STONINGTON — Attorneys representing the estate of Seth and Joanne Wakeman have reached a settlement with insurance companies for $1.25 million in a wrongful death lawsuit filed after the couple was struck and killed by a DUI driver in March 2019.
The settlement, which court records show occurred over the summer, was reached at the maximum amount available for such a lawsuit. Insurance coverage for Carol Belli, 74, the Groton woman who police said was driving under the influence during the fatal crash, will pay $500,000 split evenly to Seth and Joanna Wakeman with the estate receiving $250,000 on behalf of each, while insurance for the Daniel Packer Inn, where Belli was drinking just prior to the crash, paid $250,000, which is the maximum available under the state's Dram Shop Act.
Records show the estate also received an additional $500,000 through the CSAA Affinity Insurance Company. The payment was made due to the fact that the Wakemans held an insurance policy higher than Belli's.
While the lawsuit settles the civil component of the case, criminal court proceedings filed against Belli continue.
Belli, a retired principal and teacher, was arrested on March 9, 2019, shortly after the incident. A police investigation determined that Belli was driving north along Route 27 near Rossie Pentway when her Ford Fusion struck Seth and Joanna Wakeman as they were crossing the street in a crosswalk after returning to their car following dinner nearby.
The police said Belli stopped following the crash, but was taken into custody after failing a field sobriety test. She was charged with driving under the influence due to signs of intoxication, even though her blood alcohol content was below the legal limit of .08 when tested following the crash.
Two counts of misdemeanor negligent homicide were filed against Belli in October 2019 following further investigation, and Belli has since pleaded not guilty to all charges. She remains free on bond.
The case is expected to go to trial, but the timing remains unclear as Connecticut deals with a backlog of cases as a result of pandemic restrictions. State prosecutors have indicated that they intended to offer a plea deal but that it would include a period of incarceration due to the tragic nature of the deaths.
Belli is due back in court for a status hearing on Nov. 23, records show.