Murder charge brought against Spanos: alleged driver in fatal Rutland crash scheduled to enter plea today.Vyto Starinskas / Staff FILE Photo
Alex Spanos is brought into court for an arraignment in September by a Rutland County deputy sheriff. Spanos is due in court today to face an upgraded charge of second-degree murder.
RUTLAND — The man accused of causing the crash that killed 17-year-old Carly Ferro in Rutland will answer to a murder charge in the case today.
Four months after the crash on Cleveland Avenue which shocked the community and triggered calls for a renewed war on drugs in the city, county and state prosecutors handling the case have amended the manslaughter charge against Alex W. Spanos to a count of second-degree murder.
The amended charge, which the 23-year-old Rutland man is scheduled to be arraigned on today, carries a potential lifetime jail sentence along with a minimum sentence of 20 years behind bars — a far greater penalty than the 15-year maximum he faced if convicted of manslaughter.
Spanos pleaded innocent to the manslaughter charge and felony counts of gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle with death resulting and two counts of gross negligent operation of a motor vehicle with serious injury resulting.
At that same court appearance on Sept. 28 — his only hearing in court since the crash on Sept. 26 — Spanos pleaded innocent to misdemeanor charges of reckless and gross operation of a motor vehicle and reckless endangerment.
He was ordered held without the option of bail and remains behind bars.
In the amended charge filed Wednesday, Rutland County State’s Attorney Marc Brierre wrote that the murder charge was warranted because Spanos acted “unlawfully causing the death of another with a wanton disregard of the likelihood that his actions would cause death or great bodily harm by driving a motor vehicle into another vehicle killing Carly Jean Ferro after inhaling chemical fumes from an aerosol can....”
Witnesses, including two passengers in the 2004 Toyota Camry that caused the crash, told police they believed the driver was high from inhaling cans of “Dust-Off” — compressed air used to clean computer keyboards. In interviews with investigators, Spanos denied “huffing” from aerosol cans found at the scene or using any drugs prior to the crash which police say involved the Camry crashing at a high speed into a row of parked cars outside Rutland Discount Foods.
Neither Brierre nor officials at the Vermont Attorney General’s office, which is assisting in the prosecution, returned calls asking about the new charge Wednesday afternoon.
However, in additional paperwork filed to support the new charge, Rutland Police Officer Edward Dumas said a toxicology report on blood taken from Spanos shortly after the crash indicated a high concentration of difloureothane — a gas commonly used in electronic cleaning products that can be abused as a means to get high.
While Spanos told police that he had spent the day driving around Rutland trying to find a job, the passengers in his car, 27-year-old Michael Longley and Eva Lebo, 43, told police that he had spent part of that day huffing Dust-Off while driving around Rutland.
The pair told police that Spanos had taken his last hit from the can just before turning onto Cleveland Avenue.
In the new paperwork filed Wednesday in Rutland criminal court, Dumas said Longley gave police a detailed account of Spanos’ alleged use of the aerosol can while driving on several streets before the car reached Cleveland Avenue.
Once on that street, Longley said Spanos huffed from the can a final time before taking a left onto Cleveland Avenue — a course that was in the opposite direction of the trio’s intended destination.
“Alex Spanos was still exhaling when he reached the intersection of Cleveland Avenue and instead of going right to his brother’s house he turned left,” Dumas wrote. “Longley looked at Alex Spanos, his head was tilted towards the window and the accelerator sounded like it pressed to the floor. Alex Spanos had the Dust-Off in his right hand resting on the center console. Longley hollered Alex’s name and he did not respond. Longley looked forward to see where they were going and before Longley could do anything, they crashed into the red car.”
During the same interview, Longley told Dumas that Spanos had taken a single hit from a can of Dust-Off two to three days prior to the crash that almost knocked Spanos unconscious.
In addition to the death of Ferro, who died soon after the crash, her father Ron Ferro was seriously injured in the crash and was hospitalized for days. Three other people, including Lebo, were injured in the crash.
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