Neighbor testifies about condition of suspect's car at Pittsfield hit-and-run trial

PITTSFIELD — When he arrived home on the night of Feb. 9, 2016, Robert Santiago noticed the hood of his neighbor's car seemed misaligned.

Taking the stand Friday in the hit-and-run trial of Sally Gould, Santiago also said the car was pulled in headfirst, which would have put the passenger side facing away from Santiago's vehicle in the Williamstown driveway they shared. Gould normally backed her car into the driveway, he said.

The next day, Santiago said, he took a closer look at the car and saw that the front end of the passenger side appeared damaged.

Gould is accused of running down a pedestrian on nearby North Hoosac Road that night and leaving the scene.

Prosecutors allege that Gould knew she had struck the woman, but failed to stop or report the collision and conspired with her husband, John, to cover up the accident. The victim, Cheryl J. LeClaire, then 54, suffered severe head trauma and remains comatose.

During Friday's proceedings in Berkshire Superior Court, Santiago said he reported the vehicle to police after they issued a public notice Feb. 16 seeking information on a late-model Honda that might have damage on its front passenger side.

He also testified that around the same time he noticed the damage to Gould's vehicle, a 2014 Honda CRV, he noticed a "frost shield" covering the windshield, which he found odd, because that shield was otherwise only on her husband's car.

Santiago, however, made no mention of the frost shield in his statement to police and did not report seeing any damage to the windshield. Police later found two frost shields at the Gould residence.

Under cross-examination, Santiago also acknowledged inconsistencies between his testimony and his statements to police.

Sally Gould's attorney, David Hoose, pointed out that in his original police statement, Santiago told investigators that Gould's vehicle was backed in.

After reviewing his statement, which he typed himself and signed, Santiago said the section noting the position of Sally Gould's car was not correct.

During a police interview, John Gould told police he did not see any damage to his wife's windshield Feb. 9, and he would have seen it, because he put those shields on both vehicles each night.

Sally Gould told police the windshield was damaged Feb. 10 when a rock fell from a truck. A call to have the windshield repaired was made the evening of Feb. 10.

Massachusetts State Trooper Ryan Dickinson testified that photos of Gould's CRV showed the area around the damaged passenger side appeared to have been freshly cleaned, while the remainder of the car was not.

Dickinson also said car cleaning supplies were found in the Gould's shed.

Under cross-examination, he said the photos of the CRV were taken Feb. 19, 10 days after the accident. He also testified that it wasn't unusual to find car cleaning supplies in a shed, and there didn't appear to have been an attempt to hide them.

Police at the scene of the accident recovered evidence, including plastic clips that would have come from a Honda vehicle with a model year of 2012 or newer.

Michael Murdock, a body shop manager at the Bedard Brothers auto dealership in Cheshire, testified Friday that he examined Sally Gould's car and found there were four such clips missing from the passenger-side fender and bumper.

In his opening statement Tuesday, Hoose acknowledged that evidence might show that Sally Gould's CRV made some kind of contact with LeClaire, but prosecutors would have to prove she did so knowingly and failed to report it.

Gail Cary, one of Sally Gould's co-workers at the Northern Berkshire YMCA in North Adams, testified that Gould asked her Feb. 16 if anyone had reported hitting her car, which she said had apparently been damaged while it was parked there.

Cary said Gould had parked her vehicle that day in a spot different from the one she normally used.

She also testified that she interacted with Gould about four times a day, clocking her in and out of work twice a day each workday, and never noticed a change in her demeanor in the days after the Feb. 9 accident.

Sally Gould, 73, and John Gould, 71, of Williamstown, are facing charges of misleading police and conspiracy; Sally Gould also is charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.

John Gould is represented by attorney Lori Levinson. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Daniel Hespeler.

The state rested its case Friday afternoon. The trial resumes Monday morning, and the case is likely to go to the jury later the same day.

John Gould might take the stand, according to Levinson. Hoose indicated that Sally Gould likely will not do so.

Bob Dunn can be reached at, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.


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