Bourgoin insanity defense begins in trial for deadly crash

Local News

What was, in its first four days, a trial about the events of October 8, 2016 that lead to the deaths of five teenagers and injuries for several others, has now become a trial about the mind of Steven Bourgoin.

His defense team started presenting evidence and calling witnesses Friday.

Bourgoin is charged with five counts of second-degree murder, as well as reckless or gross negligent vehicle operation and vehicle operation without owner consent, connected to a Williston police cruiser he is accused of stealing and then crashing at a high rate of speed.

His attorneys say Bourgoin was insane and delusional at the time of the crashes.

The defense team’s first witness was Anila Lawrence, the ex-fiance and mother of Steven Bourgoin’s daughter.

Lawrence was visibly shaken on the witness stand and avoided eye contact with everyone, including attorneys questioning her.

“He started getting more angry and like I said, stressed out over monetary issues,” she testified about his behavior when she got pregnant and after she gave birth their daughter in 2014.

“What about his mood?” asked Robert Katims, Bourgoin’s defense attorney.

“Fluctuated,” Lawrence replied.

Lawrence said Bourgoin stopped drinking on her birthday in July 2013 and started smoking marijuana daily.

Lawrence says a doctor recommended Bourgoin take anti-depressants but Bourgoin refused.

“It just wasn’t like him to not want to work, and be out with his friends and when I first met him, he used to do guys night and poker night. Just didn’t really have anyone over anymore,” she testified.

Lawrence described how Bourgoin suddenly upended wedding plans. Then how he made them move out of state for a time and pressured her to stay home with their daughter so he could get a job.

Bourgoin assaulted her twice, Lawrence says.

Katims asked her to explain how, after the second time, he drove erratically through Burlington area streets with Lawrence and their daughter in the car.

Then he threatened to drive them into a pond.

“He said ‘fine, we can all just go together and we’ll all just die in the pond?’” asked deputy state’s attorney Susan Hardin during cross-examination.

“Correct,” Lawrence answered.

After this incident, Lawrence got a restraining order against Bourgoin and Bourgoin was charged with domestic assault and unlawful restraint, according to testimony.

His visitation with their daughter was limited to one hour per week at her gymnastics lesson.

That continued until the wrong-way crash that killed five teenagers: Mary Harris, 16, of Moretown; Cyrus Zschau, 16, of Moretown; Liam Hale, 16, of Fayston; Janie Cozzi, 15, of Fayston; and Eli Brookens, 16, of Waterbury.

In fact, Bourgoin was supposed to visit with his daughter on the day of the crash but didn’t show up.

“Do you remember telling Ms. Kylie that when people were saying he was trying to kill himself [during the crash], that was not him at all?” asked Katims.

“Correct,” answered Lawrence.

Prosecutors asked people close to Bourgoin about delusions his defense team alleges he was experiencing at the time of the crash.

“Did the defendant ever talk to you about helicopters following him?” asked Hardin.

“No,” replied Lawrence.

During opening statements, Katim said Bourgoin had become interested in missile silos.

Lawrence testified Bourgoin had taken her on a trip to an abandoned missile silo site in Alburgh.

The prosecutors kept asking.

“Did the defendant say anything on being a governmental mission that night?” asked Hardin.

“No, I don’t recall it,” replied Alen Cosabic, Bourgoin’s friend.

“Anything about the FBI?” asked Hardin.

“No,” replied Cosabic.

“Or being under surveillance?” asked Hardin.

“No,” said Cosabic.

Cosabic also testified that he never heard Bourgoin talk about suicide nor killing people nor was he ever violent.

The night before the October 2016 crash, Cosabic went to dinner with Bourgoin.

Bourgoin had just quit his job at Lake Champlain Chocolates.

Then at 4o’clock in the morning of the crash, he showed up at Cosabic’s door looking for Anila Lawrence, according to testimony.

He had received a text message that she was there.

“How did he appear to you during that week?” asked Katims.

“Same, stressed out, financial issues, problems with Anila,” said Cosabic.

“Was it more or less stressed out than he normally was?” asked Katims.

“More, I would say more,” said Cosabic.

Volunteer EMT Shannon Roberto testified as well.

She helped load Bourgoin into the ambulance the night of the crash and rode to the hospital with him.

“He seemed to be confusing me for somebody else. He said things like ‘did you dye your hair?’ Or something about me having children,” she said.

However, during cross examination from state’s attorney Sarah George, Roberto said that behavior was consistent with somebody who had just been involved in a “high mechanism crash.”

The first week of the Bourgoin trial ended with the defense showing dash camera video from the night of the crash, as well as video from Hinesburg police Chief Frank Koss’ body camera.

The body camera video showed Bourgoin laying on the ground surrounded by medical professionals and law enforcement on I-89. Monday, the defense will call its own crash reconstructionist as well as Dr. David Rosmarin, who determined Bourgoin was insane at the time of the crash.

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