HEBRON - On Thursday, the woman accused of backing into and killing a popular teacher in Hebron was found not guilty of two counts of manslaughter, not guilty of DUI, but she was found guilty of misconduct while driving and unsafe backing.
Dawn Mallory, 65, was hit in the parking lot of the RHAM Middle School on March 14, 2014 and died two weeks later. Elizabeth Everett, 50,who was dropping her son off at RHAM High School, backed into a bus zone in the middle school area and hit Mallory.
Everett chose to have a trial by judge instead of jury, and previously pleaded not guilty to the charges. Judge James Graham delivered his verdict Tuesday in Rockville Superior Court and went into detail explaining his reasoning.
Everett and her attorney, William Dow, showed obvious signs of relief.
"Something that Elizabeth will have to confront and live with, but was not as extreme as what was charged by the state," said Dow.
Everett admitted to drinking a bottle of wine the night before, but Judge Graham said the state failed to prove she was actually intoxicated at the time of the crash and that alcohol caused the crash.
The state trooper who responded to the scene said he smelled alcohol on Everett’s breath, but Judge Graham said other witnesses gave conflicting statements.
When her BAC was tested around an hour and a half after the crash, it tested at .07 — just under the legal limit.
"[There was] a general consensus that she did not exhibit slurred speech, bloodshot eyes or difficulty walking. Although she was in the presence of two trained Connecticut State Troopers for a significant period of time, neither felt the need to administer a standard field sobriety test," explained Judge Graham.
In court, Judge Graham said the state also failed to prove she was reckless that morning, but did prove she was criminally negligent, making her guilty of the misconduct charge.
Everett had a back-up camera in her vehicle, but investigators found she was going in reverse at 14 miles per hour.
Judge Graham explained, "The location was a school entrance, the time was the beginning of the school day and the path the defendant took was immediately between the staff parking lot and the school entrance. Further, no pedestrian walking from the parking lot to the school entrance would have reason to suspect that a car would be backing from the bus zone from the pedestrian's left. And while the traffic flow configuration for the high school and middle school can most charitably be called unusual, Ms. Everett was extremely familiar with it having regularly driven her son to initially the middle school and later the high school over several years' time."
After the accident, RHAM made changes to the parking area and bus area to improve safety.
The misconduct charge is a felony, so it could bring a harsh penalty. Sentencing is scheduled for February 28, 2017.
"Liz Everett has a long standing history in the community of being a contributor, a mother, a person with absolutely no record. I'm hopeful the judge will take that into consideration," said Dow.
Prosecutors had no comment after the verdict was read.
Last year, lawyers for the estate of Dawn Mallory, the teacher who died as a result of an accident in the parking lot, settled with the driver’s insurance company for $1.1 million. The settlement was for the maximum amount of coverage Everett carried on her vehicle.