Man charged in fatal Waterbury crash

WATERBURY --  Milton Gooch, 80, is facing criminal charges following a fatal hit-and-run on December 12.

Waterbury police charged Gooch with felony evading and driving with a suspended license. Police said the woman, identified by family as Geri LaPio, was hit near Nottingham Terrace and Cooke Street at 6:30 a.m. before the vehicle fled the scene.

LaPio was transported to St. Mary's Hospital for treatment of numerous injuries which included broken femur, a broken hip, and a skull fracture.

LaPio remained in the St. Mary's intensive care unit until Thursday, December 14, when family members decided to move her to the Hospice Care Unit. She stayed there until about 2 p.m. Friday, when she succumbed to her head and neck injuries.

Police said both Gooch and LaPio were neighbors in the apartment complex, Nottingham Towers.

Waterbury Police said Gooch is cooperating in their ongoing investigation.

"He was leaving for work early in the morning and it was very dark out that morning, there are a lot of factors that are still under investigation here that the crash reconstruction unit will be working through," Deputy Chief Fred Spagnolo said. "I think he was aware that he hit her but just wasn't quite sure what to do after the fact."

Spagnolo said Gooch's age could play a factor in the investigation.

"It's good to know the person responsible is in custody," Spagnolo said. "However, it's not gonna do anything to bring back their loved one."

LaPio's family released a statement Wednesday,"

“Our family would like to take this last opportunity to thank the Waterbury Police Department for their diligence in working toward a resolution to this situation and especially thank Officer Marc Sharoh and his team for keeping the lines of communication open with us during the investigation. We are confident that justice will be served in this unfortunate While their efforts have helped bring some closure to us, sadly it won’t bring our loved one back.”

Community members are concerned with pedestrian safety in the area. Vikki Shahat's husband owns Peter's Pizza on Chase Avenue which intersects with Cooke Street.

"I walk up Cooke Street all the time with my baby," she said. "It could happen to us, that's why it's very sensitive to us."

Shahat said she constantly sees people driving over the speed limit, which she said is 25 mph. She said she's also witnessed a significant number of accidents.

"How many more people have to die before the city steps in and does something?"  she said.

Deputy Chief Spagnolo also brought up the safety issue around Cooke Street, Wednesday.

"There was a bicyclist that was struck at that intersection and killed," he said. "Cooke street has been an area that's been a significant problem with especially pedestrian accidents over the course of the last 18 months."

He said Waterbury Police have stepped up motor vehicle enforcement in the area. Police said there is also a traffic study underway, by the city's engineering department.

Police said Gooch's bond is $100,000 and will be held on house arrest.