Hit-and-run suspect repaired his vehicle
Taunton man charged with role in collision that killed teenager
TAUNTON - Just hours after a driver fatally struck a teenage skateboarder on the side of Bay Street and drove away, Paul Baran was at home tinkering with the front of his car, drawing the suspicion of at least one neighbor.
“I’m thinking, ‘Who works on their car at 11 at night?’ And then I kind of joked to myself, ‘What did he do, run over the kid down the street?’ ’’ said David Plante, who lives near the upstairs apartment that Baran has rented for about 20 years on Sixth Street. “After he went in that night, he left a white towel and something like a milk container covering the hood. It seemed strange.’’
Another neighbor said he saw Baran working on his car at 2 p.m. Saturday. “The front of his car was ripped apart,’’ said the neighbor, who asked that only his first name, Kevin, be used to protect his privacy. “The odd thing was, he was also working on his car on Friday.’’
By 6 p.m. Saturday, Taunton police, responding to one of several tips, appeared at Baran’s residence as they investigated the hit-and-run accident that killed Nicholas Silva-Thomas, 17.
“I thought he was going to pass out as his legs appeared to buckle under him,’’ Taunton Detective Timothy J. White wrote in his report.
Yesterday, Baran, dressed in a black sweater, was charged in Taunton District Court on a count of leaving the scene of a personal injury or death. He was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail. Prosecutors said the 55-year-old defendant has a driving record pocked with offenses, including accidents in which he was found to have been at fault, suspensions, drunken driving, leaving the scene of property damage, and other charges. Baran’s three-page record, included in court documents, dates to 1981.
His attorney, James Hassan, pleaded not guilty on his client’s behalf and asked for $10,000 bail, a request that stoked the ire of the victim’s family. One man among the relatives and friends sitting in the courtroom yelled, “Get lost, get out of here!’’
Hassan argued briefly that Baran thought he hit an animal, “which is also not uncommon on that road,’’ he said. During the investigation, a man contacted Easton police to report that he had struck something on Bay Road near Stoughton, but authorities determined that the motorist hit an animal.
Daniel Walsh, assistant Bristol district attorney, told Judge Gregory Phillips during the 30-minute arraignment that Baran admitted the hit-and-run to authorities when he was questioned. Baran told police he became frightened and fled, according to court records. Walsh said that Baran knew he hit a person because of damage to the windshield.
Baran’s vehicle, a gray 1995 Chrysler Cirrus, was recovered from the front of 4 First Ave. The vehicle had dents on the front end and the windshield was missing. Police found a damaged windshield in a bag nearby.
Silva-Thomas, who would have been a senior this year at Taunton High School, was with friends Thursday night at Watson Pond State Park on Bay Street, riding skateboards in the parking lot. The teenagers then headed to a restaurant for pizza. Silva-Thomas was struck as he apparently skated out of the park. His friend was nearby, according to court records, but did not see the car that hit Silva-Thomas. The friend did, however, hear a loud banging noise and saw Silva-Thomas sprawled on the pavement.
The friend, who is 16 years old, said he pulled Silva-Thomas from the road. The teenager died a short time later at Morton Hospital.
Margaret Masterson, Baran’s landlord, expressed shock yesterday at her tenant’s arrest. “He seemed like a good enough man, paid his rent every month, and was polite,’’ she said. “I don’t know what happened, but it really seems out of character with the person I know.’’
Justin Labreche, 17, who said he knew Silva-Thomas for several years, showed up at the courthouse yesterday with other classmates.
“There’s no need for that to happen, no need for someone to hit a person like that and leave them, no matter who they are,’’ Labreche said.
Brian Ballou can be reached at email@example.com.