Psychiatrist: Bourgoin was ‘grossly psychotic’ on night of wrong-way crash

Local News

A forensic psychiatrist on Monday described Steven Bourgoin as “grossly psychotic” the night he drove the wrong way on I-89 near Williston, causing a crash that killed five teenagers.

As Bourgoin’s insanity defense got underway Monday, David Rosmarin testified that he evaluated Bourgoin for a total of nine hours. He described for jurors the detrioration of Bourgoin’s mental state in the days leading up to October 8, 2016.

“Mr. Bourgoin was suffering from psychosis that was caused by him being manic from the illness bipolar disorder,” said Rosmarin.

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.

Rosmarin told jurors that Bourgoin suffered from depression and mania and that numerous events in his life — the deaths of friends, financial problems and a custody battle over his daughter — caused him stress.

“He had a bunch of losses as a child,” Rosmarin said. “He was an anxious, depressed child. His house burned down and his dog burned to death along with it.”

Rosmarin said Bourgoin’s psychosis grew and that by the day of the crash, “he’s believing things that are physically impossible are happening to him.” 

During his evaluation, Bourgoin told Rosmarin that he was receiving signs from the government about a secret mission, including messages he heard from his truck radio.

“If he would turn one way, the music was signaling to him, ‘Oh, that’s the right way to turn.’ If you turn the other way, ‘Uh uh uh uh, go back the other way.’ He likened it to a coin detector,” Rosmarin said.

The night before the crash, Bourgoin follows a path he deciphers from glistening grass into an open field. Following messages he believes he’s receiving, Bourgoin ends up throwing his cell phone in a stream and leaving.

He then drove to Montpelier because a message told him to go to the capital, Rosmarin testified: “He’s much more frantic. He’s much more anxious. He’s not comfortable.”

According to Rosmarin, Bourgoin was delusional when he visited the University of Vermont Medical Center the morning of the crash. He left the hospital at 11:03 am before he can be discharged and goes home to bed.

The night of the crash, he gets into a Toyota Tacoma and again follows the signals from the radio. He was “grossly psychotic,” Rosmarin said.

“He doesn’t really know how he ended up going the wrong direction and he doesn’t understand it. It wasn’t intentional,” he said of the wrong-way crash that killed the teenagers.

Rosmarin said that when Bourgoin saw the teenagers in the crashed Jetta, he thought they were mannequins and that the crash was a set up.

Rosmarin also described Bourgoin’s state of mind when he stole a Williston police cruiser. He said Bourgoin drove south on I-89’s southbound lane, thought he was going the wrong way and turned around. Bourgoin then drove back to the scene, crashing into the destroyed Tacoma,

Rosmarin said Bourgoin thought, “The car has been provided for me by the government that’s putting all the pieces there for me, just like they’ve been doing for the past couple of days. He’s terrified.”

The second week of Bourgoin’s trial started Monday with a motion for mistrial by his attorneys.

Attorney Robert Katims said testimony provided by Bourgoin’s ex-fiance Anila Lawrence last week revealed that the defense team had not been informed of an interview the state conducted with her in January.

“We do not have a copy of that interview. We were not given any type of disclosure about that interview,” said Katims.

State’s Attorney Sarah George told Judge Kevin Griffin that she provided a copy of the interview to Bourgoin’s defense team in an unlabeled folder.

“I absolutely recall telling the defense counsel, disclosing that orally to defense counsel,” she said

Griffin ruled that the state had violated a discovery rule, but denied the mistrial motion, saying it did not affect the defense’s case. Griffin also noted that Katims chose not to depose Lawrence before trial.

“The defense made a tactical decision to not use a discovery tool which the court believes could have easily lead to the information that’s at issue here,” Griffin said. “With tactical decisions you live with the consequences.”

Griffin said the defense can call Lawrence to the stand again. He also said the Department of Corrections should immediately disclose any recorded conversations between Bourgoin and Lawrence if the defense requests them.

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