SALEM, Mass. — The driver in a Lawrence head-on crash that killed an 11-year-old girl and seriously injured four others had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and an open bottle of Hennessy cognac in his car, a prosecutor said.
On the evening of Saturday, July 13, Selvin Manuel Lima, at the wheel of a white 2009 Infiniti G37, sped away from a police traffic stop and then slammed head-on into a Honda Civic with five family members in it, said Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Kirshenbaum.
Taysha Rohena Silva, 11, was killed. Her mother, 8-year-old sister, cousin and mother's boyfriend were all seriously injured in the 5:40 p.m. crash near Winthrop and Parker streets in Lawrence, the prosecutor said.
Kirshenbaum said Silva's 8-year-old sister suffered traumatic brain injuries in the crash and remains hospitalized at this time.
Testing revealed Lima's blood alcohol level was .17, well over the .08 limit under state law.
When Lima's girlfriend came to the scene of the accident she said the two were arguing prior to it and Lima, 23, "had been drinking," Kirshenbaum said.
"The clear and utter devastation this defendant's behavior has caused this family is overwhelming," said Kirshenbaum during a hearing Wednesday in Salem Superior Court.
Silva's father, grandmother and godparents sat in the courtroom gallery Wednesday, all wearing T-shirts with the young girl's picture on them. One picture was of Silva from two years ago when she competed in a pageant in Lawrence's Semana Hispana festival. Another depicted Taysha in one of the last pictures prior to her death, said her father, Roberto Silva, of Fitchburg.
"Te recordamos siempre" was written on some of the shirts, which in Spanish means, "We always remember you."
Lima was arraigned last week in Salem Superior Court on charges of manslaughter with a motor vehicle, three counts of operating under the influence causing serious bodily harm, three counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a child, failure to stop for police, and operating after suspension or revocation of his license.
He was held without bail and a hearing to determine if he's a danger to himself or the community at large was scheduled for Wednesday.
Kirshenbaum asked Judge Jeffrey Karp to deem Lima a danger and order him held without bail. However, William Sullivan, Lima's defense attorney, acknowledged the "tragic accident" but asked Karp to release his client on a GPS monitoring bracelet and alcohol monitoring system.
Karp made no immediate decision Wednesday and took the matter under advisement. In the meantime, Lima remains held without bail.
Kirshenbaum presented a variety of evidence to Karp during the hearing, including multiple Lawrence police reports about the crash, a handwritten statement from a witness and a DVD with surveillance video — including the actual crash — from a nearby laundromat and cameras maintained by the city of Lawrence, she said.
She spoke of the accident victims, noting "the injuries to this family cannot be understated, how devastating they were."
Silva's mother, 29, suffered extensive leg injuries. She came to Lima's arraignment using a walker and a back brace but was not able to attend court Wednesday, Kirshenbaum said.
Her boyfriend, 27, underwent multiple surgeries after the accident. And her niece, 15, suffered multiple bone fractures.
Lima was driving that day with a suspended license and has multiple probation violations on his record, according to Kirshenbaum.
"This is an extremely strong case for the Commonwealth," Kirshenbaum said, adding Lima "abuses alcohol."
Sullivan said Lima has a 3-year-old child from a previous relationship and a 4-month-old baby with his fiancee.
His mother and fiancee were both in court Wednesday and Sullivan asked that Lima be released, with conditions, and said that he would live with his fiancee and her parents on Salem Street in Lawrence.
"There is no dispute this is a tragic accident. ... He panicked and fled the scene," Sullivan said.
Sullivan said Lima also suffered "significant medical" issues in the crash, including a fractured femur and a shattered knee cap for which "he was hospitalized until just last week."
Lima also needs to see a psychologist and is on medication for anxiety, Sullivan said.
While Karp's decision is expected in the near future, the next court date in the case was scheduled for Oct. 9.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.