Gould fate lies with jury
PITTSFIELD — Did Sally Gould strike a pedestrian and knowingly leave her in the snow on the side of the road, or did she simply not realize that she had hit the woman.
That question is now in the hands of a Berkshire Superior Court jury.
Prosecutors allege Gould knew she had struck Cheryl J. LeClaire, and with her husband took steps to cover it up, including washing away potential evidence and providing false information about how her vehicle got damaged.
LeClaire, who was 54 at the time, was walking her dog on North Hoosac Road in Williamstown on Feb. 9, 2016, when she was struck. She suffered severe head trauma and remains comatose.
Attorneys say Gould had no idea she had struck anyone, and neither she nor her husband did anything to try to shield themselves from the resulting investigation.
Gould, 73, is charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident, and she and her husband, John Gould, also face charges of conspiracy and misleading police. Both have pleaded not guilty; they are being tried together.
John Gould, 71, was the only defense witness to testify in the trial, which began last Tuesday. Closing arguments were presented to jurors at the conclusion of that testimony.
Gould testified that when his wife returned home that evening, there was no damage to his her windshield and he didn't notice any body damage to the car.
He said he would have spotted it because he puts windshield covers on both of their cars during the winter, and did so that night. Police found two windshield covers when they executed a search warrant at the home.
Gould said he was made aware of the damage to the windshield on Feb. 10, after his wife told him it was the result of ice or a rock from a truck hitting it while she was traveling to Bennington.
He testified that his wife showed no change in behavior, nor gave any indication that she had been involved in any type of accident.
He also denied washing any part of the vehicle, especially considering it was winter.
Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Daniel Hespeler, who prosecuted the case, presented photos to the jury that showed the area of damage on Sally Gould's 2014 Honda CRV was far cleaner than the rest of the car, which had salt and dirt upon it.
During his closing argument, Sally Gould's attorney, David Hoose, noted it was likely that Sally Gould's car made contact with LeClaire in some way, but added that no one can say whether LeClaire was already in the road, perhaps having slipped on the slick road, possibly having been hit by a different vehicle altogether, or being the victim of an assault.
Plastic rivets found at the scene matched late model Honda vehicles, and a forensic analysis determined they came from Gould's CRV.
Other Hondas that were examined were also missing the types of rivets found at the scene, which Hoose suggested meant they break relatively easily and aren't a good indicator of the level of impact.
No fur, fibers, DNA or other evidence were found on the damaged windshield.
Hoose said police canvassed the neighborhood the night of the accident, but didn't speak to the Goulds or check their cars, because they only stopped at homes with the lights on. John Gould testified his lights were on that night.
Hoose said the computer in Sally Gould's car didn't record anything that would have indicated a significant impact.
He said the car was parked in the open and facing the street while the investigation was ongoing and the only reason police were aware the windshield had been damaged, was because Sally Gould voluntarily told them it had been replaced.
John Gould's attorney, Lori Levinson, described her client as "the salt of the earth," and argued he did not deliberately mislead police, which would have meant acknowledging his wife was involved in a crime.
Levinson said if it was the couple's intent to cover up the accident and mislead police, they had ample opportunity to get the car repaired at any number of shops in nearby New York or Vermont immediately after Feb. 9.
Hespeler said witness testimony determined the windshield damage was consistent with striking an animal or person, not a rock or ice.
He said windshield replacement technicians reported the body damage to Sally Gould on Feb. 12, when they did the work. Hespeler reminded jurors Sally Gould said at that time the damage was caused by the vehicle getting hit in a grocery store parking lot.
On Feb. 16, the same day police issued a statement announcing the type of vehicle for which they were looking, Sally Gould parked in a spot different from the one she normally used, and asked a co-worker at the YMCA whether anyone had reported hitting a parked vehicle, saying her car had apparently been damaged.
Jurors received their instructions and began their deliberations Monday afternoon.
Bob Dunn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @BobDunn413 on Twitter and 413-496-6249.
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