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Moira teen’s mom hopes charges send message

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BRUSHTON - The mother of a 16-year-old teen seriously injured in a December accident in the town of Brandon that killed another teen says the criminally negligent homicide count lodged against the teenage driver of that vehicle should serve as a lesson to young people.

“Hopefully it sends a message to kids that there are consequences to what you do,” Stacy Collette said.

Her daughter, Alexis Collette, was a passenger in a vehicle on the afternoon of Dec. 7 that crashed, leaving her with a serious injury and another passenger, Brooke Lyon, 16, dead.

Malone-based state police charged the driver, Tanya Menke, 16, with felony counts of criminally negligent homicide and second-degree vehicular assault on Monday along with numerous traffic violations including driving while ability impaired by drugs.

We just are happy that Alexis is okay and hopefully the Lyons can have peace now,” the elder Ms. Collette said.

Menke was driving a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle in dense fog and crashed into a tree, allegedly under the influence of drugs.

She was attempting to steer south onto county Route 15 from McGowan Road, missed a stop sign, slid across the road, and crashed into a tree. Lyon, the front-seat passenger, was dead at the scene, troopers said. Alexis Collette, the rear-seat passenger, and Menke were taken to Alice Hyde Medical Center and then to Fletcher Allen Healthcare in Burlington, Vt.

Alexis Collette spent more than a month in Fletcher Allen and then went on to rehabilitative care in Colchester, Vt., for treatment of traumatic brain injuries.

The elder Ms. Collette said her daughter is home, but has had to “basically re-learn everything” including math, science and English and is at the cognitive level of a 14 year old.

“Our goal is to have her test at an 11th grade-level in August, and she’ll only be a year behind in school,” Stacy Collette said.

She said Alexis has regained coordination and is able to walk again, adding that she underwent surgery in March to put a piece of her skull back over a metal plate.

“She’s working very hard and is very motivated,” Ms. Collette said.

She added that her daughter’s condition following the accident was close to that of the elderly she takes care of at a local nursing home.

“She needed complete care,” her mother said.

“I’d like to thank everyone in the community for everything they’ve done for us and their support so I could stay home these last four and a-half months and take care of my daughter,” she said. “The state troopers have been wonderful.”

New York is the only state other than North Carolina where 16 and 17 year olds can be charged as adults. Franklin County District Attorney Derek Champagne said it will be a judge’s decision whether to grant Menke youthful offender status. The felony charges carry a potential sentence of one to four years in state prison.

“It’s a tragedy for all involved,” Mr. Champagne said. “Any time there’s alleged impairment by drugs, we have to look at the appropriate legal charges.”

He said that since Menke was allegedly under the influence of drugs the negligent homicide charge fits. He added the charge’s allegation that Menke did not have a valid license, traveled at an unreasonable speed for the conditions and went through a stop sign would have been appropriate aggravating factors to bring the criminally negligent homicide charge without the alleged drug impairment.

“The reality is anytime there’s a fatality and a driver an aggravated vehicular manslaughter charge could be filed,” Mr. Champagne said. “I have not authorized that yet. The [Lyon and Collette] families’ wishes are going to weigh heavily regarding charging.”

Aggravated vehicular manslaughter is a class B felony that carries a potential sentence of five to 25 years in state prison.

Menke is scheduled to reappear at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Brandon Town Court to answer to the felony charges.

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