Prosecutors doubt defendant’s health affected fatal Sweet Tomatoes crash
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WOBURN — The driver of a car that crashed into a Newton pizza restaurant and killed two people appeared never to have hit his brakes as he hurtled through a busy intersection and into the establishment in March, a prosecutor said Monday in court.
Bradford Casler, 55, has multiple sclerosis, but investigators do not believe it played a role in the crash at the Sweet Tomatoes restaurant, Chris Tarrant, a Middlesex County prosecutor, said at Casler's arraignment in Middlesex Superior Court.
Prosecutors said they based that decision on a review of Casler's medical records, including observations by medical professionals who treated him after the crash.
They also said investigators spoke to people who know Casler, who were familiar with his medical condition, and who observed him around the time of the crash.
Casler faces two counts of motor vehicle homicide and one count of operating a motor vehicle so as to endanger.
In court Monday, he pleaded not guilty in the crash, which killed Eleanor Miele, 57, of Watertown, and 32-year-old Gregory D. Morin of Newton. Seven other people were injured. He was released on personal recognizance.
Tarrant said witnesses reported that Casler was driving his SUV extremely fast on Chestnut Street as he crossed the intersection of Washington Street and crashed into the restaurant March 1.
One person said the brake lights of Casler's Volkswagen Tiguan never turned on, and another described feeling a whoosh as the vehicle went by, Tarrant said.
"Persons inside had virtually no warning of the . . . collision, and as a result two people were killed and seven people were seriously injured," Tarrant said.
Tarrant said investigators found nothing wrong with the vehicle, and do not believe Casler was having medical problems.
"We have found that multiple sclerosis was not the cause of this crash," he said. "We believe that Mr. Casler was not suffering any . . . flare-ups related to his disease at the time of the crash."
Casler, a real estate agent, has three previous accidents on his driving record but no criminal record.
In court, Casler walked unsteadily, appearing to have a limp. As he approached the defense table, he passed two rows of people said to be family and friends of the victims. After Casler's arraignment, court officers escorted the people out a back door of the courthouse.
Casler left through the front door and declined to speak to reporters outside. His attorney, David Meier, said he planned to review the information the state used to make the claim that Casler's multiple sclerosis did not cause the crash. He said Casler has had the disease for about 27 years.
"We all know the effects of multiple sclerosis," he said. "This isn't the time or place for me to get into that disease, or his personal medical history."
MS, a debilitating autoimmune disease, can cause impaired mobility, fatigue, vision problems, and other issues.
Tarrant had requested that bail for Casler be set at $10,000. But a judge decided to release him after learning that Casler has lived in Newton for most of his life, needed to stay in the area for medical care and to help his elderly mother, and had appeared in court of his own volition.
Meier said Casler had "nothing but sadness and sorrow" about the crash, and "recognizes that this is a horrible, horrible tragedy."
The court will hold a hearing Thursday on a motion filed by Meier to impound certain court documents in the case. A pretrial conference is set for Oct. 13.