Heather Williams and her husband knew her car needed repairs. Among a number of issues, the family’s 1999 Ford Explorer had a tendency to roll out of park.
But because they never got around to it, Williams now faces serious charges for an injury to her toddler.
As the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript reports, the couple’s 3-year-old daughter was run over by the SUV in August and suffered a broken femur. The New Hampshire parents were visiting relatives when the car slipped out of park and rolled downhill. Williams and her husband told police it was an accident, but an inspection of the vehicle led to further questioning.
Police reportedly found missing parts, exposed wiring on the interior, rusted-out parts on the back of the car, and a crack along the windshield. Authorities also noticed that the vehicle’s inspection sticker, issued on July 17, 2017, had a “torn and worn” appearance, suggesting that it was not new. But it was the car’s parking mechanism that was the greatest source of concern.
Officers attempted to push the car forward and backward while in park and proceeded to move it three feet in both directions.
According to a police affidavit, Williams, 34, and her husband admitted they knew the car had a tendency to roll out of park even though the parking brake was engaged.
Williams told police she had established a routine after putting the car in park in which she would slowly release the brake and rock from side to side in the driver’s seat to see if the movement caused the parking brake to disengage. Williams said she had experienced the car slipping out of park before.
In an affidavit, Jaffrey Police Department Patrolman Jeremy K. Leblanc wrote:
Based on investigations conducted by [New Hampshire State] Trooper [Peter] McConnell and myself, it is evident Heather was not only aware of the safety issues with the Explorer, but she had developed a routine to test the defective parking mechanism prior to leaving the vehicle.
Heather was also aware the vehicle had rolled out of park in the past, and still chose to operate the vehicle and transport her children within this vehicle.
In an interview with the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript, Jaffrey Police Chief Bill Oswalt said Williams’s negligence was the cause of her daughter’s injury:
“Negligent operation caused serious bodily injury [to the child].”
Williams is facing charges of vehicular assault. Her husband, who works at an auto garage, is also facing charges for allegedly installing a fraudulent inspection sticker after producing a false work order that claimed the parking mechanism had been fixed.
Williams was released on a $1,000 personal recognizance bond.