Drunk driver pleads to reduced charges in 2022 crash that injured Chester business owner

By Shawn Cunningham
©2023 Telegraph Publishing LLC

The drunk driver who ran head-on into a Chester business owner in a snowstorm on Route 103 near Gassetts in March 2022 plead guilty to a reduced charge in Windsor County Superior Court last Monday.

Travis Stella at his April 12, 2022 arraignment

Travis Stella of Wilton, Conn., was charged with driving under the influence and grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle with injury resulting after hitting a guardrail south of Gassetts then crossing to the opposite lane and into a car being driven by Vickie Thornton, who at the time owned Blair Books and More on the Green in Chester.

After being cut out of her vehicle by Chester firefighters, Thornton was taken by ambulance to Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, where she underwent two days of surgeries to repair multiple broken bones and displacements, according to her son Scott Blair, who added that his mother was wearing a seat belt when the collision occurred.

The Chester Police Department cited Stella, noting his blood alcohol level was .138 percent. In Vermont, an alcohol level of .08 percent is the threshold for driving under the influence.  Stella was arraigned on April 12, 2022 when he plead not guilty to the DUI-1 and grossly negligent operation with serious injury resulting charges.

But on Monday, Sept. 11, Stella plead guilty to the DUI charge and to the lesser charge of negligent operation with serious injuries resulting. Under Vermont law, the “grossly” adverb makes a big difference. With the lesser charge Stella could be on the hook for up to two years in prison and up to a $3,000 fine. That’s compared to up to 15 years and $15,000 for the “grossly negligent operating” charge.

Sentencing  is set for Jan. 24, 2024.

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