Murder charges for suspect in Vermont wrong-way crash that killed 5 teens

Steven Bourgoin, superimposed over an image of his home in Williston, Vermont

WCAX-TV

BURLINGTON, Vt. - The man police say is behind the killing of five Vermont teenagers now faces criminal charges in connection to their death, reports CBS affiliate WCAX.

Police say 36-year-old Steven Bourgoin was behind the wheel of the truck that slammed head on into a car full of teens in a wrong-way highway rampage Saturday night. He is charged with five counts of second-degree murder.

One eyewitness describes Bourgoin as a man “on a mission.”

WCAX reports that Bourgoin told a bystander who stopped to help: “I don’t know what happened. I just lost control.” The bystander told police the excuse was ridiculous, reports WCAX. He says the crash was no accident.

According to the station, the first 911 call came in at 11:47 p.m., on Oct. 8, reporting that a pickup was driving north in the southbound lane on Interstate 89 in Bolton.

Five minutes later, police say the pickup hit a sedan full of teens head on. WCAX reports that a Williston police officer arrived within minutes, rushed to help the victims, and then radioed dispatch to report that the driver of the truck stole his cruiser.

Police say Bourgoin then headed south in the cruiser, then encountered a road block, pulled a U-turn and sped north in the southbound lane again to the original crash scene, smashing into the pickup and seven other cars not involved in the original crash.

Those vehicles had pulled over to help.

Murder charges in car wrecks are reportedly rare in Vermont, but Chittenden County prosecutor T.J. Donovan said during an arraignment Friday Bourgoin displayed “a wanton disregard” for human life, driving about 5 miles the wrong way as motorists honked at him to stop. Donovan said Bourgoin was driving 79 mph when he hit the teenagers’ car and 107 mph when he hit the other vehicles while driving the police cruiser. 

Authorities are awaiting the results of toxicology tests on Bourgoin, but Donovan has said they have no evidence he was drunk at the time.

Investigators are now looking into every aspect of Bourgoin’s life and troubled past.

According to WCAX, Bourgoin served in the military from August to November in 1999. He was stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia, but sources told the station he failed to complete basic training and was released from the Army for “failure to meet procurement medical fitness standards.”

Authorities reportedly believe Bourgoin suffers from  PTSD and he sought mental health treatment at the UVM Medical Center the morning before the crash.

Bourgoin’s co-workers at Lake Champlain Chocolates say he punched out for lunch a little after noon Friday and that he was “acting strange and seemed really down.” He reportedly told his boss he felt sick and was resigning because he wasn’t making enough money. His boss says Bourgoin had missed a lot of work in the past few months due to an unknown medical issue.

WCAX obtained search warrants and court documents that show police found a foreclosure notice, utility shut-off warnings and homeowners association liens at Bourgoin’s townhouse in Williston. They also discovered numerous medical bills for lab work and X-rays, as well as legal paperwork outlining domestic and child custody issues.

Bourgoin was arrested in May for domestic assault and unlawful restraint after his girlfriend alleged he threatened to throw her down the stairs and kill both her and their two-year-old child, WCAX reports. He has denied the charges, but was ordered to stay away from his girlfriend and child. Bourgoin’s trial for that incident was supposed to start next month.

A friend told police Bourgoin was struggling with a breakup and the death of his father last year. He also says Bourgoin was supposed to have a visit with his child the morning of the crash.

Saturday night, about 20 minutes before the highway rampage, a neighbor remembers seeing Bourgoin pull out of his driveway. He describes it as “aggressive,” tires squealing, and told police he was afraid Bourgoin would flip his truck.

“The state police worked extremely hard conducting a thorough investigation. Obviously, this is a case that is very important and we wanted to get it right,” said Donovan.  

Police say the seat belt in the truck is stretched in a manner consistent with a crash and Bourgoin has matching bruises. Also, the passenger side airbag did not deploy indicating Bourgoin was the driver and alone in the vehicle.

Bourgoin was wheeled into a conference room at the University of Vermont Medical Center by a state trooper and health care worker. He made no comments during the proceeding. His lawyer entered not guilty pleas for him. 

The judge ordered a competency hearing and agreed with the prosecutor’s request that Bourgoin be held without bail. If convicted, Bourgoin would face 20 years to life in prison on each murder count.