Drunken Driver Given Probation in Virginia LODD

Jan. 31, 2014
The 2003 crash left Trooper Ellen Engelhardt paralyzed with traumatic brain injury before dying in 2011.

The man who in 2003 rear-ended the cruiser of a popular state police trooper, leaving her severely brain damaged until her death eight years later, has pleaded guilty to motor vehicle homicide.

William Senne, 29, was on his way to Cape Cod from Wayland at the time of the early morning crash, which left Trooper Ellen Engelhardt in a coma and later in a specialized care facility, paralyzed and with a traumatic brain injury. She died June 1, 2011.

Senne was reportedly traveling nearly 100 mph when his car slammed into the back of Engelhardt's cruiser, which was stopped with lights flashing in the breakdown lane on Route 25 in Wareham. She had stopped to investigate reports of damage to a guardrail from an earlier accident.

Senne pleaded guilty Wednesday in Plymouth Superior Court and was sentenced by Judge Charles J. Hely to 2 1/2 years with one year to serve. Hely deemed the year already served based on a 25-month sentence Senne received for pleading guilty in 2005 to drunken driving in connection with the case.

He was released from prison in 2007. He has since earned a bachelor's degree in economics and established a real estate business in Cambridge. Senne's family owned property on Bassetts Island in Bourne until 2007, when it was sold to help pay legal bills and other expenses.

Engelhardt was well-known on Cape Cod, where she often directed traffic at the Exit 7 ramp off Route 6. The interchange was named in her honor in 2009.

In his ruling Wednesday Hely ordered that Senne perform 500 hours of community service at a brain injury treatment facility and serve three years probation.

Plymouth County District Attorney Timothy Cruz's office office had recommended Senne receive an additional four to five years in state prison minus the time already served on the earlier charge.

"The judge made a decision and I certainly respect that decision," Cruz said. "We just disagree."

His recommendation was based on the egregious nature of Senne's actions as well as his driving record, which includes speeding tickets before and after the accident as well as another accident, Cruz said.

"He obviously wants to drive fast," Cruz said.

The guilty plea could result in Senne losing his license for up to 15 years, Cruz said.

"Some people shouldn't drive," he said.

Senne did not immediately return a message left for him seeking comment on the sentence.

Engelhardt's father was a Boston police officer, and she had wanted to join the FBI before becoming one of the first female state troopers in 1981, her daughter, Lora Tedeman, told the Times during a 2006 visit to the care facility where her mother was living.

She worked the midnight to 8 a.m. shift out of the South Yarmouth state police barracks for much of her career so she could enjoy the sunshine, Tedeman told the Times.

Engelhardt was the first female Massachusetts trooper to die in the line of duty. State police dedicated a mobile unit to her in 2007 that allows troopers to more quickly process impaired drivers.

In a statement released today state police Colonel Timothy Alben said that his agency appreciated the efforts of Cruz and his staff to speak for Engelhardt and hold Senne accountable.

"That said, we respect the judicial process," Alben said. "We hope, most of all, that the Engelhardt family finds solace in their warm memories of Ellen and in the stellar regard with which her memory is held throughout the Massachusetts State Police. Her sacrifice in the line of duty will forever be in our minds, and we will always grieve for her loss."

Copyright 2014 - Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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