Athol man gets 6-12 years for 2019 Leverett crash that killed Amherst man

  • Gary Gregoire apologizes to Stephen Karpovich’s wife and family after pleading guilty on Oct. 26. At left is defense attorney Jon Heyman. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Gary Gregoire pleads guilty to charges against him in Franklin County Superior Court. At left is defense attorney Jon Heyman. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Kris Larson of Amherst, left, speaks in court of the loss of her husband, Stephen Karpovich. With her is Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber; Gary Gregoire of Athol is at far right. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Stephen Karpovich of Amherst, 70, died 20 days after being seriously injured in the crash on July 2, 2019. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Friday, November 04, 2022

GREENFIELD — An Athol man was sentenced to six to 12 years behind bars last week after changing his plea to charges stemming from a fatal crash he caused while driving 102 mph on Route 63 in Leverett three years ago.

Gary Gregoire, 44, appeared in Franklin County Superior Court on Oct. 26 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter, motor vehicle homicide by reckless operation, and operating a motor vehicle on a suspended license. He was given six to 12 years for the manslaughter charge and four to five years for motor vehicle homicide. The sentences will be served simultaneously and the suspended license charge carries with it a $500 fine. The state dismissed a charge of assault and battery causing serious bodily injury.

Gregoire was driving 102 mph in Leverett on July 2, 2019, when the vehicle he was driving smashed head-on into a vehicle being driven by 70-year-old Amherst resident Stephen Karpovich, who died on July 22 due to complications from blunt-force injuries. Gregoire, who appeared in court with a crutch and obvious signs of the injuries he sustained in the crash, apologized directly to Karpovich’s family in the courtroom.

“My heart goes out to you,” Gregoire said. “I am really sorry for your loss, and I deserve what I’m getting.”

Karpovich was the longtime director of Greenfield’s Wells Street shelter, the county’s only homeless shelter for individuals. He was driving home from work when the crash occurred.

Before sentencing, Judge Michael Callan spoke to Gregoire to confirm his change of plea was voluntary. Gregoire said he takes daily medications and has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the crash but that neither of these facts clouded his ability to understand the gravity of the situation.

He said he was in court because he caused “a car accident that took someone’s life.”

Gregoire was represented by defense attorney Jon Heyman, who told Callan his client has no memory of the crash but accepts responsibility for it. He also said Gregoire has completed drug rehabilitation and has written Karpovich’s family an apology letter, though it has not yet been delivered to the family. Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber prosecuted the case for the state.

Karpovich’s widow, Kris Larson, delivered a victim impact statement and detailed the void her husband’s untimely, painful death has created in her family. Fighting back tears, she told Callan her husband often stayed late at work and she wishes he had taken on just one more simple task so as to have not been in the spot where he was struck.

“But that didn’t happen,” she said.

Larson said she insists on finding a positive in every terrible situation and she hopes Gregoire receives the addiction services and therapy he needs while he is incarcerated. She also told Callan it is excruciating to walk in the woods and see elderly couples holding hands while knowing she will never again have that opportunity.

“(Gregoire) didn’t just kill Steve,” Larson said. “He killed a little part of all of our hearts.”

Webber read aloud a victim impact statement written by Karpovich’s daughter, Maya Karpovich. The younger Karpovich wrote that she grieves for the moments she will not share with her father.

“When I was discouraged, he always met me with quiet kindness and steady encouragement. He was good at showing you the bright parts, the things that were sweet and growing, without discounting the pain,” she wrote. “Mostly, he taught so softly that you didn’t always notice. He was my rock. He had so much more life left in him.”

Maya Karpovich also wrote that her father was in so much pain following the crash he could not hold up a book to read. The elder Karpovich had two surgeries — one to repair a rupture of his aortic artery and another to insert a metal plate for an elbow fracture.

“He was usually very stoic, but he would cry out in pain every time he had to be moved in bed or transferred to a wheelchair,” Maya Karpovich wrote. “He didn’t have an easy death.”

Before sentencing, Callan stated for the record that Gregoire appeared to listen intently to his words and to those of the victim’s loved ones.