GILFORD, N.H. — The drunk driver who caused a head-on crash last August, which claimed the life of Tiana Lozzi of Lynn, and seriously injured two others, pleaded guilty and was sentenced Wednesday as about 50 members of the victim’s family looked on.
Superior Court Judge Tina Nadeau sentenced Richard Conrod, 47, of Belmont, to at least four years in prison on a charge of negligent homicide-DUI for causing the death of Lozzi, 20. Lozzi was a passenger in a car which was struck head-on by Conrod’s pickup truck on Aug. 28. The crash happened in Gilford, near Ellacoya State Park.
The judge also handed down concurrent suspended 3½- to seven-year sentences on two charges of second degree assault related to the serious injuries suffered by John Bonilla, 20, also of Lynn, the car’s driver, and Anna Mendoza-Saravia, another passenger. The two sentences were suspended on condition of 7½ years of good behavior and will begin once Conrod is released from prison on the negligent homicide charge.
Conrod’s ability to be free in four years is conditioned on his successful completion of an intensive counseling and treatment program for inmates with diagnosed addictions. Failure to complete the program would mean Conrod would have to serve the minimum six years of the six- to 12-year sentence.
Wearing a hooded outer jacket, shirt and tie and dress trousers, Conrod stood next to his attorney, Ryan Russman, as Nadeau asked Conrod a series of questions to determine that the defendant understood the rights he was giving up by pleading guilty to the charges he faced. “Are you pleading guilty because you are in fact guilty?” she asked. “Yes, your honor,” he replied in a soft voice.
Assistant Belknap County Attorney Keith Cormier told the judge the crash occurred minutes after Gilford police received multiple phone calls reporting a pickup truck traveling west on Route 11 was swerving in and out of its lane, and that the driver may have even been asleep at the wheel.
Cormier went on to say that moments after the 4 p.m. crash, Conrod was outside his truck and being tended to by a bystander who later told prosecutors Conrod’s speech was slurred and that his breath smelled of alcohol.
The prosecutor said Conrod’s initial blood test showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.21 — almost three times the legal limit of 0.08. Another blood sample taken almost six hours after the crash showed he was still legally intoxicated, with a BAC of 0.133. Cormier added that, had Conrod gone to trial, the prosecution would have shown a surveillance video from the CITGO Alton Circle Grocery showing Conrod stumbling out of the store and bracing himself against the side of the building to steady himself.
While calling Conrod’s actions “reprehensible,” Cormier said the negotiated sentence was appropriate. Cormier told the judge he felt Conrod sincerely wanted to get the kind of treatment he will receive in prison, which would help him overcome his drinking problem.
Members of Lozzi’s family, however, told the judge the sentence was too lenient, given the suffering that Conrod’s actions had caused.
About 50 family members and loved ones nearly filled the courtroom in the Laconia Courthouse where the hearing was held because the Superior Courthouse is temporarily not handicap-accessible.
“Mr. Conrod changed the lives of three families,” Tiana Lozzi’s mother, Christiana Lozzi, told the judge. “This is not the first time Mr. Conrod chose to gamble (with driving while intoxicated), and he lost. He says he’s a religious man and teaches in a Catholic school, but this is not the Mr. Conrod I know,” she said.
Conrod had been on the faculty of Holy Trinity School in Laconia. He was dismissed the day after the crash.
For Bonilla, who was engaged to Tiana Lozzi, the hearing was especially anguishing.
“This is my birthday,” he told the judge. “I wanted to marry her,” he said, choking back tears. He said the crash had not only killed the love of his life, but left him with injuries that would prevent him from realizing his dreamed-for career as an auto technician. “Now I just sit home and watch video games.”
“There’s nothing I can say today,” Nadeau told the family members. “I wish you some kind of healing and peace.”
After the hearing, Tiana Lozzi’s uncle, Brian Lozzi, said, “We wanted to see the maximum (sentence), but that wasn’t what was agreed to. Hopefully, in time, we will heal.”
In pronouncing sentence, Nadeau barred Conrod from having any kind of contract with the crash victims and revoked his driver’s license indefinitely.