By Eric Francis, Standard Correspondent
NORTH HAVERHILL, NH – A Hartland man on Wednesday pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and aggravated drunk driving as part of a plea deal that had been worked out in advance with prosecutors in New Hampshire.
At an emotional hearing Wednesday afternoon at the remote Grafton County Courthouse Daniel Cowdrey, 40, wiped away tears and apologized to several members of Ellynn Koelsch’s family for the head-on collision 18 months ago that killed her instantly and left her 4-year-old son injured in the seat beside her.
Koelsch had travelled to Vermont on May 25, 2016, to explore a possible permanent move to the Burlington area when she was struck on Interstate 89 near the Lebanon Airport by Cowdrey minutes after he left a farewell gathering for a co-worker at a local restaurant where he had consumed two “scorpion bowls.”
Co-workers at the company where Cowdrey worked later told police that they’d spent nearly an hour outside in the parking lot trying to convince Cowdrey he was far too inebriated to drive, but eventually he set out for home and ended up running other cars off the road as he headed the wrong-way up and off-ramp onto the highway, striking one other car and causing heavy damage before he continued on to the fatal encounter with Koelsch moments later.
On Wednesday, Cowdrey, who is the father of a young child himself, was sentenced to serve 6-to-12 years in prison for the negligent homicide with the possibility of a year off of that total for good behavior.
“There were a number of conditions and a second conviction (for aggravated drunk driving) with a consecutive 3 ½ to 7 year sentence (which was) suspended for 15 years upon good behavior but consecutive if imposed in the future,” Grafton County State’s Attorney Lara Saffo explained afterwards, adding “Conditions included no ability to petition for a new license for at least nine years after release (the maximum under the law), no contact (with the Koelsch family) and $100,000 in criminal restitution.”
Saffo said it was “hard to find the words” to explain “how devastating this case is,” for Koelsch’s family and her friends, especially given the entirely preventable nature of the tragedy. “Ellynn Koelsch was clearly a remarkable mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend, beloved to so many,” Saffo noted.