A tale of two crashes in Montville

Montville — Accident summaries prepared by town police reveal stark differences in investigations of separate one-vehicle crashes last week, with one prompting a drunken-driving charge against an Oakdale resident and the other resulting in no ticket or charges for Town Council Chairman Tom McNally.

The crashes occurred about 10 p.m. on Sept. 13, according to police. McNally swerved his Dodge Ram into a stone wall, took out a road sign and smashed his truck into a tree off Moxley Road, and Oakdale resident Karl Sheflott crashed his Honda HR-V into a fence off Oak Hill Road.

Both men were the sole occupants of their vehicles. Both men were uninjured. And both men had attended a comedy show at the Montville Polish Club earlier that evening, according to Resident State Trooper Sgt. Mark Juhola.

Juhola on Wednesday said the crashes were "two separate incidents" and "were not necessarily tied." He added that McNally's accident remains under investigation.

A 16-sentence summary of Sheflott's accident, written by town police Officer Tyler Smith, shows Sheflott "stated he was driving the vehicle and consumed too many drinks earlier in the evening." The summary says Sheflott "did not know where he was and appeared disoriented" after colliding with a "chain link fence and shrubs" near 62 Oak Hill Road, owned by Valerie Clark.

Smith arrested Sheflott, bringing him to the state police Troop E barracks and charging him with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and failure to drive right. Sheflott, 43, of 59 Beechwood Road, Oakdale, is due in Norwich Superior Court on Sept. 25.

On Wednesday evening, no one answered the doors at the Oak Hill Road houses separated by the fence that police say Sheflott crashed into.

Reached by phone Tuesday, Sheflott said "I'm not going to get involved in this conversation" before hanging up. He did not respond to a follow-up text message, and his voicemail box was full on Wednesday.

Town police Officer Addison Saffioti's summary of McNally's accident contains three sentences. It aligns with what McNally told The Day on the day after the crash: that he swerved to avoid a deer.

Unlike Smith's narrative of Sheflott's accident — which specifies Oak Hill Road's 25 mph speed limit, the administration of "standardized field sobriety tests" and scene observations and damage "consistent with the operator's statements" — Saffioti's summary mentions nothing McNally may have stated beyond a deer sighting.

McNally called it "a slight accident" in an interview Friday. He had not responded to several voicemails as of Wednesday.

On Wednesday afternoon, The Day emailed McNally's town email account several questions about the incident, including how fast he had been driving; whether the deer hopped across the road or stood in the middle of it; whether the "one drink" he previously said he drank at the club was liquor or beer; how he got home; and whether any members of law enforcement asked him where he'd been that evening prior to the crash.

"As I told you before, I'm not discussing this witch hunt with you any further," McNally responded.

Saffioti's summary does not include the address where McNally's truck toppled part of a stone wall. The summary mentions only Moxley Road and the nearest intersection, Fire Street. The only property damage mentioned in the summary is a street sign, with the Town of Montville listed as the property owner.

According to Thursday night's police call logs obtained by The Day, Saffioti responded to 285 Moxley Road. Property records list that residence as owned by Joseph Zagorski.

Juhola said the crash site address and resident's stone wall damage "should be addressed in the final report" but not being in the accident summary "doesn't mean it was left out."

Two witnesses who live on Moxley Road said police requested their contact information but did not ask them questions about what they saw or heard. One of the witnesses, Kipp Bourque, said in an interview that he saw McNally's truck barreling down Moxley Road at more than double the posted 25 mph speed limit.

Montville Police Lt. Leonard Bunnell said Friday that asking witnesses questions at the scene — as opposed to merely acquiring their contact information — is "part of any investigation."

No tickets were issued for McNally, who noted police did not conduct a sobriety test, saying drinking "wasn't even a factor" in the crash.

Bunnell said Saffioti is "a certified Drug Recognition Expert," which includes alcohol.

On Friday, McNally said he knew Saffioti but doesn't "hang out with him."

However, Facebook posts over the last few years show McNally and Saffioti in several photos hanging out together in social gatherings. 

On April 7, 2018, McNally tagged Saffioti in a Facebook post celebrating their seven years of friendship on the social network. The post, in which McNally wrote "Good times with good people," included three photos taken between 2014 and 2016 in which McNally and Saffioti were hanging out with friends. In one of the photos, McNally tagged Saffioti and two others on June 6, 2014, posting that he was at the Dog Watch Cafe "with some great friends." In another photo, posted Dec. 10, 2016, McNally and Saffioti stand next to each other with several others on a staircase at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn.

Sgt. Ryan Spring said Friday that officers cannot comment on pending investigations. Juhola on Wednesday said officers could not comment on any aspects of the investigation.

Juhola described Saffioti as "an excellent police officer."

"Montville police officers do their jobs well and they don't take it lightly," he added. "It's a busy town. I trust them to do the right job and the right thing and they have been."

Mayor Ron McDaniel said he could not comment on any investigation.

Asked about comments from McNally, and some on Facebook, claiming the mayor instigated the case or was feeding the media information, McDaniel said, "It's silly that they're making this a political issue. It's not."

"I found out about this through the press," he said. "The press was calling before I got in to work that morning. It didn't originate from here."



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