Dave St. Pierre, photo
ST. ALBANS – Luke Loiselle walked into the courtroom, head tilted and eyes cast downward, and quietly sat next to his defense attorney to hear the charges made against him.
The 30-year old Highgate resident pleaded not guilty to two felony charges, leaving the scene of a fatal crash and obstructing justice, during his arraignment Tuesday. Loiselle could face up to 20 years in prison and $8,000 in fines.
At first, he denied any involvement in the car accident, stating that the damages to his car were caused by vandalism, according to the affidavits. But soon enough, he allegedly admitted to police that he hit something with his car around 4 p.m. Saturday. His initial thought was that it was a deer or a mailbox, “something big,” he said, according to court documents.
Loiselle is allegedly responsible for a fatal hit and run crash on Route 78 in Highgate Saturday evening. Vermont State Police found the man at 10 a.m. Sunday, already deceased, lying in a ditch on the side of the road.
The owner of the Machia farm in Highgate and an employee confirmed the dead man’s identity as 54-year-old David Miller, a farm hand who lived on the property.
The employee, Ashley Hoburn, reported to police that he frequently walked on local roads to Pauline’s Quick Stop in Sheldon.
Todd Machia of Highgate, may have been the last to see Miller, walking south on Route 78 toward the convenience store. Miller was walking not far from where he was later found dead, according to court documents.
Outside of the courthouse, Miller’s sister, Denise Norris, told reporters that they couldn’t understand how someone could hit another person with their car and not stop. The family said, “There will never be closure.”
At the scene of the accident, police say they found pieces of an auto headlamp, a radio antenna and part of the passenger side view mirror. On the back of the mirror was the original equipment manufacturer, which indicated the part belonged to a Chevrolet or GMC truck or SUV, years 2000 through 2006. The glass pieces found also belonged to one of those models.
Police were able to move ahead in their investigation, with a tip from Labounty Auto Monday. Police learned that Loiselle typically drove an early 2000 blue Chevrolet Tahoe, but for the last two days, he had not been driving the vehicle he usually used.
When police stopped by Loiselle’s home, located on Highgate Road in Highgate Center, an odor of chemicals and vehicle fluids was coming out of the garage. In the affidavit, police say it smelled like the scene of an accident. Through a two-inch gap between the garage doors, police say they could make out the rear of a blue Chevy vehicle.
After receiving verbal and written consent from Loiselle, police inspected the car and found significant damage, including a missing front grill, dents to the passenger side of the hood and a smashed front windshield that appeared to be cut in half, only the driver’s side remaining.
Police say both side view mirrors were missing and the radio antenna appeared to have snapped off the mount, matching the one found at the scene of the accident. Close to the antenna mount was a red brown stain and a small bit of material that indicated it may have caused injury to the body of something or someone.
Loiselle’s girlfriend, Michelle Reynolds told police that Loiselle was “here and there” throughout the day Saturday, and made a trip to Walmart early that night. Also in the court documents, she said from 5 p.m. on, they both had remained at home.
She said the next morning, Loiselle took a Toyota 4 Runner to work, instead of the Chevrolet Tahoe, which he usually drives. When he returned home around 8 a.m., she says he told her the car was damaged and medication had been stolen from it. Reynolds told police that Loiselle wouldn’t allow her to see the damages and wouldn’t report them to the police, wanting it to be solved by “word of mouth.” Reynolds says he asked her if this was something her ex-husband might do.
After initially denying any responsibility for the hit and run, Loiselle wrote and signed a letter to the Miller family, apologizing for the death. In the letter, he said it was an accident and he didn’t realize until after the news release that he had hit someone. “Words will never say enough. I wasn’t trying to be a coward, I just got scared after the news,” Loiselle wrote, according to court documents.
Loiselle has an extensive criminal history. In 2006, he was found guilty of operating a vehicle carelessly and negligently and resisting arrest. In 2007, he was found guilty of six felony charges including burglary and unlawful trespassing.
In 2008, he was found guilty of one burglary charge and in 2014, he pleaded no contest to operating a vehicle negligently or carelessly.
During the arraignment, Judge Robert Mello increased bail from $25,000 to $50,000 after hearing that Loiselle was on parole related to previous cases. Mello also required him to have 24-hour supervision and not to contact the Norris, Miller and White families, if he should post bail.