The East Boston man charged with killing a Rhode Island college student and seriously injuring her college roommate during a car crash on May 5 was back in court on August 28 for pretrial proceedings.
According to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office the judge presiding over the case has given the prosecution and defense a motion filing deadline of October 4 and Etheridge is due back in court on January 8, 2020.
Etheridge was officially indicted and arraigned over the summer in Suffolk Superior Court.
At that time the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office upped the charges against Etheridge to include Operating Under the Influence of alcohol and causing serious bodily harm.
Etheridge is also charged with manslaughter by motor vehicle and two counts of leaving the scene of personal injury or death.
Ethridge, 22, of East Boston stands accused of killing Amber Pelletier, of Rhode Island and seriously injuring her friend from Saint Leo University, Ava Salvi, of East Boston and then fleeing the scene during an early morning crash on Bennington Street on May 5.
According to court documents on May 4 Pelletier was in Boston visiting Salvi. The two decided to have dinner and drinks at the Koy Restaurant in Faneuil Hall.
A group of three other friends, that included Etheridge, were invited to join Pelletier and Salvi. Salvi had driven herself and Pelletier into Boston in her Mazda 3. The others took an Uber from Eastie and met the two college roommates at the restaurant just after 8:30 p.m.
The group remained at Koy until about 10:30 p.m. During that time Etheridge drank at least one or two cocktails and one shot. Etheridge can be seen on various surveillance videos wearing light-colored clothing and a black jacket.
One of the group’s friends had been tapped as the designated driver for the night and, using Salvi’s Mazda 3, drove the group back to Eastie.
The group stopped at a Dunkin Donuts, where Etheridge bought Gatorade bottles. They also drove to several liquor stores before finding one open at about 11 p.m. and Etheridge and Salvi entered the store while the others waited outside. Etheridge bought a bottle of Bacardi rum while Salvi bought a bottle of tequila, and a smaller bottle of an unknown liquor.
After buying liquor the group was driven by the night’s designated driver to the waterfront where Pelletier and Salvi shared the tequila. Etheridge alone drank from the bottle of rum that he had purchased earlier. That bottle was later found at the crash scene closed and unbroken approximately half empty.
Just before midnight the designated driver drove the group to La Chiva to get takeout. One of the friends in the group decided to take a Uber home, leaving just Etheridge, Pelletier, Salvi and the designated driver.
Just after 12:30 a.m. the designated driver drove Salvi’s Mazda 3 to her Leyden Street home and returned the car to Salvi.
At approximately 1:11 a.m., several witnesses saw a vehicle travelling very fast on Bennington Street from the direction of Revere towards Boston. In fact, the so-called ‘black box’ later recovered from the vehicle indicated that the Mazda 3 was moving at 86 mph when the side airbags deployed, and the accelerator was 100 percent engaged one-half second before the airbag’s deployment.
The vehicle struck several cars parked along Bennington Street, flipped over, and slid into a concrete planter near 1025 Bennington St. Most of the wreck is captured on MBTA surveillance video from the Orient Heights train station.
Several passersby rushed to the scene.
Within seconds, a man wearing light-colored clothing, later identified as Etheridge, emerged from the driver’s side window, picked what appears to be a black jacket, and ran away.
One witness had been walking her dog when the wreck occurred in front of her. The woman, who has some medical training, ran to check on the remaining occupants.
Immediately she noted that the rear-seat passenger, later identified as Pelletier, was dead on impact.
The front seat passenger, later identified as Salvi, appeared conscious, but only partially responsive. The witness asked for a flashlight and eventually ended up with a cell phone in a black and red case, which the police later identified as Etheridge’s phone.
Other passersby attempted to force open the doors, but without success. Fire department personnel arrived quickly from down the street and cut the doors off.
Salvi was rushed to the hospital where she was diagnosed with severe injuries, including a fractured skull. Pelletier was pronounced dead at the scene.
Before losing consciousness Salvi told officers Etheridge had been driving. This led the police to begin searching for Etheridge.
Because the vehicle had flipped over and was severely damaged it took minutes for first-responders to realize that no driver was present. Pelletier and Salvi had both been belted in passenger seats, but the driver’s seat was empty.
A search was organized to locate the driver, now believed to be Etheridge, for it was feared that he may have been thrown from the car and injured. He was never found at the scene.
Meanwhile, surveillance cameras captured Etheridge walking away from the accident along Ashley Street.
Shortly thereafter, he went to a friend’s house on Leyden Street. The friend noticed that Etheridge was bleeding. He told his friend that there was an accident and Pelletier and Salvi were still in the car. After he cleaned up Etheridge said that he would return to the accident scene.
His whereabouts were unknown until his parents took him MGH at about 9:15 a.m.
At that time, he was wearing the same light-colored clothing and a black jacket as shown on several surveillance cameras the night before.
Etheridge presented as mildly lethargic and confused so blood tests and a CT scan were ordered.
Etheridge initially told hospital staff that he was the driver in an accident, and he denied drinking. He later said that he was unsure who was driving, but he was certain he had been thrown from a window.
The blood drawn from Etheridge was preserved and later tested by the Massachusetts State Police crime lab. It was determined that Etheridge’s blood alcohol content was .023 percent by weight, for blood drawn more than eight hours after the wreck.
Everyone, regardless of age, size, or race, metabolizes alcohol at the same pace. That pace is .015 of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) per hour. Working backwards and multiplying the .015 by eight and adding the .023 that was found in Etheridge’s blood the next morning his BAC was most likely .143 at the time of the crash. The legal limit in Massachusetts is .08.
It was also noted in court that Etheridge had been diagnosed with alcohol consumption binge two months before the accident on March 18, 2019 and been warned not to drink and drive.