CHESTER — The driver who police said caused a Thursday morning crash that killed a Horicon man was jailed Thursday night on a manslaughter charge and lesser counts for the high-speed collision that occurred as he fled from police, authorities said.
State Police said Joseph D. Turcotte, 38, of Brant Lake, died at the Northway exit ramp crash scene after his pickup was slammed from behind. He was a member of the Horicon Planning Board and helped operate Gar Wood Boats in Brant Lake with family members.
Skyler B. Crouse, 30, of Akwesasne, a Mohawk territory on the border between New York and Canada, was identified as the driver who fled from officers and crashed into Turcotte on the Northway Exit 25 exit ramp. The truck he drove was registered to an address in Ontario, Canada.
Crouse suffered minor injuries and was charged Thursday night with second-degree manslaughter, first-degree reckless endangerment, unlawful fleeing of a police officer and resisting arrest, records show.
He was arraigned in Warren County arraignment court and sent to the county jail with no bail after Warren County District Attorney Jason Carusone pointed out to Johnsburg Town Justice David Cavanagh that Crouse had pending arrest warrants for failing to appear in courts in Franklin County on pending charges, and a long history of not answering to charges.
Crouse showed no signs of remorse or any other emotions other than anger and defiance as he was arraigned.
As he was escorted into court, he spit on a WNYT-TV NewsChannel 13 cameraman. He cursed and complained about being in pain; police said he received stitches for injuries suffered during the crash and arrest afterward, which included a bite from a police dog.
State Police remained on the crash scene well into the afternoon, and they would not allow members of the news media to approach the scene, with one trooper calling it a “crime scene.” A dark-colored pickup truck was visible toward the end of the exit, on its roof and heavily damaged.
Troopers, State Police supervisors and plainclothes investigators were on the scene as Chestertown firefighters manned roadblocks well into the afternoon.
Details as to what led up to the chase weren’t released, but it went on for at least 25 miles in the northbound lanes before it ended when the fleeing driver sped off the highway at Exit 25.
After hitting the other truck on the exit ramp, the driver continued across Route 8 and came to rest on the northbound entrance ramp. Police took him into custody after a short foot pursuit.
Authorities do not know why he was in Warren County, as he would not cooperate with investigators who sought to question him.
The chase began shortly after 8 a.m., when a State Police patrol clocked a white Chevrolet pickup truck speeding at 90 mph through a construction zone on the Northway, south of Exit 19.
Police scanner reports indicated the driver was speeding at “triple digits” at one point, and State Police and Warren County sheriff’s officers pursued the truck north as the driver refused to stop.
The driver was reported to be driving “very erratically,” slowing down, nearly coming to a stop at one point, and then speeding up.
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According to police radio reports, when officers got an opportunity when there were no other vehicles in proximity to the pursuit south of Exit 25, they used a tire deflation device, a studded metal strip rolled onto the road in front of the fleeing vehicle, to try to deflate the truck’s tires.
State Police said one tire was punctured, but the driver continued north and tried to get off at Exit 25 at high speed, his truck crashing into the victim’s vehicle from behind on the off-ramp at around 8:20 a.m.
Warren County Sheriff Bud York referred comment on the investigation to State Police.
Horicon Supervisor Matt Simpson said the town of Horicon was in mourning for the loss of Turcotte, who was well-known for community involvement and for his role in a family business in town. Simpson said he had talked to Turcotte at The Crossroads store earlier Thursday when bumping into him there.
“It’s just a tragic loss for our community,” he said. “He was a college graduate, a bright young man with a great life ahead of him. It’s just horrible.”
York said he knew Turcotte’s family and described them as good people. His wife works for Warren County.
“It’s a tragedy,” York said.
Route 8 remained closed at Exit 25 into the late afternoon, and the northbound exit ramp and entrance were expected to be closed at least until the late afternoon as police investigate. An accident reconstruction team was brought to the scene.
A helicopter was initially called to transport an injured person to a hospital, but it was canceled minutes later as police determined the most seriously injured driver had died.
Crouse had no comment as he was led in and out of court, other than to curse and spit.
He has a lengthy record of driving offenses and other criminal arrests, including an arrest for allegedly smuggling tobacco across the St. Lawrence River in 2012, prior media reports show. He was driving Thursday despite the fact that his driver’s license has been suspended.
Carusone told Cavanagh that Crouse faced possible consecutive sentences on the charges and was not cooperative with police during and after the chase.
“He would not respond to all of the efforts to stop him, and after the crash he attempted to flee on foot,” Carusone said.
The NewsChannel 13 photographer who was hit with Crouse’s saliva planned to have him charged, which will add a second-degree harassment charge to his docket.
His lawyer, Warren County Public Defender Marcy Flores, said she had no comment on the case.
He is due in Chester Town Court on Tuesday, but Carusone said a grand jury will hear the case beforehand, which would result in the case being transferred to Warren County Court if he is indicted.
Crouse faces up to 8-2/3 to 25 years in prison if convicted of all charges and sentences are run consecutively.
Don Lehman covers police and court matters and Warren County government. He can be reached at 518-742-3224 or firstname.lastname@example.org