A conversation overheard at a retail store in Shelton helped police track down the identity of the driver who allegedly struck and killed a woman crossing Howe Avenue last year, according to an arrest warrant.
Last week police charged 25-year-old William Donofrio with evading responsibility in an accident resulting in a death, tampering with evidence, and failure to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian.
Police said Donofrio was driving a Ford Taurus on Howe Avenue May 11, 2016 when he struck 54-year-old Teresa Glossy as she was crossing the street.
Someone tipped police off to a conversation overheard in a store, which led police to start looking at Donofrio. The person who gave the information remained anonymous because he or she feared retaliation.
If convicted on all the charges Donofrio could face up to 15 years in prison.
But Glossy’s extended family is upset that Donofrio isn’t facing more serious criminal charges.
“He left the scene and left her there to die,” Glossy’s sister, Patty Ardisi, told the Valley Indy earlier this month.
Jaime Ardisi, Glossy’s niece, has started a petition on Change.org asking that Donofrio receive the longest jail term possible. The petition received 129 signatures in 17 hours.
Donofrio was released after posting $15,000 bond and is scheduled to appear at Superior Court in Derby Wednesday (March 22) for the first time in the case.
The arrest warrant charging Donofrio, written by Sgt. Mark Ptak of the police department’s traffic division, says the department’s accident reconstruction team was wrapping up collecting and documenting evidence at the scene of another fatal crash a half-mile down Route 110 when they were notified of the hit-and-run collision.
Glossy was walking home from a carnival on Canal Street when she was struck while trying to cross Howe Avenue near its intersection with Hill Street.
Passersby had begun attending to Glossy and were performing CPR when police and EMS arrived. She was later pronounced dead at St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Though police couldn’t find any witnesses while canvassing the area after the crash, a man called police the next day to report having seen the collision.
He said he was driving north on Howe Avenue near In-Line Plastics and saw Glossy walk out onto Howe Avenue.
Police quote the man as saying “the car that was coming really didn’t have time to do anything and rammed right into the pedestrian.”
The witness told police Glossy “flew up into the air about 50 feet and landed in the street” after she was hit by a small car, which kept going south on Howe Avenue without stopping.
Glossy suffered two spine fractures, several broken ribs, and fractures to her pelvis, clavicle, and right leg.
An autopsy determined the cause of death to be blunt trauma to her head, neck, torso, and extremities.
On May 16, five days after the crash, a detective texted Ptak saying the police department had “received information from a person wishing to remain anonymous that the person operating the vehicle involved in this crash with the pedestrian was William Donofrio.”
It was the tipster who had allegedly overheard a conversation between two men in a local store.
Eventually police learned Donofrio’s family owned a green Ford Taurus.
Police were in contact with Donofrio’s family regarding access to the vehicle. Donofrio then secured a lawyer, Ed Gavin, who contacted Shelton Police Department Interim Chief Shawn Sequeira on May 17.
Gavin provided police with an affidavit from Donofrio — and a signed form from Donofrio’s mother giving police permission to search the family’s Taurus at a relative’s house in Monroe.
Police went to the address and found the vehicle under a tarp in the driveway. They saw tire tracks that led behind a bush where they allegedly found windshield glass.
“It appears that the Ford was driven behind the bush, somewhat hidden from view from the house, where it was cleaned up in an attempt to hide and repair the vehicle,” the warrant says.
Shelton police asked a state police major crime squad to process the vehicle for evidence. A report from state cops said the car had damage consistent with striking a pedestrian.
The state police report also noted that the vehicle was “extremely clean.”
“No areas of dirt or dust were found anywhere on the vehicle,” the warrant says. “The interior of the Ford Taurus had only slight amount of dirt and debris which included small parts of glass consistent with windshield type glass on the front floor areas.”
In the affidavit given to the police chief, Donofrio said he was driving the Taurus “at a low speed” south on Howe Avenue near Hill Street when “a pedestrian ran out into the travel portion of the roadway.”
“The pedestrian was immediately in front of my car,” Donofrio said in the affidavit, according to the warrant. “I had absolutely no time to react to avoid the impact. I struck the pedestrian with the front of my car.”
“After impact with the pedestrian, I panicked and drove away to my home in Shelton,” according to the statement. “I never intended to hurt the pedestrian. The pedestrian darted in front of my vehicle and I had no ability to avoid the collision.”
In an interview with the Valley Indy Monday, Gavin said Donofrio obviously should not have driven away after the crash.
“He got scared,” the lawyer said.
He said Donofrio wasn’t under the influence when the collision occurred, but couldn’t comment on the details in the warrant because he hadn’t yet read it.
Gavin said Donofrio has since tried “to be as cooperative as possible.”
“When something like this happens, I know that the family gets tortured,” he said. “It’s certainly not a unique phenomenon where somebody is involved in a motor vehicle accident, gets scared, and drives away. What I tried to do on behalf of Bill Donofrio was to be a responsible citizen and assist the police in any way we possibly could.”
But Glossy’s family points out in their online petition that this is not Donofrio’s first brush with law enforcement.
Donofrio has at least two prior arrests in Shelton.
The first arrest occurred about 12:15 a.m. Dec. 10, 2013 on Soundview Avenue, when police charged him with driving under the influence, possession of marijuana, sale of a controlled substance, illegal possession near a school, use of drug paraphernalia, and failure to drive right.
There’s no record of that case in a search of the Judicial Branch’s website, indicating it was either dropped by prosecutors or dismissed after Donofrio took advantage of a pretrial diversionary program available to first-time offenders.
Donofrio was arrested again Dec. 14, 2016 and charged with four counts of third-degree burglary, three counts of sixth-degree larceny, and a single count of third-degree criminal mischief.
Police said about 2:30 a.m. that day police caught Donofrio and another man, Paul Harrington, breaking into cars. That case is still pending.
In comments on a Valley Indy story about Donofrio’s arrest March 9, some readers asked why Donofrio wasn’t facing more serious charges in connection to the hit-and-run, and wondered whether he received preferential treatment from police.
He did not, Detective Richard Bango, one of the department’s spokesmen, said in an email Thursday (March 16).
“The charges in fatal accidents are dictated by the circumstances surrounding the incident and directed by the court,” Bango said.