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South of Boston
By Jean Porrazzo and Tim Grace, Enterprise staff writers
BROCKTON The Dedham teen accused of running down and killing a 21-year-old Bridgewater State College student from Brockton and seriously injuring two others had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit, Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy J. Cruz said Friday.
Lisa O’Connell, 19, of 66 Dale St., Dedham, a Bridgewater State College freshman majoring in management, was arrested Friday morning and charged with motor vehicular homicide and drunken driving.
A handcuffed and shackled O’Connell hid behind her attorney during her arraignment Friday in Brockton District Court.
Assistant District Attorney Timothy Shyne said O’Connell had left a party on Maple Avenue in Bridgewater and was driving on Spring Street when she crashed into three BSC students standing in the street in front of Julio’s Cafe.
O’Connell struck Jaclyne Coleman, 21, of Tewksbury first, “sending her off to the side.” Then she struck Jacqueline Nilsson, 21, of 200 Copeland St., Brockton, “sending her 30 feet, and then struck Stephen Bickerton, 21, of Dorchester, who landed on the windshield “and remained there while the car traveled another 100 feet, Shyne said.
Coleman and Nilsson were Bridgewater State students. Bickerton, a student at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, was visiting friends at the time of the crash.
Bickerton was listed in stable condition at Massachusetts General Hospital Friday, according to police. Initial reports said he has a serious leg injury.
Coleman was taken to Brockton Hospital, where she was treated. By Friday evening, she had been discharged.
O’Connell took four field sobriety tests and flunked three, he Shyne said.
The suspect’s attorney, Gary Lee, asked that O’Connell be sent to a hospital to be examined, saying that O’Connell had told police that “she had thoughts of suicide.”
After interviewing the suspect, Dr. Cornelius Kiley, a forensic psychiatrist, told the court that she “did not present an imminent risk to do harm to herself.”
Lee said that O’Connell was under the care of a psychiatrist who she sees weekly, is taking 30 milligrams Prozac since the death of her mother two years ago.
Judge Paul Dawley denied the request and set bail at $10,000 cash. A pretrial hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.
Outside of the courtroom, Cruz said that this was “a very serious matter,” and that the suspect’s blood-alcohol was almost three times the legal limit.”
Cruz said he was aware that O’Connell was under the care of a psychiatrist, but that he was “focusing on the innocent victims.”
A conviction carries a one-year minimum sentence with a maximum sentence of 10 years, he said.
Cruz said the party O’Connell attended is part of the investigation, and that people “will be held accountable for their actions.”
But the man whose Maple Avenue apartment O’Connell visited said she was already drunk when she arrived, had nothing to drink during her 10- or 15-minute visit and left about two hours before her crash outside the bar.
Adam Farina, a graduate student studying psychology at Bridgewater State, said O’Connell turned up at his home sometime between 11:30 and 11:45 p.m.
Standing in the driveway outside his apartment Friday afternoon, Farina said he had about a dozen people over when O’Connell arrived.
Farina said he didn’t know O’Connell and, after a few minutes, asked her to leave.
“She was very, very drunk,” he said. “I think she was looking for someone else’s house.”
Farina said he tried to keep O’Connell from driving away.
“I asked for her keys and she wouldn’t give them to me,” he said.
Insistent, Farina said he told O’Connell she could leave her car on the street in front of his home until morning.
When she refused again, he said he went through O’Connell’s purse, found her keys and moved her Toyota Camry himself, then handed the keys to one of the party guests O’Connell had been talking to.
“I told him these are yours,” Farina said, then he left the couple and walked back into the house.
He assumes O’Connell either left with the man, whose name he did not know, or she convinced him to turn over her keys and drove herself away.
After hearing about the crash Friday morning, Farina said he went to police to tell them about O’Connell’s visit.
During the course of the day Friday, Farina said he heard O’Connell had returned to her dorm room on the fifth floor of the Shea/Durgin residence hall and had gone out for something to eat just before the time of the crash.
Students use electronic swipe keys to enter the dorms but it was not clear Friday if college officials have the ability to track individual students as they come and go.
On campus Friday, students were offered grief counseling as the college community tried to cope with the senseless tragedy.
“We’ve set up a counseling center here for our students,” said Bridgewater Vice President D. David Ostroth.
He said news of Nilsson’s death left students “profoundly shocked.
“College students are notorious for feeling invincible. Young people are profoundly struck by this sort of thing,” he said.
Ostroth said Protestant and Catholic campus ministers “will be ready to receive students this afternoon, or at any time they’re needed.”
The college bans alcohol from all but one set of on-campus dorms, according to Ostroth.
In the one dorm where alcohol is allowed, students are restricted in the amount the can bring in at one time.
“They can’t bring in more than a six-pack at a time,” he said.
The dorm O’Connell was assigned to does not allow alcohol.
As for off-campus drinking, Ostroth said Bridgewater students “are all adults… We expect our students to obey the law.”
Today’s homecoming events, a parade through the town square and a football game between Bridgewater and Salve Regina University were scheduled, will go on as planned, according to college spokeswoman Linda Balzotti. “There will be some public recognition of what happened before the parade and before the game,” she said.
Jean Porrazzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tim Grace can be reached at email@example.com .