Lyndeborough teen’s trial underway

Proceedings begin with jury viewing scene of alleged negligent homicide

Staff photo by KATHY CLEVELAND Grace Wight, second from left, stands with her mother while watching the jury in Wight’s negligent homicide trial as they view the scene of the July 2016 fatal crash on Center Road in Lyndeborough. Her attorney, James Rosenberg, speaks with the judge and a court reporter at right.

MANCHESTER – The nine men and five women who make up the jury in the upcoming negligent homicide trial of 19-year-old Lyndeborough resident Grace Wight got a first-hand look Thursday afternoon at three sites pertinent to the trial, including the location of the fatal crash that led to Wight’s arrest.

The jury view, which took place following courtroom statements by the prosecutor and defense attorney, was held Thursday so that opening statements and the calling of witnesses can begin when court is reconvened on Tuesday, Judge Amy B. Messer said.

Wight, of 265 Mountain Road, is being tried on three charges stemming from the crash, which occurred near 1316 Center Road in the early morning hours of July 15, 2016.

The charges – one count each of negligent homicide and reckless conduct involving a motor vehicle, both felonies, and one misdemeanor count of vehicular assault – accuse Wight of “negligently causing the death” of Debess Rogers, 60, by “recklessly” crossing into the opposite lane of Center Road in her 2013 Dodge Ram truck and striking Rogers.

The misdemeanor charge alleges Wight “negligently caused the death of another” while driving a motor vehicle.

The trial, which is taking place in Hillsborough County Superior Court North in Manchester, will resume Tuesday morning, due to the Monday holiday.

Assistant County Attorney Alex S. Yiokarinis, who is prosecuting the case, and Wight’s lawyer, Attorney James Rosenberg, will deliver their opening statements at the start of Tuesday’s proceedings, Messer, the judge, told the court Thursday.

Wight was 17 and a rising senior at Wilton-Lyndeborough Senior High School at the time of the incident. An all-state varsity soccer player, she was president of her senior class and was inducted into the National Honor Society. She also is an accomplished equestrian.

State and local police at the time declined to release Wight’s name, claiming that her identification would remain confidential if they decided to charge her as a juvenile.

She wasn’t identified until February 2017 – seven months after the crash – when the grand jury handed down the three indictments against her.

On Thursday, Rosenberg drove Wight, who was accompanied by

her mother, to the three jury-view locations.

The first stop was a residence on Forest Road in neighboring Greenfield, where Wight had been visiting a friend in the hours before the crash.

Rosenberg said Wight left her friend’s house around 2:18 a.m. and headed home to Lyndeborough.

The jury remained on the bus for that stop as well as the second stop, which is near 1526 Center Road. That’s where the car in which Rogers and her husband, Guntis Grabazs, were returning home from Massachusetts broke down. While Grabazs, who had difficulty walking distances, waited with the car, Rogers began walking home to retrieve the couple’s other car.

The jurors did disembark the bus at the fatal crash scene, where they listened as the attorneys directed their attention to various areas of the landscape that will likely be referenced during the trial.

The route jurors traveled, Rosenberg said, was the same route Wight took on July 15.

“It’s important for you to see Grace’s route of travel that night,” he said. “So the bus will be following the same route she took.”

Three members of Rogers’s family, one of whom is believed to be her husband, were present for the brief courtroom proceedings. They sat on the prosecution side of the courtroom with state victim’s advocate Merrill Beauchamp.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or @Telegraph_DeanS.