SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 30, 2013

Mom pleads not guilty to driving drunk

Police say Salem woman's 5-year-old son warned her to get off train tracks

BY JULIE MANGANIS
STAFF WRITER

---- — BEVERLY — Though he’s just 5 years old, the scared, shivering little boy knew exactly what could happen as his mom drove down the train tracks.

He told her to get off the tracks, because a train might be coming. But his mother wouldn’t listen.

After traveling half a mile on commuter rail tracks from Route 62, over a railroad bridge at Federal Street to the Beverly Depot, where she crashed, a swaying Michelle M. LeClair, 46, of Salem told police she was simply on her way home and believed she was on Bridge Street in Salem, according to a police report filed in the Friday-night incident.

Police said she had to be stopped from getting back into her 1999 Ford Explorer, which was badly damaged and leaking gasoline onto the tracks. The crash shut down commuter rail service on that section of the line for the night.

Yesterday, LeClair pleaded not guilty to charges of drunken driving, child endangerment, driving to endanger and failing to stay within marked lanes

She was released by Salem District Court Judge Matthew Nestor on $1,000 bail, posted by her brother, with conditions that include no use of alcohol, random tests to ensure that she is complying with that order and no driving.

At the scene and, later, at the police station, LeClair, who had a blood alcohol level of .18, more than twice the legal limit, appeared to have no idea what had happened. She kept asking, “Where is my car? Where is my son? Where is my cellphone?”

Police later learned that in addition to alcohol, LeClair had taken two prescribed drugs, Seroquel and Klonopin.

It was up to her young son and other witnesses, including her also-intoxicated boyfriend, to explain, according to police.

As he rode to the hospital in an ambulance to be checked out, the little boy told Patrolman Mark Panjwani that he felt like he was still on the railroad tracks and “kept asking why his mother wouldn’t listen to him and get off the train tracks,” Panjwani wrote.

Though the boy knew his last name, he had trouble spelling it. Officers eventually learned that information and contacted the boy’s father, who is in a relationship with LeClair.

A loud and also intoxicated Jeremy Labrecque of Beverly showed up a short time later at the hospital with two other children in tow, older girls described by police as “quite mature for their ages,” 10 and 12.

He said the family was out having dinner at Mikado, a Japanese restaurant in the North Beverly Plaza, when LeClair got up and left suddenly with the youngest child. He watched as she got into the SUV and drove “crazy” through the parking lot, according to the police report.

But it was another driver on the road who flagged down police shortly before 9 p.m. to report seeing a vehicle turn onto the railroad tracks. Police saw the taillights as the SUV made its way over Federal Street.

Labrecque told police that he and LeClair had been “drinking margaritas all night,” and he knew he was too drunk to drive. He said he’d taken a cab home from the restaurant after LeClair left.

He conceded that the situation his girlfriend had placed herself and their child in that night was “messed up.”

Police have filed a report of suspected abuse or neglect with the Department of Children and Families.

Outside court, LeClair refused to comment. Her attorney, Nick Morris, also walked away from reporters without commenting on the case.

That’s in contrast to her behavior on Friday night when she screamed loudly and banged on her cell door, police said.

Besides the 5-year-old, LeClair, who is divorced, has three older children.

She is due back in court Dec. 19.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.