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Tuesday, April 15

BURLINGTON -- A repeat drunk driver who killed a Franklin County teenager in a wrong-way crash on Interstate 89 last year was sentenced Monday to 10 to 20 years in prison. In a court room filled with the victim's family and friends, Shawn Burritt, 33, of Jericho pleaded guilty to driving under the influence, causing a fatality, and leaving the scene of a crash. Three other charges were dropped as part of the plea deal.

On Nov. 17, Burritt -- who lost his driver's license for life after three drunken driving convictions -- drove the wrong way on the interstate and plowed his car into one carrying Nicholas Fournier, 18, of West Swanton.

Burritt had admitted to having eight to nine beers at a Colchester bar, with his last about 30 minutes before the crash.

Through tears, Fournier's mother told Burritt the loss of her son meant a lifetime without parole from her grief.

"You killed our son ... You took our future," Cathy Fournier said.

Describing Nick Fournier as a loving, fun person, who played by the rules, family and friends, who have rallied at the Statehouse for tougher drunken driving laws, accused Burritt of disrespecting laws and having no remorse.

Some pleaded with Judge Linda Leavitt for a longer minimum sentence to send a message to drunken drivers.

"I don't want to see people suffering like we're suffering. I don't want to see people like Nick not in this world," said Earl Fournier, Nick's uncle.

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But Leavitt accepted the plea deal which she said she understood the family supported. Before doing so, she asked Burritt to respond to the family's accusations.

"This is such a horrible event that you've created," Leavitt said. "I hope something good will come out of this ... The life you took was so precious to so many."

Burritt apologized to the family, saying he had been an alcoholic since he was 18, and tried to stop drinking many times. He told the judge that after being convicted of drunken driving, he would remain sober for several years but start drinking again with friends. When asked what might have prevented that, he said more jail time.

"I hope there will be more laws and programs to prevent tragedies like this from happening again," he said.

Chittenden County State's Attorney T.J. Donovan called the plea deal a fair and appropriate solution, but acknowledged that it may not be sufficient for the victim's family.

"These are terrible, terrible tragic cases," he said. "It's never enough."

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