Witness in fatal Weare crash case gave different accounts to police

  • A truck crashed on Route 114 in Weare on July 3, 2015. The skid marks show where the vehicle went off the road. Monitor file



Monitor staff
Saturday, March 12, 2016
One of the last people to see Benjamin Cook before he’s accused of flipping a truck carrying two teenage passengers, killing one of them, gave police a different story than the one she offered five days later, according to a search affidavit.

At his first court hearing, prosecutors said Cook and one of his passengers, Aaron Hodgdon, had left a party earlier that night and were on their way home with the girl, Ashley Holt, when a dispute erupted. They pulled over at a business in New Boston, Milwaukee Iron Works, and Holt called her boyfriend to pick her up, they said. Cook’s second passenger, Trevor Gonyer, who died from the crash, purportedly arrived about that time.

In an Aug. 17 affidavit, however, a state police investigator said Holt told Weare police shortly after the accident that she had dropped all three men off at the business and then driven herself to her boyfriend’s house.

“She left and indicated that she felt . . . Cook would have been driving as he had made the comment ‘I’m good to drive,’ ” Trooper First Class Christopher Storm wrote in the document, summarizing Weare’s account of the interview. “Holt then went to her boyfriend’s home and a while later heard all of the emergency vehicles.”

In an interview with Storm five days later, on July 8, Holt recounted a story similar to the one prosecutors have since put forth, claiming that Gonyer had not been with them initially, and had only arrived after Hodgdon called and asked that he pick him up from the business. Holt said Gonyer was pulling in as she was leaving, according to the affidavit. She restated that Cook had mentioned he was okay to drive “and was in possession of the keys.”

Holt’s recollection of the night could prove key to the emerging criminal case against Cook, 19, of Milford, who has been charged with three felonies from the accident, including negligent homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated. But whether Cook was the one driving remains in dispute. He and the other two occupants were thrown from the truck, and Cook’s attorney, Tony Soltani, claimed last week that there is no evidence or eyewitness accounts to show who was behind the wheel. And neither Cook nor Hodgdon have been able to recall exactly who was driving, Soltani said.

Authorities have previously said the three teens were leaving the business early July 3 when New Boston police officer Stephen Case spotted them with a broken taillight and began a pursuit. Cook reportedly sped off, crossing into Weare and rolling the truck near an RV dealership along Route 114. All three teens sustained serious injuries. Gonyer, of Dunbarton, later succumbed to his.

According to the affidavit, Storm later visited Cook at Elliot Hospital in Manchester, where he was being treated, and noted “significant injuries to the left side” of his body. Hodgdon, who was at the same facility, had “extensive injuries to the right side of his body.”

Hodgdon later told Storm he could not recall who was driving but insisted it was not him. The affidavit, obtained last week, was used to request access to Cook’s hospital records.

“These injuries to Mr. Cook will help show where Mr. Cook’s position within the vehicle was during the collision,” Storm wrote.



(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)




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