Cromwell Man Charged With Manslaughter in 2022 Death of Tow Truck Driver on I-91, in North Haven
On Saturday, 05/21/2022, at approximately 6:21 p.m., Troopers assigned to Troop I in Bethany responded to a motor vehicle accident involving a pedestrian on Interstate 91 northbound near Exit 10 in North Haven. Initial reports indicated that the vehicle which struck the pedestrian continued on I-91 before becoming disabled near Exit 14. EMS was dispatched to both locations.
The trooper responding to the Exit 10 area observed a Mazda and a tow truck parked in the right shoulder. The Mazda appeared to have damage to its rear bumper & trunk, as well as a broken rear windshield. The tow truck was parked behind the Mazda and had no visible damage. Troopers observed a male, identified as Christopher Russell, DOB 12/27/1983, laying on the roadway between the Mazda and the tow truck. A female, identified as Melissa Goiran, DOB 01/05/1982, was standing beside Russell, who was subsequently pronounced dead at the scene.
A second trooper responded to the disabled vehicle located near Exit 14 in Wallingford. The trooper found a red Nissan Rogue with visible damage to its entire driver’s side, as well as its right front quarter panel. The trooper observed that the operator was unresponsive. The operator was positively identified as Luis Resto, DOB 03/14/1968, the registered owner of the Nissan. Wallingford EMS suspected Resto of being under the influence of narcotics and began providing treatment at the scene. Resto became more alert and was transported to Midstate Medical Center for further evaluation.
During an interview with Goiran, investigators learned that at approximately 6:08 p.m., the passenger side front tire on her vehicle had become flat as she was traveling on I-91 northbound. She safely pulled over to the right shoulder prior to Exit 11, activated her vehicle’s hazard lights and took tools from the trunk. A tow truck pulled up and parked in the shoulder behind her vehicle. The male operator – Russell –asked if she needed assistance with the tire change. Goiran noted that the lights on the tow truck were illuminated as Russell helped with the flat tire. Russell indicated that he was done working and was heading to Windsor to drop off the tow truck.
After the tire change, Russell returned to the truck and Goiran returned to her vehicle. As she prepared to pull away, she felt an impact at the rear of her vehicle. She saw a red-colored vehicle, which she believed to be a Nissan, traveling north in the right lane. Goiran exited her vehicle and observed damage to her vehicle’s rear windshield and trunk before discovering Russell laying on the ground, unresponsive and without a pulse. Goiran called 911 and began performing CPR until North Haven Police, Fire Department and EMS arrived at the scene. Goiran never saw the red-colored car pull over.
Resto, during an interview at the hospital, explained to investigators that he left a friend’s house in New Haven and bought a small bag of heroin, which he consumed before entering I-91 northbound. Resto said he did not recall getting into an accident, he only remembered paramedics transferring him to a stretcher. Resto authorized the release of his medical records and consented to allow investigators to search and examine his vehicle; Resto signed the required forms in the presence of medical staff. When asked to participate in an examination administered by a Drug Recognition Expert (DRE), Resto declined.
Investigators determined that at the time of the collision, Russell had been walking back to his tow truck on its driver’s side. The Nissan Rogue began drifting over from the right lane, through the acceleration lane and partially into the right shoulder where it struck Russell. It was determined that the Nissan continued for nearly five miles before colliding with the wire rope guardrail in the center median and becoming disabled.
On 05/23/2022, investigators met a witness who claimed to have dashcam footage of the incident. The witness explained that they had been traveling in their vehicle on I-91 in the right lane of three and recalled seeing a tow truck with flashing yellow lights illuminated. They observed a red SUV make contact with the right metal guardrail 5-6 times near Exit 12 and that traffic began to slow down due to the erratic operation of the SUV.
The witness said the red SUV struck the metal guardrail between Exits 12 and 13 before the witness lost sight of the vehicle. The witness then saw the red SUV strike the guardrail along the left side of the roadway and come to a stop in the left shoulder, near Exit 14. The witness stopped their vehicle and approached the red SUV. The witness observed a male in the driver’s seat, who they described as “gasping for air” and “incoherent.” The witness observed a “vape-like” object in the operator’s hand and, upon the arrival of police, the witness departed from the scene. After learning of the fatal collision on the news and reviewing dash camera footage, the witness contacted State Police.
Investigators reviewed the witness’s dashcam footage, which captured the tow truck stopped behind the Mazda and Goiran behind the Mazda, next to Russell within the shoulder. A separate portion of footage captured the Nissan traveling in an erratic manner and striking the guardrail along the right side of the roadway multiple times prior to colliding with the wire rope guardrail along the left shoulder. The video captured the Nissan stopped on the left shoulder along damaged wire rope guardrail.
On 05/24/2022, Detectives with the Central District Major Crime Squad examined and collected items of evidence from the interior and exterior of the Nissan Rogue. Among the items seized was one wax paper fold containing a white powdery substance, consistent in appearance with narcotics packaged for street-sale, located within reach of the driver’s seat and therefore accessible to Resto.
On 01/09/2023, investigators received a report from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner certifying that Russell’s cause of death indicated “blunt impact injury of head, torso, and extremities” with manner of death indicating “accident.”
On 03/21/2023, investigators received results of the forensic examination of the wax paper fold containing a white powdery substance, which tested positive for Fentanyl and Xylazine.
On 03/21/2023, the examination of hair-like fibers collected from the Nissan’s passenger side front fender concluded that the hair-like fiber was “human hair fragment” and “other trace material.”
Based upon the analysis of the CSP Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Squad, the operator of the Nissan Rogue, Luis Resto, failed to drive within the confines of the right lane on I- 91 northbound. Investigators determined that Resto was improperly traveling within the acceleration lane where the impact with Christopher Russell occurred while he was standing adjacent to the left side of the tow truck. Following the impact with Russell, the Nissan encroached into the right shoulder and collided into the rear of the Mazda before evading the scene. It was determined that Resto was operating in a manner consistent with impaired driving behaviors and, in a sworn written statement, Resto confirmed that he had consumed a bag of heroin and “blacked out” while operating the Nissan.
Based upon information obtained during the investigation, troopers applied for an arrest warrant for Luis Resto, which was granted on 03/30/2023.
On 04/03/2023, at approximately 4:50 p.m., Resto turned himself in at Troop I after learning of the active warrant for his arrest. Resto was taken into custody, processed and charged with the following:
C.G.S. 53a-56b, Manslaughter in the 2nd Degree with a Motor Vehicle
C.G.S. 53a-63, Reckless Endangerment 1st Degree
C.G.S. 53a-57, Misconduct with a Motor Vehicle
C.G.S. 21a-279(a)(2), Possession of a Controlled Substance 2nd Offense
C.G.S. 14-227a, Operating a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence of Drugs/Alcohol
C.G.S. 14-224(a)*, Evading Responsibility Resulting in Death
C.G.S. 14-236, Failure to Maintain Proper Lane
C.G.S. 14-283(b), Illegal Operation Failing to Move Over for an Emergency Vehicle
Resto was unable to post a $50,000 court-set bond and was transported to the New Haven Correctional Center to await his court appearance at Meriden Superior Court, which was scheduled for 04/04/2023.
To view the original Accident Information Summary, please visit: https://www.cspnews.org/post/troopers-seek-witnesses-to-pedestrian-fatality-on-i-91-in-north-haven