Prosecutors wrap up case against Bourgoin; defense begins Friday

Local News

After nearly a week of testimony, state prosecutors have rested their case against Steven Bourgoin, who is accused of five counts of second-degree murder for a 2016 wrong-way crash on I-89.

Jurors heard from the last of the state’s witnesses in Burlington on Thursday before Superior Court Judge Kevin Griffin dismissed the panel for the day.

For more than two hours, retired Vermont State Police Cpl. Mike Sorensen described for the jury how investigators reconstructed the crash from evidence gathered at the scene and from vehicles.

Sorensen said he spent in excess of 200 hours on the case, “possibly more.”

He testified that Bourgoin was driving the wrong way in the passing lane of I-89 southbound when he turned into the travel lane and, moving at about 78 mph, slammed into the Jetta in which the teens were traveling.

The Jetta was traveling at 32.99 mph at impact, he testified.

“That tells me that they saw something that concerned them and were slowing down,” Sorensen said.

Sorensen also testified about steering wheel data from Bourgoin’s truck.

Prosecutors played an animation created by data and research Sorensen gathered.

“Can you tell us whether or not there was a vehicle in the passing lane going southbound in those 5 seconds before the accident?” asked defense attorney Robert Katims on cross examination.

“I don’t know,” replied Sorensen.

“Coulda been?” asked Katims.

“Coulda been, yes,” replied Sorensen.

“But you didn’t put that in your animation, correct?” asked Katims.

“Correct,” said Sorensen.

Thursday’s other prosecution witness, Williston Police officer Eric Shepard, testified that he was in the state police barracks parking lot when the wrong-way driving call came in.

He arrived within 30 seconds of the call to find the Jetta in flames.

He said he immediately grabbed a fire extinguisher from his cruiser and later tried “desperately” to open the car doors while screaming for the teenagers to “get out, get out, get out.”

The vehicle’s doors were locked.

“Anything I could do to get some attention and convey my sense of urgency,” he testified.

“Was that successful?” asked state’s attorney Sarah George.

“It was not,” answered Shepard.

Shepard said he realized someone — it was Bourgoin — was driving his cruiser when he noticed the flashing blue lights on the roof change.

Bourgoin drove the cruiser back toward the initial crash scene at high speed and slammed into other vehicles.

“It was a rather eery experience. As the two vehicles collided, time slowed, time slowed to almost nothing and I was able to kind of track the vehicle as it moved forward and actually watch the operator get ejected out the driver side window. It was something that will stick with me. That was a very bizarre thing to watch,” said Shepard.

Shepard said once Bourgoin was cornered, the suspect followed his orders.

“That’s not a face I’ll forget,” said Shepard about Bourgoin.

Bourgoin is charged with five counts of second degree murder in the deaths of 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.

Bourgoin is also charged with Reckless or Gross Negligent Vehicle Operation and Vehicle Operation Without Owner Consent, connected to the Williston police cruiser.

Bourgoin’s defense team picks up the case tomorrow.

His lead attorney Robert Katims says Bourgoin was suffering from delusions and was out of his mind at the time of the crash and the days leading up to it.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.