By Marjorie Nesin
---- — GLOUCESTER — When a vehicle struck and killed a 29-year-old Salem man in a Gloucester parking lot in May after a heated argument between the driver and the victim, police interviewed the man who had allegedly been behind the wheel, then let him walk when the DA’s office filed no charges.
Now, more than six months later, officers have made an arrest in the case after the driver — who now lives in Peabody — failed to show up for an arraignment on the motor vehicular homicide by negligent operation charge leveled against him on Halloween by Gloucester police.
Arresting officers brought James Hayes, 43, upstairs to Gloucester District Court Tuesday after booking his arrest, and Judge Joseph Jennings ordered Hayes held in Middleton Jail on $50,000 cash bail.
In a court document, police ticked off the reasons for a high bail, noting the nature of the circumstances of the offense, the potential penalty Hayes could face for the charge and Hayes’ record of convictions. Officers also scrawled additional reasons in an “other” box, adding “assaultive behavior,” noting that Hayes has faced 12 charges of driving with revoked or suspended licenses and that Hayes had allegedly “back(ed) over (the) victim after first running over him.”
According to police, Michael J. Linscott of Salem, the man killed in the May 18 incident on Lepage Lane in the Heights at Cape Ann housing complex, had been in a dating relationship with the mother of Hayes’ child. State police reported that Linscott was unconscious, gurgling from the mouth and bleeding heavily after being struck by the vehicle. Linscott was not breathing but holding a pulse as police attempted resuscitation; he was pronounced dead at Addison Gilbert Hospital in the early predawn hours.
In the police interview immediately following the 1 a.m. incident, Hayes said he had initially accelerated and struck Linscott as the man “lunged” at the open driver’s-side window of his vehicle.
“Hayes then stated he panicked and backed over Linscott,” state trooper Brandon R. Arakelian wrote in his report.
Gloucester police Detective Sean Conners, now a sergeant in the department, wrote in his report that when Hayes backed up off Linscott’s body, he caused the “serious injuries.” An autopsy of Linscott’s body conducted at the state’s chief medical examiner’s office showed injuries “consistent with being run over by a car,” determining the cause of death as blunt trauma to the head and torso.
Police observed “blood pools” at the scene of the crash. They collected blood samples, along with a gray striped shirt and a lone sneaker found in an unpaved area at the edge of the lot.
According to reports, Hayes had gone to the apartment complex to pick up his 3-year-old daughter from the child’s mother at her request. The child was inside the vehicle as it allegedly ran over Linscott. Hayes told police that as he drove there just after midnight, he received calls from the girl’s mother with pleas for help. He told officers he could hear Linscott throwing and smashing items.
Both Hayes and the child’s mother, also interviewed by police, told officers that Hayes had entered a side door to avoid Linscott. Still, the two “exchanged words” before Hayes carried his daughter outside to his 2013 Dodge Avenger and strapped her into a car seat. The mother later told police that Linscott had challenged Hayes to a fight. She brought a diaper bag to the vehicle and Linscott followed, each interviewee said.
The child’s mother initially told police she had not witnessed Hayes striking her boyfriend with the car. But, in an interview 11 days later, she told officers that she had turned and seen Linscott under the car and then watched as Hayes backed over him.
Two additional witnesses, not involved, told state police they heard the mother scream, “You hit him.” One of them reported hearing Hayes respond, “He was coming at me; that’s why I did it.”
Hayes told police he yelled out for the child’s mother to call 911.
The case returns to Gloucester District Court for a motions hearing on Dec. 17, during which Hayes will be represented by court-appointed defense attorney Thomas O’Shea.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-675-2710, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.