Concord — May 14, 2010 — Belknap County Attorney James Carroll announced yesterday that he will not retry Erica Blizzard on two charges alleging she was drunk when her Formula powerboat slammed into an island on Lake Winnipesaukee in June 2008, killing her best friend.
And while not totally satisfied with the sentence Blizzard received, family members of the victim, 34-year-old Stephanie Beaudoin of Meredith, said they agree with Carroll’s decision.
The jury convicted Blizzard on March 18 of negligent homicide for failing to keep a proper lookout before the crash. But it deadlocked on a separate count of negligent homicide and an aggravated driving while intoxicated charge – the former for Beaudoin’s death and the latter for injuries to the other passenger, Nicole Shinopulos – alleging Blizzard was drunk at the time.
In a statement released yesterday, Carroll said he is not seeking a retrial because it would be “retributive in nature” and he believes Beaudoin’s family is “satisfied with the process and result and is desirous of closure.”
A state toxicologist testified that Blizzard had a 0.15 percent blood-alcohol level, nearly twice the legal limit, two hours after the crash. But Blizzard’s attorney, Jim Moir, called on another toxicologist who said that the blood Blizzard lost from her severe facial wounds may have inflated her blood-alcohol level.
Blizzard, Shinopulos and Beaudoin had gone out for dinner and drinks the night of the crash. A waitress testified that Blizzard consumed three pint-sized mixed drinks made with Grey Goose vodka over the course of three hours, though Superior Court Judge Kathleen McGuire said she suspected more drinking had taken place on the boat. The jury deadlocked 8-4 on the negligent homicide charge and 7-5 on the aggravated DWI charge, both in favor of acquittal, Carroll’s office confirmed.
Moir, who will not appeal Blizzard’s conviction, was unsurprised by Carroll’s decision.
“Clearly the majority of the jurors believes that the state did not meet its burden of proof, and there’s no reason to think that another jury would reach a different result,” he said.
Beaudoin’s oldest sister, Linda Hamilton of Gilmanton, sat through every day of the trial. She felt that alcohol was a factor in the crash and did not think the defense’s explanation for Blizzard’s high blood-alcohol level made sense.
“I don’t want the wrong message to be sent that people can get off from that kind of thing,” she said.
However, she said a retrial would be a waste of taxpayer money.
“I feel like the prosecution had lots of time to . . . do their best job, and I think they did,” she said. “Unfortunately, it just takes a lawyer on the other side, on the defense, to throw in a few little question marks . . . to sway jurors’ minds.”
Blizzard was sentenced last month to one year in county jail, but McGuire recommended allowing Blizzard to go home after six months to be monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet. With good behavior, the electronic monitoring would only last for two months. After four months in jail, Blizzard could be released to work during the day. Since Blizzard’s father, Paul, retired from running Lakeport Landing in 2006, she has been in charge of operating the marina.
Hamilton and Beaudoin’s father, Edgar Beaudoin, said they had hoped Blizzard would receive a full year behind bars.
“Her sentence was maybe a little lighter than I personally would have wanted to see,” Hamilton said.
However, Hamilton said she does not doubt that Blizzard loved Beaudoin.
“I can’t imagine Erica not feeling for the rest of her life the weight of that whole evening,” she said.
Edgar Beaudoin, who did not attend the trial, said he thinks Blizzard has “gone through enough.”
“When that lady looks in the mirror every day of her life she’ll remember what she did,” said Beaudoin, 79, of Laconia.
Beaudoin said Blizzard apologized to him and his wife in the hospital the night of the crash by writing on a pad of paper because she was unable to speak. Since then, he said he has not been contacted by Blizzard, but he suspects that is because of the court proceedings.
Blizzard is scheduled to report to jail June 1. The start of her sentence was delayed because of reconstructive facial surgery scheduled for next week.
At Blizzard’s sentencing, her mother, Elaine, told McGuire that jail time equates to “intentionally jeopardizing the life of my daughter” because of the fragile state of her face. Moir said doctors have now indicated that Blizzard may need subsequent surgeries that could further push back her jail time.
“We’re still waiting for the doctor’s orders,” he said.
On March 19, the day after the jury convicted Blizzard of one count of negligent homicide, she was cited for negligent driving after allegedly going 84 mph on Interstate 93 in New Hampton. A state trooper, who stepped into her lane to motion for her to pull over, said she nearly hit him because she was trying to enter numbers into her cell phone.
Hamilton said her “whole family has been thrown by that one.”
“If she’s so worried about her face in jail . . . she should be more careful,” Hamilton said.
Moir has entered a not-guilty plea on the negligent driving charge, which carries a fine under state law of $250 to $500 for a first offense and $500 to $1,000 for subsequent offenses. It is scheduled for trial July 13 but will likely be delayed because Moir will be on vacation.