Police: Haverhill driver should have seen pedestrian who was killed

·6 min read

May 14—HAVERHILL — Police said the driver charged in a hit-and-run collision that killed a 59-year-old man walking near downtown should have seen the victim and avoided him.

Investigators who reconstructed the collision determined the driver was travelling only 16 mph, visibility was good and no road defects existed that could have contributed to the collision, a police report said.

The report detailing the crash is on file at Haverhill District Court where Dimitrios Zaralidis, 76, of Haverhill was arraigned Thursday on charges related to the death of Charles Burrill Jr.

Burrill was killed more than two years ago as he walked across Main Street at White's Corner near Central Plaza.

Zaralidis is charged with motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, leaving the scene of property damage and a crosswalk violation. Judge Cesar Archilla entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Zaralidis.

During the arraignment, Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo asked the judge to issue Zaralidis a "stern" do-not-drive order, noting that the Registry of Motor Vehicles has taken away his license. The judge agreed to the request and also granted a request for a 90-day warning, meaning if Zaralidis is charged with another crime while his case is pending he could be ordered held without bail for up to 90 days.

"At this point it's not likely he will get it (his license) back," said DePaulo, who told the judge that he had informed members of Burrill's family who were in the courtroom what he would ask for at the hearing.

DePaulo said there was a delay in bringing the case forward because it involved a long investigation and the pandemic caused interruptions.

Zaralidis was represented by local defense attorney Gerard LaFlamme. DePaulo told the judge that he would try to work with LaFlamme to move the case forward as quickly as possible.

The judge released Zaralidis on personal recognizance, under the condition that he not operate a motor vehicle, and scheduled a pretrial hearing for June 28.

Police: Victim suffered head trauma

After the arraignment, Burrill's brother-in-law Joseph Mack said his family has been patiently awaiting Zaralidis' appearance in court.

"We still have a ways to go, but we're hopeful it will be resolved soon," Mack said.

Burrill was a member of the Haverhill High School Class of 1977. For 18 years before his death, he worked as a housekeeper at Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport. Family members said he was talented at drawing, had a great sense of humor and was known for walking around town. They said that even when offered rides, he preferred to walk.

Police say Zaralidis drove into Burrill and killed him as he walked across Main Street at White's Corner, the intersection at the north end of Basiliere Bridge, on the morning of Jan. 25, 2019.

According to a police report on file at the court, officers were dispatched to White's Corner at 5:22 a.m. and found Burrill on the ground up against the curb of the median strip. Police said he had suffered severe head trauma and was pronounced dead at the scene by a Trinity Ambulance paramedic.

A witness told police that earlier he was walking east in the crosswalk and passed Burrill, who walking west toward the downtown, according to a police report.

The man told police that after he walked past Burrill, he heard a loud thump and turned around to see Burrill on the ground, according to the report. The man said a silver or gray Chrysler PT Cruiser that had crossed Basiliere Bridge was heading north on Main Street at a slow rate of speed, according to the report.

The man told police he walked up to Burrill, who was bleeding and wasn't breathing, the report said. The man said he then used his cellphone to call 911.

Police said the three street lights on the northbound side of Main Street at the intersection were either not working or very dim when officers arrived. Police said video surveillance of the area showed a light colored PT Cruiser hitting Burrill in the crosswalk at 5:11 a.m. and tossing him into the air before the vehicle continued north on Main Street.

Probe links vehicle, collision

At 12:08 p.m. the day of the collision, police dispatch was notified by a driver who said he was following a PT Cruiser that had a damaged front end and damaged windshield, the police report said. The caller provided police with the vehicle's license plate number, the report said.

Police determined the vehicle was registered to Susan Kritzas of 183 Kingsbury Ave., Bradford, and discovered that she and Zaralidis are friends, the report said. Police Detective Sean Scharneck wrote in his report that he found the damaged PT Cruiser at Kritzas' house.

Zaralidis told Scharneck that he was driving the PT Cruiser that morning and was heading to Exeter, New Hampshire, to help out at a friend's pizza shop when something "came down" and smashed the windshield, the report said.

Scharneck's report noted that while he and Zaralidis were driving to the police station in Scharneck's unmarked cruiser, Zaralidis said that when the windshield of the PT Cruiser shattered, he thought ice had fallen from a street light or a street light had fallen and struck the windshield.

During questioning at the police station, Zaralidis told investigators he had nothing to hide, but the conversation ended when his lawyer arrived, police said.

According to the police report, investigators also questioned the owner of the pizza shop that Zaralidis was driving to the morning of the collision. The owner told police that when Zaralidis arrived at the shop that morning, he talked about damage to the windshield, the report said. Zaralidis told the shop owner it was dark that morning and he could not see well while driving, and that ice may have fallen from a street light, according to the report.

The shop owner told police that Zaralidis seemed to be acting normally, the report said.

Police rule out speed, weather

Investigators said a State Police crash reconstruction report indicated Zaralidis was slowing down and driving just 16 mph when the PT Cruiser struck Burrill, and that he should have had ample time to stop before hitting him. The posted speed in that area is 25 mph, police said.

Police said no other factors, such as weather issues or road defects, contributed to the collision, and that there were no mechanical problems with the PT Cruiser.

The area had adequate lighting and Zaralidis should have been able to see Burrill, the reconstruction report said.

Following a long investigation by Haverhill detectives and traffic safety officers and State Police crash reconstruction experts, with assistance from the Essex District Attorney's Office, Zaralidis was issued a summons to appear before a clerk magistrate in Haverhill District Court in March.

The magistrate issued a criminal complaint charging Zaralidis with motor vehicle homicide, police said.