BRENTWOOD — A Salem man was found guilty yesterday of leaving the scene of a 2008 fatal accident in Windham.

Charles Hutchins was found guilty of a single count of leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury by a Rockingham Superior Court jury after a two-and-a-half-day trial.

Mario Poto III, 37, was killed after his Honda Civic went off Interstate 93 on Sept. 30, 2008. Assistant County Attorney Lisa Cirulli argued that Hutchins' vehicle made contact with Poto's car before the crash. State police who investigated the crash testified about damage to the front driver's side of Hutchins' 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trac.

They said that damage was caused by Hutchins' truck hitting the back passenger side of Poto's Civic as Poto drove alongside him on the shoulder of the highway.

Poto was driving on the shoulder to avoid a crash after he and Hutchins, who was in front of him, both switched into the left lane about the same time, a state police crash investigator testified. Poto's car went across the entire northbound side of the highway before hitting trees and ledge, ejecting Poto from the car.

Hutchins' defense attorney, Patrick Donovan, argued that the state had not proven Hutchins knew, or should have known, a crash happened. He cooperated with police when they sought him after the crash and voluntarily let his car be impounded, according to testimony.

Hutchins could face three and a half to seven years in prison for the charge, a felony. He will be sentenced in February.

For Poto's father, Mario Poto Jr., the verdict yesterday brought "peace of mind." He said his family did not know all the circumstances of the accident until they were laid out during the trial.

"Now we know the whole story as to how it went down, and he was found guilty," Poto said yesterday. "That, to me, is some peace of mind."

The verdict brought some closure, Poto said.

"I would have felt a lot differently if (Hutchins) stopped and assisted, or if he came forward on his own," Poto said. "But he didn't come forward. The police found him."

Poto said he did not care what Hutchins' sentence would be.

"Just to know how the whole action actually occurred, that's all we were looking for, the truth," he said. "Even if he walked away with probation, I'm just happy he was found guilty."

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