PEABODY — The charges against a Peabody man who police say was at the wheel of a car that slammed into the back of a flatbed tow truck in May, killing his passenger, have been upgraded to manslaughter.
But a Salem Superior Court judge yesterday reduced Matthew Fowler’s bail from $50,000 to $5,000 after hearing from his attorney about his strong ties to the area, including a newborn child.
During his arraignment yesterday in Salem Superior Court, Fowler, 38, of 3 Highland Terrace, Apt. 2, Peabody, pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charge, as well as charges of motor vehicle homicide, second-offense drunken driving and leaving the scene of a fatal accident. Fowler’s blood alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit on the night of the crash, a prosecutor said.
The May 24 crash on Walnut Street killed Fowler’s friend, Daniel Walker, 31, of Peabody, when Fowler’s Hyundai sedan veered into the rear of the illegally parked tow truck, shearing off the top of the car.
Prosecutor Susan Dolhun urged Judge Timothy Feeley to keep the bail at $50,000, citing the potential penalties Fowler now faces, including several minimum mandatory sentences if he is convicted.
Dolhun recounted to the judge how the accident was discovered by an EMT traveling on Walnut Street around 12:30 a.m. The prosecutor described how Fowler made eye contact with the EMT, then walked away.
The gruesome injuries to his passenger would have been immediately apparent to Fowler, and Fowler was covered in blood that was not his, she said.
The key to the car was also missing; investigators later found it in Fowler’s clothing when he was being treated at a hospital for minor injuries he had suffered in the crash.
Police found Fowler on Tracey Street, about a third of a mile from the crash scene, said the prosecutor. While Fowler had insisted that he wasn’t trying to flee, only going to seek help, Dolhun pointed out that Fowler passed some 46 residences, as well as a fully staffed fire station.