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    Police-Fire Reports
    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Woman facing felony charges in Lyme head-on crash

    State police have arrested a 60-year-old Ivoryton woman on multiple felony charges in connection with a fiery head-on crash in Lyme last summer that seriously injured four people, including two children.

    Police allege Catherine Cleary was under the influence ― reports show she had marijuana and cocaine in her system ― when her westbound black Nissan Rogue veered over the center line of Route 156 (Neck Road) in Lyme and struck a Nissan Murano driven by Lisa Lord, 61, of Waterford.

    Lord was driving to horseback riding lessons in Old Lyme with her 59-year-old sister Linda Danesh and two granddaughters, ages 9 and 12. The injuries were extensive and life-threatening and included multiple broken bones and fractures. One of the children suffered a fractured skull that left her with loss of vision in one eye and hearing loss.

    The crash occurred at 9:02 a.m. on June 3, 2023, on Route 156 near the Old Lyme border and the intersection of Bill Hill Road. Police and firefighters arrived to find Cleary’s vehicle in flames.

    Sarah Crisp, a witness to the accident, had been traveling behind Cleary on Route 156 and told police Cleary had been driving erratically, drifting in her lane and crossing into the opposite lane on three or four occasions prior to the crash, police said.

    “(Crisp) stated that as the black car climbed the hill approaching the Lyme/Old Lyme border, the black car veered in the center line and the next thing she observed was the red car in the air and the black car spin 180 degrees,” state police said.

    After the crash, Cleary’s vehicle caught fire. Crisp stopped and pulled Cleary from her car and moved her to the shoulder of the road.

    When questioned by police, Cleary said she had been heading from her home in Ivoryton to a friend’s home in Niantic and had gotten off Interstate 95 at Exit 70 in Old Lyme due to traffic.

    “Cleary was unable to recall how she ended up traveling on Route 156 eastbound in the town of Lyme just prior to the collision ...,” police said.

    At the hospital, police said, Cleary reported to staff that she was a recovering alcoholic who used cocaine three to four times a week and marijuana daily to “help her with her pain as well as her mood.” Cleary claimed the last time she used cocaine was “a few days ago,” police said.

    Cleary is charged with four counts of reckless endangerment, four counts of second-degree assault with a motor vehicle, two counts of risk of injury to a minor and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

    Free on a $40,000 bond, she is due to appear Thursday in New London Superior Court.

    Less than a year before the crash, Cleary had been arrested by East Lyme police on charges she was selling cocaine at the Morton House, a boarding house at 215 Main St. in Niantic. On Oct. 15, 2022, Cleary was charged with two counts possession of narcotics and possession of narcotics with intent to sell. Police said she was caught with baggies containing a mix of cocaine and fentanyl.

    The drug-related case remains pending in New London Superior Court, public records show.

    The crash is the source of a pending civil lawsuit against Cleary and Cleary’s husband, David Morenski, the owner of the vehicle she was driving in the crash. The suit was filed by Lord and the other passengers in her vehicle who claim the crash was due to negligence and carelessness. The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of money to cover medical bills.

    Lord, reached by phone on Tuesday, said the arrest was “long overdue.“

    g.smith@theday.com

    Editor’s note: This version was updated with the correct bond amount.

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