D.A. holds press conference; Port Clyde crash a 'cold case'

By Juliette Laaka | Feb 07, 2014
Photo by: Juliette Laaka District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said Feb. 7 the criminal case against Cheryl Torgerson is essentially cold unless more information is provided that suggests she acted with criminal negligence when her car struck four people, killing one, in Port Clyde in August. He said victims may pursue civil cases against her.

Rockland — District Attorney Geoffrey Rushlau said Friday, Feb. 7 the criminal case against the driver of a vehicle that struck three people and fatally injured a child in Port Clyde is cold unless additional information is provided that suggests she acted with criminal negligence.

Rushlau held a informal press conference with local reporters to again explain why he did not file charges against Cheryl Lynn Torgerson, 61, of New York City.

Rushlau said the victims in the case, the Gold family of Cohasset, Mass., and Jonathan Coggeshall of St. George, each have counsel and may consider pursuing a civil case against Torgerson. Rushlau met with each party individually last week to explain why criminal charges will not be applied.

Dylan Gold, 9, was killed and his younger brother, Wyatt, 6, was injured along with their mother, Allison, 51, and 68-year-old Coggeshall, when Torgerson's vehicle struck them on the Mohegan Boat Landing pier in August.

The D.A. said he understands why the victims may feel as though justice has not been done, but said there was no evidence to suggest criminal negligence in order to prosecute a case of manslaughter or aggravated driving to endanger. He said he believes the Gold family and Coggeshall understand the difference between pursuing a civil and a criminal case.

Criminal negligence must show a "gross deviation from the standard of conduct that a reasonable and prudent person would observe in the same situation."

He added there is nothing else for the police to investigate.

The data retrieved from the vehicle autopsy and witness reports from that day said Torgerson was completely stopped north of the pier for about about 30 seconds. Rushlau said reports of Torgerson speeding into the village and onto the pier is not true, and added it is important the public know she was stopped on the hill.

He added cell phone data revealed the last communication Torgerson had was well before the crash occurred, suggesting she was not distracted by her phone when her car began to roll down the hill.

In a report released by Rushlau earlier this week, he said the car autopsy, performed by Maine State Police, said there was no defect of the car explaining the sudden acceleration.

In the report, it's written that Torgerson rolled down the hill, struck a vehicle in front of her, rammed into a building and hit Coggeshall, causing her air bag to deploy. About four seconds after the airbag deployed, she struck multiple parked cars and injured the Golds.

Torgerson told police she did not know what happened and said her pedal had jammed, according to the report. She said it was a blur to her and added she did not know if she used the brake.

According to the report, during the first several seconds the brakes were on and the throttle pedal was partly depressed, 33 percent or less. Approximately four seconds before the airbag deployed, the brake pedal changed from on to off, and the throttle pedal position changed to 100 percent, said the statement released by Rushlau Feb. 6.

Torgerson may have had one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas at the time she was stopped, he said, citing the data retrieved from the car. Rushlau said he looked at the case objectively and told reporters he can neither prove or disprove driver error, but said the consequences of her driving the vehicle was a devastating tragedy.

Reports of a similar vehicle to Torgerson's, with a similar license plate number speeding in Waldoboro on the day of the crash was not taken into consideration. Rushlau explained it was not part of his decision because he needed to focus on what occurred in Port Clyde after she was stopped on the hill. He said information about her possible driving behavior before the crash would not have been allowed into evidence by a judge and therefore it was dismissed.

He said the 2007 Infiniti owned by Torgerson was returned to her. He said the car had been totaled.

Rushlau said he has not spoken with Torgerson directly, but told her attorney, Eric Morse of Rockland, the state was not pursuing charges against her at this time.

When asked if he was frustrated with the outcome of the case, Rushlau said he is satisfied with his decision, although not necessarily happy with it. He added, however, it is not his role to be disappointed whether charges were or were not filed.

Courier Publications' reporter Juliette Laaka can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 118 or via email at jlaaka@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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