ATTLEBORO — Patricia Santos clutched a small cross hanging around her neck Tuesday and listened to a prosecutor describe what the driver accused of killing her fiance told police after he was found with a newly damaged pickup truck outside his mobile home in Norton.
Michael Hinds, 67, used an expletive to refer to the driver he collided with Monday morning on Interstate 495 in Mansfield and claimed the operator cut him off, said Bristol Assistant District Attorney Stephen Nadeau.
“I smashed into someone. It’s not like I killed anyone,” Hinds told police, according to Nadeau.
The crash killed 37-year-old Jarrad C. Aronne, who was pronounced dead at the scene, and injured his passenger, Brian Kiernan, 34, according to a police report filed in Attleboro District Court. Hinds fled to his home in Norton, where he was arrested, authorities said.
Outside the courthouse, Santos motioned to her heart and the cross Aronne gave her and said the alleged remarks hurt.
“I had to see the person that destroyed my family,” Santos said. “[Aronne is] not coming home tonight. He’s not ever going to see his kids. Guess what? He’s gone.”
Judge Edmund Mathers set Hinds’s bail at $75,000. Nadeau requested $250,000 bail.
The prosecution alleges Hinds was drunk at about 10:53 a.m. Monday when his Ford Ranger pickup truck made “intentional contact” with a Chevrolet 2500 pickup being driven by Aronne.
After the first collision, both vehicles took the Exit 12 ramp to Route 140, and the vehicles collided again, causing the Chevrolet to roll over on the ramp, State Police said.
“As the vehicles approached the area where it merges into one lane, the defendant made no effort to merge safely and cut off and collided with the victim’s vehicle, causing it to leave the pavement,” Nadeau said. “As a result of the defendant’s reckless and irresponsible actions, Mr. Aronne is deceased.”
Inside Hinds’s truck, investigators found three empty nip bottles of vodka, four open cans of Bud Light, including one that still contained a small amount of liquid, and two more beers that were still cold, according to a report by Mansfield police Detective Sergeant Lawrence Crosman.
Hinds told police he drank during the New England Patriots game on Sunday and had a “couple of beers” Monday morning because “he was stressed,” according to a report by State Police Sergeant William J. Nasuti.
He failed five field sobriety tests, twice telling police, “I am drunk,” Nasuti wrote. His blood-alcohol level registered .19, above the .08 legal limit for driving, according to Nasuti.
Nadeau said Hinds has been accused twice before of driving under the influence of liquor in 1985 and 1999 and that authorities are investigating the possibility that he had another drunken driving case in the 1960s. Hinds most recently sought treatment for alcoholism in August, Nadeau said.
Hinds faces charges including motor vehicle homicide, a third offense of operating under the influence of liquor, and leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injuries. Not-guilty pleas were entered on his behalf. Hinds may face more charges, Nadeau said.
Defense attorney Michael Maloney called the crash a “tragic accident.”
Hinds, he said, “expressed his remorse that was someone was killed.” He is due back in court Dec. 11.
Kiernan, who was taken to Rhode Island Hospital after the crash, said he and Aronne were headed to Foxborough when the collision occurred.
“He didn’t deserve what happened,” Kiernan said in a brief telephone interview.
Santos said Aronne lived in Foxborough with her, her two children, ages 15 and 13, and Aronne’s son. While waiting for Hinds’s arraignment, Santos occasionally held onto her diamond engagement ring.
“He was my world. He was my best friend. He was my soul mate,” she said outside the courthouse.
Aronne’s ex-wife, Jessica, called him a “wonderful father and a great man.” They have a 7-year-old son, TJ Aronne.
In a telephone interview, she said Jarrad taught their son to be strong and smart and that the boy aspires to be an electrician like his father.
“It meant everything to him to spend time with his son, to be a role model,” Jessica Aronne said.
Father and son shared a love of cars and passed time together working around the house, landscaping, watching the Patriots and high school football, and collaborating on building projects, she said.
Jarrad Aronne grew up in Medfield and attended Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School, his ex-wife said.
Santos said she needs to keep her fiance’s memory alive.
“We’re just going to miss him terribly,” she said.