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Diasporian News of Wednesday, 13 October 2004

Source: Michelle Muellenberg / News Staff Writer

Ghana man's Killer going to prison in '03 vehicle death

MARLBOROUGH -- A Woburn woman, who was drunk when her car struck and killed a Worcester man changing his tire on Interstate 290 last October, was sentenced yesterday to up to 4 1/2 years behind bars, according to the Middlesex District Attorney's office.

Naomi McCarthy, now 40, convicted twice before for drunken driving, pleaded guilty before Middlesex Superior Court Judge Charles Grabau to motor vehicle homicide, drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident, according to DA spokesman Emily LaGrassa.

After her Chevrolet Monte Carlo struck Issoufou Zerne, 37, a Ghanaian immigrant, on the night of Oct. 27, 2003, she hitched a ride to Hudson. When questioned soon afterward by police, McCarthy was flippant and even blamed Zerne for the accident, according to prosecutors' accounts.

"Why the f--- did he have to park there? I thought I just clipped the grass and I would get right back on the road. But then my car didn't work," said prosecutor Rua Kelly, quoting McCarthy, at a Marlborough District Court hearing last year.

Kelly said McCarthy, while handcuffed, talked on her cell phone and joked about yoga class.

Yesterday, prosecutor Andrea Nardone asked Grabau to sentence McCarthy to 5 to 7 years in state prison. Defense attorney Virginia Lawton Duffett requested two to three years, LaGrassa said.

Grabau sentenced her to 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 years at MCI Framingham on each charge, to be served concurrently, LaGrassa said. She was credited for 44 days she spent in jail before making bail. McCarthy's previous convictions came in 1990 and 1999.

Zerne's mother and sister flew in from Ghana to attend yesterday's hearing. The family members made a short statement to Grabau in their African dialect of Twi, which was translated into English, LaGrassa said. The contents of their statement were not immediately available.

According to police, McCarthy was driving her car in a rainstorm when she hit Zerne who was changing a tire in the breakdown lane on 290 eastbound.

After the accident, McCarthy hitched a ride with Hudson resident Paul Flipse, who dropped her off at the Hudson Stop & Shop supermarket.

Flipse had said he did not see Zerne. Flipse said McCarthy was babbling and not making much sense. Because of her behavior, Flipse called state police.

When state police Sgt. James Canty arrived at the supermarket he asked McCarthy if she was involved in an accident. McCarthy said, "Yeah. That's me. I'm guilty," according to court records.

McCarthy smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and bloodshot eyes, court records said.

McCarthy was originally held without bail and then released to house arrest.