LANCASTER — The court will allow evidence that the driver of the truck that killed seven motorcyclists in Randolph last year had been driving erratically that day and had overdosed on heroin a month before the fatal collision.
But Coos County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein denied a motion to allow the state to introduce evidence of two prior instances where defendant Volodymyr Zhukovskyy’s “erratic driving” had resulted in motor vehicle accidents.
Zhukovskyy, 24, of West Springfield, Mass., is charged with seven counts of manslaughter, seven charges of impaired negligent homicide, seven counts of negligent homicide, one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated, and one count of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon.
He has pleaded not guilty to all counts and is being held without bail in the Coos County Jail in West Stewartstown.
He is being represented by Public Defender Steve Mirkin of Orford and Public Defender Jay Duguay of Littleton, who had filed three objections to the state’s motion to allow different pieces of evidence.
Bornstein overruled two of their objections.
He ruled the state can introduce testimony from witnesses who reported three separate instances of a black Dodge truck hauling a trailer traveling erratically within two hours of the accident on June 21, 2019.
One witness said the truck had Westfield Transportation written on the side as did the truck involved in the fatal crash. Bornstein said the defense retains the right to require the state to satisfy “clear proof” standards at an evidentiary hearing outside of the jury’s presence.
Bornstein also ruled the state can submit evidence of Zhukovskyy’s criminal history and specifically an overdose incident on May 5, 2019, in Agawam, Mass. The state alleges Zhukovskyy was discovered lying on his back in a parking lot unresponsive. It took three doses of Narcan to revive him. Upon questioning, the defendant allegedly confessed he had snorted three bags of heroin.
The state also wanted to introduce evidence of two prior motor vehicle collisions involving Zhukovskyy. The defendant crashed a Honda Civic in a collision in West Springfield, Mass., in 2014. At the time, Zhukovskyy pleaded there were sufficient facts to support a conviction of operating under the influence of liquor - his blood alcohol registered .14. Eighteen days before the Randolph accident, Zhukovskyy crashed a tractor-trailer truck hauling a car carrier in Baytown, Texas.
Bornstein ruled the prior collisions did not have a direct bearing on an issue in dispute and the evidence is “ substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice.”
The defense has cited evidence that the driver of the lead motorcycle, was legally intoxicated at the time of the collision and his motorcycle was protruding over the center line. A report by Crash Lab. Inc., of Hampton, hired by the state, ruled the initial assessment of the collision was deeply flawed.
The motorcyclists were members of the Jarhead Motorcycle Club or family members. The club, made up of retired U.S. Marines, was in the area for its annual meeting.
Killed were Albert Mazza, 59, of Lee, Daniel Pereira, 58, of Riverside, R.I., Michael Ferazzi, 62, of Contoocook, Aaron Perry, 45, of Lee, Desma Oakes, 42, of Concord, and Edward and Joan Corr, both 58 of Lakeview, Mass.