HAVERHILL — Sitting in a cramped interview room after allegedly causing a head-on crash while texting, teenager Aaron Deveau calmly asked police officers about the consequences he would face if two people critically injured in the collision died.
“If anything happens to them, if one of them passes away, what will happen to me?” the 17-year-old asked the officers from the Haverhill Police Department.
Deveau’s question came at the end of a 17-minute taped interview aired Wednesday during the second day of the state’s first texting-while-driving trial. The crash fatally injured the driver of the other vehicle, Donald Bowley Jr., 55, of Danville, N.H., and seriously injured his girlfriend, Luz Roman, a passenger in his car.
Deveau faces charges that include negligent motor vehicle homicide and causing injury in a crash while texting and driving. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and faces up to four years in jail in the landmark case.
In the tape, Deveau denied that he had been texting while driving. He told investigators that he was exhausted after a 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. shift at a local nursing home and had taken his eyes off the road only for a second before realizing he was bearing down on a car that had braked in front of him.
‘It was really too late. I didn’t want to rear-end her, so I went across, into oncoming traffic. I probably shouldn’t have went that way.’
“It was really too late,’’ he said in the interview. “”I didn’t want to rear-end her, so I went across, into oncoming traffic. I probably shouldn’t have went that way. I should have taken a right and just went into the side-rail.’’
Deveau said he was going about 40 miles per hour.
Prosecutors dispute Deveau’s statements and point to phone records as evidence he was texting when he veered into Bowley’s path on River Street, near Cliff Avenue.
Ashlee Logan, Essex assistant district attorney, told jurors that the phone records reveal that Deveau sent or received 193 text messages the day of the crash, three of which were moments before the collision.
Investigators say the crash occurred between 2:35 p.m. and 2:36 p.m., and that texts came at 2:33, 2:34, and 2:35.
Deveau told investigators he had stopped by Market Basket in the Westgate Plaza, where he worked part time, before heading home.
The defendant said the last text message he sent before the crash was at 2:33 p.m., while still at the plaza.
Patrol officer Wayne Tracey, who questioned Deveau in the interview room Feb. 20, was the lone witness called Wednesday. Tracey told jurors that a person could drive from the plaza to the scene of the crash in a minute, a couple of minutes if the driver had to stop at a traffic signal on the way and if there was traffic.
Under cross-examination by Deveau’s defense attorney, Joseph Lussier, Tracey acknowledged that it was possible that Deveau never read the text messages sent to his phone just before the crash.
Earlier Wednesday, Tracey described what he found on River Street, where he was one of the first responders on the scene.
“In my 7½ years, I can say that was probably the worst crash I’ve seen,’’ he testified.
He also described Deveau’s behavior after the crash.
“He appeared to be tired,’’ Tracey said, “a bit sluggish.”
Tracey said Deveau’s mother arrived at the crash scene, became hysterical, and repeatedly tried to enter an area marked off as a crime scene.
Tracey’s cross-examination was abruptly halted at one point when an embarrassed Deveau told the judge he was “about to pass out’’ if not allowed to use the bathroom.
Bowley’s two sons, Daniel and Donald, and daughter Dawn, attended the trial Wednesday, as they did on the first day. They watched the recording with gloomy expressions.
The trial will be suspended Thursday and Friday because of a judges conference, and will resume Monday. It is expected to end early next week.