all night with Sara Chaude.

The police located Chaude, who confirmed she was communicating with Sposito by text and cellphone and that at one point, she told him to "delete her number because he was drunk and being disrespectful," according to the warrant.

She said at approximately 2:05 a.m., Sposito called her and yelled that he had just been in an accident. He told her, "I don't know what happened. It happened so fast. It was pitch black."

Chaude went to Sposito's house, where she said he smelled of alcohol and was pacing back and forth. Employed as a bartender, she said that after her shifts she frequently picks up Sposito at bars because he's intoxicated.

Eventually, Chaude said, Sposito told her, "I think I hit a person."

He said he had found the strap of a backpack on his car window, she said, but she couldn't fathom the idea that he had struck a person and "continued to focus on the fact that Sposito struck a deer."

Chaude said she and Sposito went to sleep around 5 or 5:30 a.m. and when they woke up at an unspecified time Sposito told her she couldn't leave because there were police outside.

She said Sposito told her he couldn't have the police question her, then took the keys to her car, which was parked behind his, and moved Chaude's car to provide the police access to the Chrysler.

They later decided Chaude should talk to the police after Sposito informed her of the story he had given police.

The warrant says Sposito attempted to have Chaude "withhold information from the police and alter her version of events in attempt to mislead" police.

Additionally, "(Chaude) stated that Sposito continuously told her that the police can't know about alcohol being involved and that he was drinking," the warrant says.

During the investigation, police obtained credit card receipts from Stash's and the Black Sheep and spoke with a bartender at Hanafin's who said Sposito had purchased two 16-ounce draft beers for himself and a friend and a Jameson whiskey for an unidentified female.

According to police, the crash site had a working traffic signal and a crosswalk with a working crosswalk signal for pedestrians. A guardrail is adjacent to the northbound breakdown lane, and a Jersey barrier separates the northbound and southbound traffic.

The street lamp directly above the crosswalk was illuminated after the crash, but the first lamp north of the scene was not illuminated, according to the warrant.

Inoperable lights in the area have since been repaired.

k.florin@theday.com

Twitter: @KFLORIN

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