Driver charged in Lynde death loses license

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BRATTLEBORO — The driver charged in the death of Stanley Lynde, who owned Lynde Motorsports, permanently lost his driving privileges.

Michael D. Cheeney, 60, of New Hampshire, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor counts of negligent operation with death resulting and negligent operation with serious bodily injury. If he violates his probation, he can be imprisoned for up to 24 months.

"It is my understanding that the family is interested in bringing closure to the case," said Steven Brown, deputy state's attorney. "I think the outcome we have here is a very realistic outcome that a jury would arrive at, that there was negligence. I think this outcome is in the interest of justice."

Under the plea agreement approved Tuesday during a sentencing hearing, Cheeney cannot operate a motor vehicle on a public highway. He is not to have any convictions or engage in any criminal behavior and must allow his probation officer to make visits. He was ordered to relinquish his license.

The motor vehicle crash occurred near the intersection of Route 5 and 91 Access Road in Westminster on Sept. 25, 2017. Vermont State Police Trooper Sean Reilly said in an affidavit that he saw a 1971 Harley Davidson facing south, resting on its left side.

Cheeney claimed he had not seen the motorcycle and told police he had consumed one Budweiser at about 3 p.m. that day. A blood alcohol test showed to be at 0.046 percent at 5:20 p.m. that day, according to the affidavit.

Brown said Cheeney did not operate his vehicle in a way that a reasonable person would in similar circumstances; Cheeney should have been able to react to an obstruction in the roadway within about two seconds.

Brown said Lynde's family was not interested in penalizing Cheeney, who has "serious health issues," with fines or a jail sentence. Cheeney had been hospitalized for cancer, according to court files.

Stanley's family has been "incredibly strong," Brown told the court.

"In this particular case, I think the Lynde family has a fair perspective and understand all the competing interests in the case," he said. "I think it's very commendable."

Stanley's wife Laura D'Angelo, who was a passenger on the motorcycle on the day of the crash, said "no amount of words will ever capture the horror and devastation" she has experienced.

"Stanley's life ended on impact," she said. "Stanley's life as he and I knew it ended on impact. Our lives ended on impact. We stopped living together that day."

D'Angelo described Stanley's death as "a catastrophe."

"I am completely shattered, unable to live," she said. "Nothing in my life is normal. I am alive but I am not living."

D'Angelo reported having difficulties eating, sleeping, breathing, remembering, thinking, bathing, working, driving, reading and walking the dogs. She said she takes medications for depression and sleeping.

D'Angelo said she is in "a parallel universe of shock and numbness," haunted by his absence and the aches from her injuries. She was taken to Springfield Hospital after the incident and treated for a broken right wrist and chest contusions.

"All I do every single day is feel the pain of his unbearable loss," she said. "I am completely traumatized by Stanley's death."

D'Angelo said she missed having cups of coffee with Stanley in the morning, hearing how his work day went and seeing the dogs go "bonkers" when he would come home.

"I miss him talking to me," she said. "I miss the fun we had together. I miss the way he made me feel safe."

D'Angelo said it breaks her heart to see Lynde Motorsports closed.

"The shock waves of Stanley's death will ripple endlessly through the family and friends who truly adored him," she said.

"When you love someone as deeply as I loved Stanley and Stanley loved me, it is never enough time. When you love someone deeply, it is never enough time. I am never going to be OK with Stanley being dead."

In a victim impact statement, Gail Lynde said her family always enjoyed listening to her brother Stanley's stories and getting advice from him. She said he won't get to hear about his grandchildren's first motorcycle rides.

In a victim impact statement, Kelli Lynde Worden said her father taught her to work hard and give to others in need. Worden said Stanley had a personality "bigger than life itself" and gave people a "big bear hug" whenever it was needed.

"He was the coolest grandfather who ever lived, and his traits live on through his grandchildren," Worden said. "We have a profound sadness and an empty chair at the table of life."

Brown said Cheeney may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash but the state did not have enough evidence to provide that without reasonable doubt. Brown said one of the most important things to the family was to ensure Cheeney would not injure anyone else again.

"We felt that it was the best option for everyone involved," Cheeney's attorney, Erik Valdes of Fitts, Olson & Giddings in Brattleboro, said of the plea agreement.

Judge John Treadwell said the agreement did meet a significant goal in protecting the public but it was clear there had been a large effect on the family.

"And nothing this court can do can repair the harm that has occurred here," he said. "Mr. Cheeney, you're getting a chance here and you should be appreciative of that."

Cheeney had been facing two felony counts of negligence resulting in serious bodily injury to a person other than the operator. The charges each carry a penalty of up to 15 years of imprisonment and fines up to $15,000.

Lynde's friend David Demaria of Florida told police he was driving behind Lynde at about 45 to 50 miles per hour when a green Toyota Tacoma made an unsafe turn, resulting in the collision. Demaria said the truck was traveling at a slow speed and had stopped before trying to make the left-hand turn.

Susan Smith of North Carolina told police she was saw the first motorcycle collide with the passenger side of the Tacoma while she was escorting a tractor trailer unit and traveling the same road. Jeremy Bostick of North Carolina "advised he witnessed the Toyota Tacoma make an unsafe left-hand turn, resulting in the truck and lead motorcycle colliding," according to the affidavit. Smith and Bostick told police it looked as though the driver of the Tacoma was trying to turn in front of the motorcycles.

Reilly said Lynde was unresponsive and transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital where he was put in a medically induced coma.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays

at cmays@reformer.com,

at @CMaysBR on Twitter

and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.

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