BRENTWOOD, N.H. — A judge issued a guilty verdict against a Salisbury woman charged with drunken driving after a fatal pedestrian crash in October 2018 in Seabrook.
Dawn Marie Barcellona, 58, was found guilty of a misdemeanor DWI charge by Judge Daniel St. Hilaire after a one-day bench trial, authorities confirmed late Monday afternoon.
It took the judge a little over three weeks to issue his verdict after the bench trial in Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood.
North Andover native Andrew "Dibba" Dobson, 51, was killed in the Oct. 21, 2018 crash on Route 1A in Seabrook.
That night Dobson left his parents’ home on Commonwealth Avenue in Salisbury, where he lived. He went to a nearby convenience store for a pack of cigarettes, according to family members.
He was struck and killed on his way home on Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A), very close to the Salisbury line around 8 p.m.
Barcellona was driving the Jeep that struck him, police said.
The father of a 12-year-old boy, Dobson was ripped out of his sneakers and suffered a cracked skull, according to court documents.
Barcellona went to trial Oct. 9 for the DWI charge. The trial spanned roughly four hours and afterward, Judge St. Hilaire took the matter under advisement.
Barcellona previously rejected a plea deal that would allow her to avoid jail time and instead pay a $500 fine and surrender her license for nine months, according to court documents. She opted to take the case to a trial.
She did not testify in her own defense.
Felony indictments for negligent homicide and driving under the influence against Barcellona were dropped, according to prosecutors.
A sentencing date for Barcellona was not immediately announced Monday. The potential penalty includes a fine and loss of license.
Dobson's family members previously said they were "disgusted and horrified" by the way the fatal crash was handled and investigated by police and prosecutors.
However, they were pleased to hear the verdict Monday, according to family attorney Nicole Reilly.
"... I can tell you that they are thrilled that Ms. Barcellona has been found guilty of driving under the influence of alcohol. Although there are still many unanswered questions, this verdict does give some solace to Andrew's family," Reilly said.
"This has been an extremely difficult time for both Andrew's family and his friends. They would like to express their gratitude to the community members who offered unwavering support during this difficult and tragic time. I can assure everyone involved that we will continue to seek the truth as to what happened in this case," she said.
Reilly said previously she was stunned that the crash, which involved a woman who police believed to be intoxicated, a Jeep striking a pedestrian, and the pedestrian dying, did not merit further police investigation at the time it occurred.
'Unique and complicated' case
During the trial, one of Barcellona’s friends testified that she was looking for her that night and texted her, asking her whereabouts.
Barcellona texted back the word “drunk” in response, according to trial testimony.
The fatal crash occurred less than 10 minutes later around 8 p.m.
Barcellona failed some sobriety tests administered at the scene, according to police. Two and a half hours later, she was taken to the Seabrook Hospital Emergency Room for a blood alcohol test, according to testimony.
Seabrook police Sgt. David Buccheri testified that Barcellona told him that Dobson “stepped out in front of her vehicle” as she was slowing for a red light.
Late Monday afternoon, a joint statement announcing the verdict was issued by Patricia Conway, Rockingham County Attorney, State Police Col. Christopher Wagner, and Seabrook police Acting Chief Brett Walker.
They explained that due to "the unique and complicated nature of this case, all of the enforcement agencies involved faced substantial difficulties in proceeding with felony charges."
"What is known, and what was proven beyond a reasonable doubt is that on October 21, 2018 Dawn Barcellona was impaired by alcohol and should not have been operating a motor vehicle. It is also known for a fact that Dawn Barcellona hit and killed Andrew Dobson with her vehicle while he was crossing the street. What is unfortunately not known is where in the street Mr. Dobson was when he was hit, how fast Ms. Barcellona was driving, whether she had any ability to avoid hitting Mr. Dobson, impaired or not, and most importantly whether Mr. Dobson was standing in the State of New Hampshire or the Commonwealth of Massachusetts when he was struck," according to the statement.
The statement also said Seabrook police put forth their best efforts to investigate the crash and that Barcellona was the only witness.
However, "Due to the fact it was reported that Mr. Dobson walked out in front of the vehicle, appeared to be wearing dark clothing and there were no initial signs of impairment" a state police accident reconstruction team (CAR unit) was not sent to the scene, according to the statement.
"In this situation the CAR Unit Commander determined that the facts could not support a clear determination that Ms. Barcellona was at fault for the crash and thus a response was not warranted. Additionally, the response by the CAR Unit on the evening in question would not have necessarily guaranteed that enough evidence would have been present to answer all questions relative to speed, Ms. Barcelona’s ability to avoid the crash or exactly where Mr. Dobson was when he was struck," according to the statement.
"By not going forward on felony charges, the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office does not fault either the Seabrook police department, the State Police, or the State Police CAR Unit. As stated, this case presented challenges that could not be overcome as the case headed to trial where jurisdiction and causation would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. All agencies share in the frustration of the Dobson family over the loss of their loved one, however, the facts in this case could not sustain felony convictions against Dawn Barcellona. Although it doesn’t give the Dobson family the solace we collectively hoped for, the Seabrook Police Department and the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office worked hard to sustain a conviction of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) as both agencies felt strongly that justice needed to be served for the victim, Mr. Dobson," the statement concluded.
Barcellona is employed as a server at Seaglass restaurant at Salisbury Beach. She had met friends the afternoon of the crash at Capri, another Salisbury Beach restaurant owned by the same company she works for.
Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.