Jury finds Bourgoin guilty on five second-degree murder charges in fatal crash

Local News

A Chittenden County jury has found Steven Bourgoin guilty on five counts of second-degree murder in the wrong-way crash that killed five teenagers in October 2016.

The jury also found that Bourgoin failed to meet his burden of proving that he was legally insane at the time of the crash.

The jury began deliberations at 11:30 Tuesday morning after 11 days of testimony.

The verdict was announced at approximately 1pm Wednesday.

Bourgoin, whose trial began May 6, pleaded not guilty in the crash that killed 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.

For thirteen days, their families sat in a Burlington courtroom, either listening to testimony or waiting for a verdict.

After the verdict was read, parents of four of the teenagers gave their messages to the community.

“I’m relieved to put this part of this tragedy behind us so that I can move beyond focusing on my son Eli’s death and go on to focus on his life and the beautiful person that he was,” said Colleen Ovelman, Eli Brookens’ mother.

“At this time, we would ask you to refocus the energy towards the incredible young people whose lives were needlessly and tragically taken from us,” said Sue Hale, Liam Hale’s mother.

Mary Harris’ mother Liz read an essay Mary wrote about kindness while she was in school.

“You have the ability to change someone’s day. You have the ability to change someone’s life through something as simple as a kind smile,” she read. “That was Mary. That’s how she lived and that’s how we want her to be remembered.”

Harris said Mary’s lifelong friend, Janie Chase Cozzi, had the same kind heart.

Cyrus Zschau’s parents, Chris and Sarah Zschau, want the focus of attention to shift now away from Bourgoin.

“At least he’s not going to hurt anybody else’s kids now and that makes a difference to me,” said Sarah Zschau. “It helps, for sure,” said Chris Zschau.

“It takes a big toll on you to have a trial where the emotion is so high and the stakes are so great,” said Chittenden County state’s attorney Sarah George, who prosecuted the case with deputy state’s attorney Susan Hardin.

George says she is thankful for the focused jury, its verdict and the families, who showed bravery and courage by showing up everyday to court for their kids.

“They were 15 and 16 years old and had really incredible personalities, really big dreams, really impressive talents and it was all taken from them by one person and their actions,” said George.

The families will have the chance to speak on the record on behalf of their children at Bourgoin’s sentencing hearing which will likely to take place in the coming months.

He faces 20 years to life in prison.

Bourgoin was also convicted of grossly negligent operation of a motor vehicle and aggravated operation of a vehicle without owner’s consent.

After the initial crash, Bourgoin stole a police cruiser and drove back to the scene at more than 100 miles per hour and crashed into his destroyed truck, injuring several people.

Bourgoin’s defense attorney Robert Katims told reporters Bourgoin is disappointed but respects the jury’s verdict.

Last week, Katims called for a mistrial when he said he found out his team was not aware of an interview the prosecution conducted with Bourgoin’s ex-fiance.

State’s attorney Sarah George said her office did pass along that information.

Katims said Wednesday that issue will come up at the appeal.

He believes, with two forensic psychiatrists testifying that Bourgoin was psychotic at the time of the crash, his side had the winning evidence.

“We think we presented the overwhelming medical evidence with regard to the sanity issue and we’re disappointed that the jury found otherwise. We’ll prepare for a sentencing and then appeal following that,” he said.

Katims said the person Steven Bourgoin is today is different than the man he was in 2016.

If true, it’s further evidence that the amount of lives changed by the events of that night is immeasurable.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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