Summary:

Paragraphs 7 & 8 read: "Prosecutors argued that Reynolds, who had been taking prescription medication for depression and anxiety, had dozed off while driving her Ford Ranger pickup truck along Farmers Row (Route 111) in Groton on Sept. 1, 2001. She veered off the road, drove onto the sidewalk, plowing into Holofcener as he rode his bike a short distance from his Riverbend Drive home.

Holofcener, who was wearing a helmet, died less than two hours after the 1:15 p.m. accident. An avid hockey player, Holofcener died just days shy of starting the eighth grade at Groton-Dunstable Regional

http://www.lowellsun.com/front/ci_4243233

Court upholds driver's conviction in boy's death
By LISA REDMOND, Sun Staff

BOSTON -- An Ayer woman convicted in the 2001 death of a Groton teen has lost her appeal, but can continue to stay out of jail until further appeals are exhausted.

The state Appeals Court yesterday upheld the conviction of Melissa Reynolds of felony motor-vehicle homicide charges in the death of Evan Holofcener, 13. Superior Court Judge Thomas Billings sentenced her to 21/2 to three years in state prison. But Billings stayed the sentence until she exhausted all appeals. Reynolds, a single mother of a 7-year-old girl, can remain free until then.

Billings made this rare move because Reynolds had no prior record, and because most of her sentence would have already been served before her all her appeals were heard.

Emily LaGrassa, spokeswoman for Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley, said the office is pleased that Reynolds' conviction has been upheld. LaGrassa said Reynolds can seek further appellate review before the state Supreme Judicial Court. It is unlikely she will go to jail before all appeals are heard, LaGrassa said.

Daniel Callahan, an attorney for the Committee for Public Counsel Services who defended Reynolds, could not be reached for comment.

Nancy and Mark Holofcener, Evan's parents, have moved out of state and could not be reached for comment.

Prosecutors argued that Reynolds, who had been taking prescription medication for depression and anxiety, had dozed off while driving her Ford Ranger pickup truck along Farmers Row (Route 111) in Groton on Sept. 1, 2001. She veered off the road, drove onto the sidewalk, plowing into Holofcener as he rode his bike a short distance from his Riverbend Drive home.

Holofcener, who was wearing a helmet, died less than two hours after the 1:15 p.m. accident. An avid hockey player, Holofcener died just days shy of starting the eighth grade at Groton-Dunstable Regional Middle School.

A Lowell Superior Court jury deliberated 10 hours over two days before convicting Reynolds.

The defense had argued that Holofcener may have darted out into the road, but a state police accident reconstructionist testified she was "99.9 percent sure" that Reynolds drove onto the sidewalk and hit the teen.

Reynolds, who was 26 at the time of the accident, admitted to police she was on medication because she was depressed and suffered from insomnia after another child, a baby girl, born three months premature, died in May 2001.

Defense attorney Lynda Dantas disputed that Reynolds was under the influence of anything. There was no physical evidence, such as blood tests or urine analysis, to prove Reynolds had drugs in her system on the day of the accident.

But prosecutor Suzanne Kontz had two witnesses who testified they were nearly struck by Reynolds minutes before the fatal accident, suggesting she was impaired.

The Appeals Court wrote that Kontz presented "sufficient evidence to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant operated a motor vehicle recklessly or negligently after ingesting prescription medications that diminished her ability to drive safely."

Reynolds, who was visibly upset during the trial, expressed remorse for the teen's death in her taped statement, saying, "I never wanted to hurt anybody. ... I wish I had died, too."

Lisa Redmond's e-mail address is lredmond@lowellsun.com.