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Three teens charged with alcohol offenses

Vehicle homicide trial awaits fourth

By Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / July 28, 2009

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After attending their prom and a school-sponsored Boston Harbor cruise in May, Saugus High School senior Jonathan Caruso and three friends continued partying at Nahant Beach, court records show.

But unlike the school events, which adhered to a strict alcohol-free code, the gathering of friends at the beach included a lot of beer, records indicate. According to police, Caruso struck and killed a 67-year-old woman while driving home from the beach May 16.

Caruso, 18, of Saugus, was charged in May with negligent homicide. Yesterday, three other teenagers, two of whom were in the car with Caruso, were charged with alcohol offenses.

Daniel Vokey, 19; Christopher Baldwin, 19; and Rosa Palomba, 18, all of Saugus, were arraigned in Lynn District Court. Prosecutors alleged Vokey furnished about two dozen 12-ounce cans of Budweiser Light to Baldwin, who then provided the alcohol to Palomba and Caruso.

Caruso was arraigned in May on charges of negligent motor vehicle homicide, operating under the influence of alcohol, and being a minor transporting liquor. The other three were arrested July 3.

All four had attended the Saugus prom. School authorities conducted breath-alcohol tests before the prom and before students boarded the harbor cruise.

After the cruise, students were bused back to the high school at about 4 a.m. They then returned to their cars or were picked up by parents.

But according to the four defendants’ statements to police, they decided to continue partying. After driving to Vokey’s house, where Baldwin picked up nearly a case of beer, the four headed to Nahant Beach. At the beach, Vokey’s girlfriend arrived and picked him up, leaving Baldwin, Palomba, and Caruso with the beer.

According to their statements, Baldwin and Palomba each consumed about five beers, and Caruso drank as many as six. The three were at the beach for about two hours. When they got into Caruso’s car, Baldwin asked Caruso if he was “good.’’ Caruso responded, “Ya.’’

Moments later, police said, Caruso hit Carol Marean, who had been walking her dog with her daughter, Charlotte, 41, near Essex and Grove streets in Saugus. Marean was killed, and her daughter has since recovered from critical injuries.

Caruso told authorities at the scene that he had been drinking and that he had probably fallen asleep at the wheel.

According to statements Baldwin made to police, which were entered into court records, Caruso looked up immediately after the accident and said, “What happened, not a problem.’’ Baldwin said he told Caruso he had just hit two people and Caruso responded, “No way, really?’’

Caruso took a breath test and registered a blood alcohol content of 0.02, according to the police report. The legal blood alcohol limit is 0.08 for drivers 21 and older. The limit for those under 21 is 0.02 percent.

Vokey was charged with delivering liquor to a person under 21. Baldwin was charged with possession of alcohol and furnishing alcohol to a person under 21. Palomba was charged with possession of alcohol by a person under 21.

All pleaded not guilty. They are scheduled to return to court Aug. 18 for a pretrial hearing.

Brian R. Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.