Massachusetts man to serve 6 months for deadly 2014 Waterford crash

A family portrait of, from left, Sanaa Reynolds; Dacari Robinson; their mother, Baughnita Leary, and Leary's fiance, Darin Robinson Jr.  Leary was the only one to survive when a truck driver failed to stop for traffic and slammed into the back of a Nissan Sentra on Oct. 12, 2014, in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Waterford. (Courtesy of Baughnita Leary)
A family portrait of, from left, Sanaa Reynolds; Dacari Robinson; their mother, Baughnita Leary, and Leary's fiance, Darin Robinson Jr. Leary was the only one to survive when a truck driver failed to stop for traffic and slammed into the back of a Nissan Sentra on Oct. 12, 2014, in the southbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Waterford. (Courtesy of Baughnita Leary)

Her son, Dacari, was the most beautiful boy you'd ever meet, a mother told a New London Superior Court judge on Tuesday at the sentencing hearing for a Swansea, Mass., truck driver who caused the 2-year-old's death.

Her daughter, Sanaa, was a bright, loving little girl who wanted to bring salamanders into the house, adopt dogs and who could make anything grow. Sanaa was 9 when she, too, died because Gerard S. Dube failed to slow his tractor-trailer for backed-up traffic on Oct. 12, 2014. The vehicles in front of him had stopped because of an earlier minor accident on Interstate 95 in Waterford.

Baughnita Leary said her fiancé, Darin Robinson, was the love of her life. He perished also, from injuries sustained when Dube's truck, which he was driving for Gold Medal Bakery, slammed into the family's Nissan Sentra from behind. Robinson was 26.

Dube, a 62-year-old family man with no previous criminal record, was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash, and there was no evidence that he was using a cellphone or fiddling with his radio. He pleaded guilty in November 2017 to three counts of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle and one count of reckless driving. The victims have received settlements through civil lawsuits.

On Tuesday, Dube faced up to nine months in prison when he came to court with his family. Judge Ernest Green Jr. imposed a six-month sentence after listening to victim impact statements and arguments from the prosecution and defense. The hearing lasted more than two hours and left nearly everyone in the courtroom with damp eyes. At one point, Leary played a recording of her daughter singing the song "Stay" by Rihanna.

Leary, who was badly hurt in the crash, told the judge that she had no position on how long Dube spends in prison. There is nothing in this world that would make her feel better, she said.

"Whether he does three days, or three years or a million years or the rest of his life in jail, it's not going to feel better," Leary said.

She asked, instead, that Dube do something special to remember the children and Robinson on their birthdays or the anniversary of their deaths.  And when she was done speaking, she hugged Dube and told him, "I forgive you."

Darin Robinson's mother, grandmother, stepmother and stepfather disagreed with the length of the sentence, even before they knew it would be reduced from nine months to six. Robinson, known as "D," had two other children who are now growing up without a father, said his mother, Abby Rollins of Groton.

"He has taken three lives," she said. "This was 100 percent preventable. The scales of justice are so uneven, it's criminal."

Dube wiped his eyes throughout the hearing but did not speak. His wife, Susan, told the judge her husband is "in his own living hell" and wakes up screaming because of the accident. His three sons also appeared on his behalf, with one explaining how Dube was working longer than he had planned, having cashed in his life savings a few years before the accident to pay the bills when Susan was diagnosed with cancer.

Dube's lawyer, Eugene Riccio, said Dube had served in the military, had an excellent work history, was a good husband and father who loved to coach athletics.

"This is not an evil man," Riccio said.

Prosecutor David J. Smith said the plea deal that was worked out was fair, given the totality of the circumstances. He said, also, that this type of incident results in "irreversible ripples of sorrow and grief."

The judge told the assembly he wished he could say something to make everybody leave feeling better.

"I'm acutely aware we are predisposed to think the system is broken and this is an example of the system being broken," the judge said.

He imposed two years of probation and ordered Dube to serve 100 hours of community services, half of it in an athletic/coaching setting and half, at the request of the victim's family, with an organization that provides animal welfare services.

But as the facts of the case were studied during pretrial negotiations involving the state, defense, judge and victim advocate LeeAnn Vertefeuille, "we were left with charges the state felt it could prove (had the case gone to trial) and that the defense could live with," Green said.

k.florin@theday.com

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