Alexander West appeared shellshocked as he was led from Warren County Court on the afternoon of May 8 after being found guilty of manslaughter and lesser charges for killing an 8-year-old girl and seriously injuring her mother in a boat crash on Lake George the summer before.
Less than a month later, West was sentenced to 5 to 15 years in prison for operating his father’s power boat under the influence of drugs, slamming into another boat and then fleeing the scene 10 months earlier. It ended what was arguably the most highly publicized prosecution in the region’s history, with national media coming to Warren County Court to watch the high drama that focused on the devastating loss of a child.
The case became about more than the death of Charlotte McCue, though, as those who enjoy the lake focused on the party culture and Log Bay Day, the annual party West attended before the crash.
Local police and the Lake George Park Commission came up with a plan to end the annual late-July party, shutting down the sandy bays on the east side of the lake to boats on the last Monday in July.
West had been drinking and using drugs at the party July 25, 2016, before he and his friends had dinner and more drinks at a Bolton restaurant before they headed south to the dock where West’s father’s boat was kept.
They made it to Cramer Point, where West’s boat hit one driven by Charlotte’s grandfather, going over the top of it and killing Charlotte instantly. The aspiring gymnast was spending her annual summer vacation at her grandparents’ house with her family.
West fled, and he and the passengers on his boat were arrested days later. Efforts to broker a plea deal to avoid a trial went nowhere, so then-Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan and West’s fiery defense counsel, Cheryl Coleman, prepared to face off in the courtroom.
The trial before Warren County Judge John Hall packed the courtroom each day, with media, supporters of the McCues and West families, and observers who simply wanted to watch the case in person, jockeying for seats each morning.
After 10 days of testimony, the jury spent parts of three days deliberating before rendering a split verdict that found West guilty of the top count.
The McCue family met with the media after the verdict, their elation for the conviction still tempered by the loss of Charlotte.
“Justice was served today and it was served well,” said Robert Knarr, Charlotte’s grandfather.
“They will never ever be the same, but they have each other,” Hogan said of the family.
After the criminal case concluded, the McCue family filed civil lawsuits against West, his parents and the passengers in his boat who did not cooperate with law enforcement during the investigation.
West is being held in medium-security Collins Correctional Facility, eligible for parole on April 16, 2022. His appeal will likely be heard in 2018 by the Appellate Division of state Supreme Court.
Weeks after the trial, Hogan was selected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo for a judgeship on the state Court of Claims.