Woman pleads guilty to reduced charges
Published 2:26 pm, Wednesday, April 23, 2014
The Stamford woman who killed two men while driving drunk in Darien on Interstate 95 in October 2010, will be sentenced to six months in jail later this year.
Over sobs in the courtroom from the still grieving families of Felipe Chagas and Lucas Silva, Candace Blanks, 43, appeared in a fourth floor courtroom at state Superior Court in Stamford and pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence.
Her plea agreement calls for supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Steven Weiss to drop two felony charges of leaving the scene of an accident and for Blanks, of Bedford Street, to be sentenced to six months in jail sometime in September.
The families of Silva and Chagas were unhappy with the way the case worked out.
Outside the courtroom, the mother of one of the men Vera Chagas said, "We expected more justice when we did not get any."
Reciting the state's facts in the case, Weiss said Blanks had been drinking with friends in South Norwalk until early in the morning of Oct. 16, 2010. She was driving home to Stamford while Chagas, 19, a college student from Bethel and Silva, 21, a Stamford resident and Greenwich High School graduate, were changing a tire on I-95 southbound between exits 11 and 10.
At 2:26 a.m. Blanks drove by and hit the two with her black Lincoln Navigator, dragging Silva about 170 feet down the highway and slamming Chagas under the car he was working on.
Weiss said Blanks pulled over on the highway four-tenths of a mile away. When police talked to her she had bloodshot eyes, smelled of alcohol, was swaying on her feet, failed balance tests, experiencing mood swings and even urinated on herself. She refused to take a Breathalyzer. State Police also reported at the time she asked to call home and leave her dog a message that she would not be home that night.
Blanks was immediately charged with two counts of evading responsibility and vehicular manslaughter and a single count of drunk driving. But the state never filed the vehicular manslaughter charges.
During Thursday's hearing, Weiss told Judge Richard Comerford that investigators could not pinpoint exactly where Blanks struck Chagas and Silva -- whether they were on the shoulder or standing in the roadway. Blanks' Navigator never struck any part of the car Chagas and Silva were changing the tire on, he said.
Because of the lack of evidence against her, the manslaughter charges were never filed, Weiss said.
Weiss said the state's case against Blanks was further complicated because state police, thinking that the case had already been settled, destroyed the car and most of the state's evidence in 2013.
Weiss said the best disposition for the case was the plea agreement the state was offering in the matter.
Darnell Crosland, who was representing Blanks, said after the hearing that the six-month jail sentence was a fair disposition in the case.
Bloss said the investigation was deficient from the start. He said Darien police reported that they talked to an eyewitness who said he was following Blanks from South Norwalk and was pulled over on Ledge Road and was comforting Blanks right after the accident. But Bloss said police never identified the man and never got the story about what he saw while following Blanks.
Bloss also said that when she was brought to the state police barracks, Blanks was allowed to refuse to take a breath test. But Bloss said that state law requires that a blood or breath sample be taken from any operator involved in an accident causing serious physical injury or death.
He also said that state police failed to obtain any electronic information from the vehicle's control restrain module, even though they had the car for years.
"We do not doubt that these failures by the police have entered into the state's decision about how to proceed. Even so, the decision not to pursue the evading responsibility charge and not to allow a jury to determine her guilt or innocence to that charge, has also been very hard to understand," Bloss said. "The criminal justice system has, on this occasion, let down the family of Lucas Silva and those who are counting on it to protect innocent victims of misconduct."
Attorney Rute Mendes said the Chagas family said the plea agreement was an insult and feels it has been victimized all over again by Blanks getting off so easily. She said the family believes the state has enough evidence against Blanks to bring the case to trial.
Furthermore Mendes said the case sets a poor example and says to young people, if you drive drunk and kill two people all you are going to get convicted of is drunk driving.