Family appeals for help in son's death investigation from Darien crash
BETHEL -- Felipe Chagas was a son any parent would be proud of, a hard-working student who helped out at home between classes at Naugatuck Valley Community College and his job at a Brookfield restaurant, his father said.
"He told me, `I get one day off a week. You've got to trust me,'" Pedro Chagas said, his voice cracking as he recounted one of their final conversations before Felipe left his Bethel home last month to spend the evening with friends.
"I said, `Of course, I trust you. I don't trust the other people,'" Chagas said.
His concern proved tragically prophetic. A few hours later Felipe, 19, and a friend, 22-year-old Lucas Silva of Stamford, were dead, run down by an allegedly drunken driver as they changed a flat tire on Interstate 95 in Darien.
Candice Blanks of Stamford faces two counts of evading responsibility and a charge of drunken driving as a result the Oct. 16 accident.
State police said the 39-year-old yoga instructor smelled of alcohol and failed a field sobriety test after they found her blood-spattered sports utility vehicle parked on the shoulder of the highway a short distance from the accident scene.
She refused to take a breath test, and in a subsequent court appearance and a recent television interview her attorney, Darnell Crosland of Stamford, said his client cooperated with police and wasn't driving under the influence.
As a result, Pedro Chagas and his wife, Vera, are appealing to the public to help police and prosecutors get justice for their son.
"She's continuously denying that she was drunk at the time of the accident," said their attorney, Agostinho Ribeiro, of Danbury. "What the family is asking is that anyone who knows anything that could help in the investigation of this case come forward."
Specifically, Ribeiro said, they would like anyone who saw Blanks drinking in the hours before the accident, which occurred at 2:26 a.m., to contact the prosecutor in Stamford, Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney Steven Weiss; the state trooper investigating the accident, John Myers at Troop G in Bridgeport; or Ribeiro, at the Danbury law firm of Ventura, Ribeiro and Smith.
The family is hoping that additional charges will be filed against Blanks, who hasn't yet entered a plea in the case, Ribeiro said. State police are still investigating the crash and should complete an accident reconstruction in a few weeks.
"They have a strong case on the evading responsibility charges," Ribeiro said, and while police reports say Blanks appeared to be intoxicated and was acting erratically, the evidence is not as definitive as a breath test would have been.
Several telephone messages left for Crosland on Wednesday weren't returned.
But in an interview with News12 Connecticut earlier this month, Crosland said Blanks was "devastated" by what he called "an unfortunate confluence of events." He said his client has "a lot of compassion for the families of the victims."
But those words ring hollow with Chagas' parents.
"He was a wonderful boy," said Vera Chagas, tears trickling down her cheeks as she recalled how Felipe would help care for his 8-year-old sister while she and her husband were at work.
"We trust the law," Pedro Chagas said. "We want justice for our son, and we don't want to see other people living in pain the way we are."