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Driver pleads guilty in crash that killed Mystic couple

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A Groton woman pleaded guilty Wednesday in New London Superior Court to striking and killing an elderly couple while driving in Mystic two years ago.

Carol Belli, 75, pleaded guilty before Judge Edward O'Hanlan to two counts of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle.

Belli is scheduled for sentencing in January.

On Wednesday, Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney David J. Smith recommended she be sentenced to two consecutive sentences — one for each death — totaling one year in prison, suspended after 120 days with four years of probation. Her attorney, Trent LaLima, said he plans to argue for a reduced sentence.

On March 9, 2019, Belli was driving on Route 27 just after 8 p.m. after leaving the Captain Daniel Packer Inne when she struck Joanna Wakeman, 78, and her husband, Seth, 88, as they were crossing the street near Rossie Pentway.

Both Wakemans, of Montauk Avenue in Mystic, were pronounced dead upon arrival at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. Autopsies indicated they both died from blunt impact injuries and the manner of death was accidental.

Police initially charged Belli with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even though her blood alcohol level was below the legal limit of 0.08 percent for driving. An investigation found that Belli and the Wakemans were all negligent in the incident.

Investigators found that Belli had consumed alcohol while taking an antidepressant and was driving an estimated seven to 14 miles above the posted 30 mph speed limit, according to a warrant. The Wakeman's, who had dined at Latitude 41 Restaurant, were dressed in dark clothing and stepped into the road without pressing the pedestrian crossing signal while the light for traffic was green, the warrant said.

Belli previously faced additional charges of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and faced up to 1½ years in prison. Those charges have been dropped. 

Last October, insurance companies for Belli and the Captain Daniel Packer Inne settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought on behalf of the couple's estate for $1.25 million.

Neither Belli nor family members of the victims made any statements in court on Wednesday. Prosecutors said relatives of the Wakemans may speak at Belli's sentencing.

Belli, a retired elementary school teacher and principal, is free on a $25,000 bond while her case is pending. She is scheduled to appear in court next on Jan. 12, 2022, at the Geographical Area 10 court in New London.


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