The Mountain Times

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Fatal hit-and-run under investigation

RUTLAND-The community has been in a furor since Mary Jane Outslay died as a result of a hit-and-run accident on Strongs Avenue, about half an hour after sunset, on her way to a car after supper in a popular restaurant. The 71-year-old Mendon woman was a mom and a grandma, a nurse, a wife, and a business owner, involved in numerous roles in her community. Her circle of acquaintances and friends stretched across Rutland and beyond, transcending age and economic strata.

As she was leaving a restaurant after her habitual Wednesday evening meal with a friend about 8 p.m., she crossed Strongs Avenue to go to her car, some 50 feet north and across the street.

Then, a southbound car hit her, flipping her over the vehicle but still depositing her 50 feet south of the impact, leaving neither brake marks nor significant debris on the pavement. The driver did not stop or come back.

Police announced her death some two hours later and asked anyone with information to call 773-1816. They looked for video images of the vehicle, hoping in vain to find a captured image of something resembling its description at the time of the accident.
The following morning, Shrewsbury attorney Barry Griffith, representing fellow attorney Christopher Sullivan, called to say that his client had been driving and thought he had hit "something" on Strongs Avenue about the time of the accident. Police removed Sullivan's car from his home, noting that it bore hood and windshield damage consistent with having hit a pedestrian. Sullivan, age 53, spoke with the police at about 1 p.m. Thursday, but he was not arrested.

Because Sullivan is a practicing attorney and because he was a litigator for the city for 19 years before the start of Mayor Christopher Louras' administration in 2007, the state attorney general's office is assuming control of the case.

Tempers are running high in Rutland; there are strong feelings that this member of the legal fraternity is receiving preferential treatment, especially compared to a seemingly similar recent hit-and-run in recently in White River Junction. The driver in Windsor County was jailed, but all the resemblances fall away when viewed a bit more closely. Rutland police were unable to make an immediate arrest at the scene of the Rutland accident because the driver had fled. And until evidence can demonstrate that Sullivan's 2004 Lexus sedan was indeed involved, there is no proof that the vehicle did indeed strike Outslay. That remains to be discovered by the Vermont Crime Lab in Waterbury.

Sullivan admits to being the driver, but there is no ready explanation of why he struck something on Strongs but did not stop, driving home instead and parking his car in an obscured location- behind his garage. Many in the community have drawn their own conclusions from his behavior, saying he most likely would have failed a sobriety test and therefore went into hiding until alcohol or other substances passed from his system.

Vermont law says that "the operator of a motor vehicle who has caused or is involved in an accident resulting in injury to any person other than the operator, or in damage to any property other than the vehicle then under his or her control shall immediately stop and render any assistance reasonably necessary... A person who violates this section shall be fined not more than $2,000 or imprisoned for not more than two years, or both." If the accident causes a death, the driver "shall be fined not more than $3,000, or imprisoned for not less than one year nor more than 15 years, or both."

In the meantime, news services have picked up ­- and may well follow the story of the investigation and anticipated prosecution. It has appeared in print as far as away as San Francisco.