By Helen Whybrow, contributing writer
Dakota Griswold, 21, of Waterbury, did not appear in Washington County court Tuesday, September 12, for her pretrial conference in the Lily Stilwell case, in which she was charged with reckless endangerment. The hearing was postponed. Griswold faces a new charge of DUI after she was found unresponsive behind the wheel of her car on August 24 in Berlin.
Around midnight on October 14, 2016, Griswold and Jeremy Champney stopped to help Lily Stilwell and Andrew Baird IV, whose car had overturned in a ditch off Pony Farm Road in Moretown. The four friends – all underage – had been drinking together at a nearby party, which they left within minutes of each other, Griswold later reported to police. Baird was driving “around 50 miles per hour and went out of control,” according to the police report.
Stilwell, who was in the passenger seat, was left paralyzed by the accident.
Griswold, Baird and Champney were all charged with reckless endangerment for failing to call 911 immediately on Stilwell’s behalf, despite her pleading. Baird and Champney moved Stilwell by the shoulders and feet into the back seat of Griswold’s car and drove her 5 miles to Baird’s apartment in Moretown before calling 911, anywhere from 12 to 40 minutes later, according to different estimates by the defendants.
Stilwell was unresponsive by the time the ambulance arrived, and her cervical spine was later found to be broken in several places, according to the police report issued several days after the accident. After surgery and several months of rehab, she has use of her arms but is paralyzed from the waist down.
In addition to reckless endangerment, Baird was charged with DUI and leaving the scene of the accident with serious bodily harm resulting.
Each of the three defendants in the Stilwell case has either violated the terms of their release and/or had new charges brought against them in the last year.
Griswold was picked up by police this August when she was found slumped over and unresponsive in her vehicle at midday on VT Route 62 in Berlin. Emergency medical personnel gave her an opiate antidote and took her to Central Vermont Medical Center for further treatment, according to the police report. Police also reported finding hypodermic needles in her car, after Griswold gave them permission to search. Griswold was issued a citation for DUI but declined a blood test.
Champney was arrested for grossly negligent driving along River Road in Middlesex in February and a month before had had his license suspended in Colorado. On August 22, Judge Pacht sentenced Champney to two years of probation with home confinement of 90 days and 200 hours of community service. He also ordered him to seek treatment for alcohol.
Baird IV was released from his original arraignment hearing on several conditions, including that he would not drink or possess alcohol, a condition the state alleges that he violated in April and July. For multiple violations and failure to show up in court for a hearing on these violations in August, Washington County State's Attorney Scott Williams requested that the court set bail for Baird, but Judge H.E. VanBenthuysen declined.
Williams was disappointed. “[Baird] was told when he was released in April that if he violates those conditions again, he’ll go to jail. He violated again and didn’t show up for court and he didn’t go to jail. In a case like this when you damn near killed someone, what is the deterrent value of conditions if people can just not show up?” he said.
Baird's attorney, James LaMonda, requested a change of plea hearing for Baird, which has been scheduled for October 10 at 1:30 p.m.
For Lily Stilwell and her family, this means more waiting. Sitting in her wheelchair outside the courtroom on Tuesday, Stilwell said, “I’m doing great, but I’ll be really glad when this whole ordeal is over.”