Williamstown couple on trial in hit-and-run that left woman comatose

PITTSFIELD — Cheryl J. LeClaire was walking her dog on North Hoosac Road in Williamstown on Feb. 9, 2016, when she was struck by a car.

LeClaire, then 54, was found lying in the road unresponsive. She suffered severe head trauma and remains comatose more than two years later.

The driver of the car, prosecutors told jurors on Tuesday, was Sally Gould.

"She did not stop, she did not call 911," Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Daniel Hespeler said. Instead, Hespeler said, she left the victim alone and injured on the side of the road.

Opening statements began in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday in the case against Gould, 73, and her husband, John Gould, 71, of Williamstown. They both are facing charges of misleading police and conspiracy; Sally Gould also is charged with leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.

Her attorney, David Hoose, acknowledged the evidence will likely show Sally Gould's car somehow came into contact with the victim.But he told jurors they could only find his client guilty if the state proves she knew she hit a person and deliberately left the scene.

"Talk is cheap," he said. "(Hespeler) has to prove those allegations, and prove them beyond a reasonable doubt."

John Gould's attorney, Lori Levinson, said, "I'm not here to diminish the pain or to say this is not a tragic case. I'm here in the name of justice."

Prosecutors allege the Goulds conspired to avoid responsibility for injuring LeClaire and lied to police about how and when Sally Gould's vehicle was damaged.

Levinson reasoned that if Sally Gould didn't know she hit a person, then her client couldn't have deliberately misled investigators.

"If she didn't know, how could he lie?" Levinson asked.

Hespeler said investigators determined the victim suffered injuries consistent with being struck by a vehicle.

Plastic rivets found at the scene were found to have come from a Honda vehicle with a model year of 2012 or newer.

Sally Gould drove a 2014 Honda CRV.

With that information, police sought the public's help in finding a vehicle that matched the description, and that may have front end damage.

A witness saw a vehicle matching the description parked at the Gould's home and reported it to police.

During interviews, the couple allegedly gave a series of conflicting statements and activities that investigators say shows a pattern of altering evidence to cover up the crime. A broken windshield was replaced, the damaged part of the car was washed, with the rest left unwashed, police said, and damage to the car was inconsistent with the Goulds' assertion it was the result of a parking lot collision.

Hoose questioned whether Gould's car was the first or only vehicle to hit the victim.

"No one knows how this happened," he said, noting no one can say where the victim was standing when she was struck, or if she was standing at all. She was walking her dog at the time she was hit, but the dog was not injured.

"What happened meets anyone's definition of a tragedy," Hoose said, but he noted the tragic circumstances are not relevant to the charges against his client.

Levinson noted Gould's car was parked in plain view in the days following the accident and she waited until days later to get the windshield repaired and waited a week before contacting the insurance company.

"Are these the actions of a person trying to hide?" Levinson asked, adding that John Gould voluntarily went to speak with police and answered all of their questions.

"He is innocent," Levinson said. "He did not lie."

A 14-person jury was seated; eight women and six men. Twelve will ultimately deliberate the case with the remaining two serving as alternates.

Testimony in the trial is expected to continue Wednesday.

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


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