WESTERLY — Co-workers of William E. Cossia — the victim in what police described as an intentional hit and run — said he left The Westerly Hospital on Wednesday and went straight to a dentist to seek help in having numerous teeth replaced.
Cossia, 26, an employee at Midway Pizza on Main Street in Westerly, was struck by a car late Tuesday night after attending a company holiday party at the Brazen Hen on Canal Street. The driver, Darrel J. Northup, 23, of 7 Mabrey Drive, Apt. B, was arrested by Westerly police the next day and was charged with felony assault with a dangerous weapon, and with a misdemeanor charge of failing to stop at an accident resulting in personal injury or death. He entered no plea in 4th Division District Court on Wednesday and was held without bail on charges of being a violator on terms of his probation on a previous assault conviction — the widely publicized beating of a local funeral director in 2012. Northup is being held at the Adult Correctional Institutions.
Workers at the pizza restaurant said they believe Northup attacked Cossia because he believed Cossia was seeing his ex-girlfriend.
Penny Deniger, who describes herself as the best friend of Northup’s former girlfriend, said she and the woman, whom other workers identified as Jillian, had attended the party together. Deniger said Cossia was already at the party, although he had previously told his co-workers that he really didn’t want to go.
Another employee, Adrienne Sheldon, who was not at the party, described Cossia as a hard worker who would go out of his way to help someone who needed money or to grab her a coffee if she wanted one.
Deniger said she was standing on the sidewalk with her arm around her best friend when she saw Northup, who has a young child with Jillian, pass them on Canal Street. She said Northup turned around and drove into Cossia, who had taken steps toward a car parked on the other side of the street.
“I can’t stop thinking about it,” said Deniger. “I keep shaking.” She said she saw the car, a 2011 Kia Optima owned by Northup’s mother, strike Cossia, throw him into the air and flip him over. She said he hit the hood and fell to the ground. Police said Northup then sped away from the scene
Cossia was taken to the hospital by the Westerly Ambulance Corps. Friends say he suffered hip injuries and facial lacerations.
Midway Pizza owner Joseph Iorlano said Thursday that he didn’t want to talk about the incident, but he left a message on the restaurant’s Facebook site thanking his employees for the manner in which they dealt with the “near tragedy.” Some of the workers spent several hours at the Westerly police station giving witness statements following the incident.
In 2012, Northup was charged with simple assault and battery, disorderly conduct and conspiracy after he and three other young men were charged with beating Rushlow-Iacoi funeral director David A. Poisson after he left the Cleats Sports Club Restaurant in Westerly. Poisson suffered a broken nose, swollen eye, bruises and abrasions. He was treated at The Westerly Hospital.
Northup pleaded no contest to simple assault and was sentenced to a one-year suspended jail term with one year probation. He had been previously been charged with domestic simple assault in another case.