Driver charged in Lynde death hospitalized with cancer

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BRATTLEBORO — The man allegedly responsible for causing the death of a local motorcycle shop owner is currently hospitalized and it is unknown when he might appear in court to answer to the charges filed against him.

According to documents filed in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, on Sept. 25, 2017, Michael D. Cheeney, 60, of Charlestown, N.H., turned into the path of a motorcycle carrying Stanley Lynde, who would have turned 64 on May 1, and his wife, Laura D'Angelo, now 54.

Lynde was transported to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital before immediately being flown to Albany Medical Center in New York, where he died of his injuries on Oct. 10, 2017. D'Angelo has recovered from her injuries.

Cheeney, who has been charged with two counts of operating a vehicle in a grossly negligent manner resulting in serious injury, is currently being treated for cancer at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

"Until further notice when he is clinically stabilized, he will not be able to leave the hospital under any circumstances including for any scheduled court appearances," states a note filed with the court by his doctor.

During a court hearing on Friday, Cheeney's attorney, Erik Valdes of Fitts, Olson & Giddings in Brattleboro, told Judge Michael Kainen that before his client was transported to Tufts, he collapsed and is now in the intensive care unit.

According to court documents, Lynde and his wife were traveling south at between 45 and 50 mph with a friend, David Demaria, who was riding on another motorcycle, when Cheeney made "an unsafe" left-hand turn in front of Lynde at the intersection of Route 5 and the Interstate 91 Access Road in Westminster. Lynde's motorcycle struck Cheeney's pickup truck on the passenger side.

Several other witnesses confirmed Demaria's account of the accident.

Cheeney told the Vermont State Police he never saw Lynde's motorcycle. Cheeney also told troopers that he had consumed one beer about two hours before the crash, but a preliminary breath test indicated a blood alcohol content of .046 percent 20 minutes after the incident.

According to the affidavit, Cheeney "was unable to perform field sobriety exercises." The affidavit does not state why Cheeney was unable, but it does note that the trooper performed a horizontal gaze nystagmus on Cheeney, and the trooper "noticed several clues.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nystagmus is an involuntary jerking or bouncing of the eyeball that often indicates a driver is operating a vehicle while impaired. Impairment might be a result of the consumption of alcohol or other drugs, which hinders the ability of the brain to correctly control eye muscles, therefore causing the jerk or bounce associated with horizontal gaze nystagmus.

During the test, police look for six "clues," such as the failure of a person's eyeball to track smoothly. However, notes the NTSB, nystagmus may occur in people with brain damage, brain tumors or inner ear diseases.

Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown told Kainen that he and Valdes hope to have a discovery schedule ready for review withing the next 90 days.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.

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