Stefan Hard/Times Argus
William Luther, 46, of Cabot looks up as his attorney, Maggie Vincent, takes notes during his arraignment in Vermont District Court in Barre Tuesday on charges including DUI with fatality resulting.
BARRE – In a terrible story of family tragedy, a Cabot man touched off a string of events that ended one young life and altered countless others immeasurably, from the hit and run that killed his stepson to his subsequent confession that he was the one driving the car.
According to court documents, William P. Luther, 46, was driving drunk when he left his stepson for dead in a ditch in front of the Nunn horse farm on Route 215 in Cabot sometime around 8 p.m. Sunday. Then the next day he drove his Jeep Cherokee into a cement abutment and later into some trees in attempts to obscure the damage to his vehicle incurred from hitting Jason Bear, 27.
Bear was walking on the side of the road Sunday night on his way to the home on Elm Street that he had recently moved back into and which he shared with his mother, Tracy Luther, and his stepfather, William. Police said he was struck by a vehicle and sent into a drainage ditch, where he died. Bear walked every where he went, according to community members.
Bear's body was found Monday morning, as commuters gathered at the scene of the accident, wondering about the person who would hit another human and leave them there.
By Monday evening, police had evidence to link Luther to the scene of the collision and Luther turned himself in.
William Luther left a message for Vermont State Police Det. Sgt. Russell Robinson at approximately 5:40 p.m. Monday that said: "Yes, my name is William Luther. I am calling about the accident last night where I hit my stepson and killed him," according to police.
According to court testimony, Luther had consumed between 12 to 24 beers on Sunday before leaving his residence on Elm Street to drive to a friend's house to return borrowed items.
"William Luther told us … that he 'was drunk' and added that he shouldn't have been driving," police said.
Luther told police he was driving home on Route 215 when he heard a "loud thud," and he realized he hit someone. Luther said he pulled his car over, saw Bear's body lying in the ditch and yelled out, "Jason, Jason!"
Bear had left the Cabot home around 5 p.m. to walk to the Lower Cabot General Store, where he purchased two horror DVDs, and also took some promotional posters. The DVDs and posters were found about 20 feet from his body lying in the frozen snow.
Luther told police after the collision he did not check on the body "because he was scared," and that he knew it was his stepson and he believed Bear was dead.
Luther got back into his Jeep Cherokee and continued driving to the Elm Street home.
When Luther got home around 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, Tracy Luther asked him what he'd been doing for the past hour, and Luther told her he went "for a ride."
At 4:30 a.m. Monday morning when Tracy Luther and William Luther were getting ready for work, Tracy told him Bear had not returned home and she was worried. She asked William to "keep an eye open for Jason while on his way to work that morning," according to the affidavit.
William Luther told police he drove to work that morning, passing his stepson's dead body, without stopping, and went to work at DMS Machining & Fabrication in Barre.
The company's owner, Byron Atwood, was in court Tuesday to support Luther at his arraignment and told The Times Argus outside the courtroom William Luther has been a valued employee of the company for 12 years.
While in Lebanon, N.H. for work Monday, Luther received the phone call about his stepson's death, at which point he left work for the family emergency, according to the affidavit.
"William Luther said that when he received this call and heard the news he thought to himself… 'What am I going to do to hide this?'" according to police.
On his drive back to Cabot, William Luther "smacked" his car into some trees to hide the damage to his Jeep, to "hide his tracks," police said.
Police found out later Luther had also driven his Jeep into a cement overpass in Barre in a similar attempt to obscure the damage to the vehicle.
While police were investigating the incident, Luther identified Bear's body by a Polaroid photograph police showed him at his home.
During the course of the investigation, police learned from evidence at the scene the make and color of the vehicle that hit Bear and also learned Luther drove a vehicle matching that description. Police tracked down Luther's black Jeep Cherokee at his cousin's garage in Williamstown, where Luther had it towed after smashing it up.
Within two hours of the police confirming that William Luther's vehicle was the one that hit Bear, Luther called police to confess he had killed Bear.
Luther pleaded innocent Tuesday to felony charges in connection with the fatal hit-and-run collision of his stepson. Bail was set at $15,000.
Bear's stepbrother, 26-year-old Greg Luther, was at his father's arraignment Tuesday at the Vermont District Court in Barre and spoke to a reporter outside the courtroom.
"I'm losing two family members at the same time," he said. "It's just a loss both ways."
Greg Luther said the three of them (William and Tracy Luther and Bear) had "never gotten along better" than in the past month that Bear was living at the Cabot home.
"It was just bad news after bad news," Greg Luther said of the past two days. "My dad panicked."
Bear's stepsister Naomi Spiller, of Texas, spoke of growing up with Bear, who became her older brother when he was 12 and she was 7 years old. She said Bear had great respect for his stepfather, William Luther.
Bear lived in Montana with his family until he was 16, when he went to live with his mother in Cabot, Spiller said.
"I want him to be remembered as someone great," Spiller, 22, said of Bear, whom she lost touch with until recently.
"I just found him five months ago," she said. "The last thing I got to say to him is 'I love you' right before he died."
Spiller said she remembers Bear as quiet, contemplative and into skateboarding. She said he also loved to eat a lot.
Spiller said Bear had a 5-year old son in Vermont whom he loved very much.
"He didn't lie, always told the truth; he talked about life a lot and he was a really sensitive person," she said. "I miss him. We all miss him."
Bear worked construction, according to his stepbrother.
The investigation into his death is ongoing.MORE IN Central Vermont
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