No bail for alleged drunk driver accused of striking 12-year-old girl
A 12-year-old girl who was allegedly struck by a repeat drunk driver in a hit-and-run crash over the weekend in South Boston is “not going to be the same,” her distraught mother said Monday.
“She woke up [in the hospital] and said, ‘Who did this to me? Why am I here?’” said Kelly Bobbitt, the girl’s mother, in an emotional interview with reporters in South Boston Municipal Court, moments after the driver, Richard M. Higgins, was arraigned on a slew of charges.
Higgins, 78, of Attleboro, was ordered held without bail pending a dangerousness hearing Thursday on charges including operating under the influence of liquor, fifth offense, and leaving the scene of a crash causing personal injury.
He was also charged with driving a 2001 Ford Explorer on a suspended license, authorities said.
Bobbitt and the child’s aunt, Holly Randall, said the girl suffered multiple fractures, including to her skull and pelvis, during the crash Saturday afternoon.
“She was screaming all the way to the hospital,” Bobbitt said, adding that her daughter, Shalynn, can speak but cannot move and is receiving fluids through an IV at Tufts Medical Center. Shalynn was undergoing surgery Monday.
“She just doesn’t deserve it,” Bobbitt said. “She’s an honor roll student.”
State Police say Higgins lost control of the Explorer around 4:25 p.m. Saturday on Old Colony Avenue and struck Shalynn, then continued driving for several hundred yards until police stopped his SUV.
Prosecutors did not detail the allegations during the brief arraignment Monday for Higgins, who wore a blue T-shirt and nodded when the clerk said a not-guilty plea was entered on his behalf.
But, according to a police report filed in court, Higgins initially told officers he was unaware he had hit a pedestrian and pulled over in the first safe area he could after striking vehicles.
Witnesses told police Higgins was traveling 60 miles per hour in a 30-mile-per-hour zone on Old Colony Avenue when he struck a parked vehicle, causing the front right axle to break on his Explorer and the loss of that wheel, the document said.
The SUV struck a second car and then struck the girl in a crosswalk, according to the report.
Higgins then struck a third vehicle 50 yards from where the girl was hit, and traveled another 500 yards before he came to a stop, police said.
Witnesses told police they saw Higgins toss cans out of the SUV before police arrived, the report said.
When police first encountered Higgins, there was an “overwhelming odor” of alcohol emanating from his breath and he told officers he had “a couple beers with lunch” around noon, according to the report. Higgins’s speech was slurred, he was unsteady on his feet, and his eyes were bloodshot, police wrote.
“He stated that he was coming home from work . . . and that his wheel fell off his vehicle” immediately before the crash, the filing said.
He told police at booking that he took a Vicodin pill Saturday morning, which a doctor had prescribed for pain, and drank one and a half beers at lunch.
Higgins said he took two more Vicodin after lunch, and “when asked about reports of him discarding beer cans after finally stopping, Higgins admitted that he was trying to throw away the cans before police arrived because of how it would look,” the report said.
Higgins’s lawyer, William E. Gens, told reporters before the hearing that his client denies fleeing the scene, arguing that “he does pull over” soon after the crash.
Gens said Higgins is a member of Teamsters Local 25 and was heading home from his job at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center at the time of the crash.
Higgins admits to having two prior drunken driving cases, Gens said, but two additional cases attributed to him in court Monday actually involved his deceased brother. Gens said court officials made a similar error in Attleboro in 2006, when Higgins was charged with his last drunken driving offense. “He certainly doesn’t feel too good about” the weekend crash, Gens said.
Higgins had been held over the weekend on $25,040 bail, according to court records.
In addition to the counts of drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident causing personal injury, Higgins is charged with negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating under the influence of prescription drugs, driving with a license suspended for a prior OUI, leaving the scene of an accident causing property damage, and speeding.