Gary W. Hale has been convicted of leaving the scene of a fatal hit and run in Lyndon two years ago.
He was driving a silver Ford Fiesta as he and passenger Katrina Haslam, 47, traveled from a Lyndonville bar on Route 5 toward their residence sometime after 11 p.m. on Friday night, Dec. 1, 2017.
The car hit something on just south of the potato sheds and the couple told investigators they thought it was an animal. They they returned to the scene once before leaving again.
The body of Mattie Lynne Hale (no relation), 46, was found behind the northbound guardrail the following morning by a passer-by.
Hale was charged with leaving the scene of an accident - death resulting.
On Wednesday, Hale entered the courtroom with his attorney David Sleigh and pleaded no contest to the charge. The plea was accepted by Caledonia Superior Court Judge Robert Bent who found Hale guilty and ordered a pre-sentencing investigation to be completed before he sentences Hale. The hearing was attended by several members of Mattie Hale’s Family.
Hale faces a possible sentence of 1-15 years in prison.
“All of that could be suspended,” said Sleigh.
Hale also faces a possible fine of up to $3,000.
During the hearing Warren told the court what happened after Haslam told Gary Hale she thought they had just hit a person.
“Gary Hale denied that they had,” said Warren. “They turned around and drove by the area again, but later claimed they did not see anyone. The two then went home to Ms. Haslam’s apartment at 547 Lynburke Road - about half a mile up the road from where Mr. Hale killed Mattie Hale. After they got home, they saw two neighbors and told them they thought they just hit an animal. Sam Hazard, one of the neighbors, said he almost hit a person earlier that night walking in the same area as he drove home. All four of them drove down to the scene, claimed they did not see anyone on the side of the road and all four returned to Haslam’s apartment.”
According to Warren, Samuel Hazard went back to the scene alone and found a purse.
“He took it home and once back at the apartment showed the purse to Aimee Little and Katrina Haslam. They found Mattie Hale’s driver’s license in the purse.”
Warren then summed up the basis for the charge against Hale.
“Gary made no attempt to try and render any assistance reasonably necessary and never picked up the phone to contact police about the crash,” said Warren while entering the factual basis for the charge. “Not after striking and killing her, not after driving by the area several times, not after Mattie Hale’s purse was found on the roadside in that area, not after going to sleep and awaking the next morning, not when he saw a trooper in the roadway the next morning with a reflective vest and not after seeing Facebook posts about a body being found on the side of the road where the crash occurred.”
Haslam was charged as an accessory after the fact by helping Gary Hale hide his damaged vehicle from police. In December, she pleaded no contest to the charge and in March Judge Robert Bent issued a sentence of 18 months to 4 years, all suspended except 60 days of work crew plus probation.
According to police, Gary Hale and Haslam had been drinking and dancing together at the Tom Breslin Community Center on Main Street in Lyndonville, while Mattie Hale had also been there at the same time with Darwin “Darby” Synstad. Synstad told police they left the bar about 11 p.m. and that Mattie Hale insisted on walking home. Police said Hale and Haslam left the bar after Mattie Hale started walking home.