standing Courts

NEW LONDON — A Groton woman charged in the 2019 deaths of a Mystic couple struck while crossing Greenmanville Avenue has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and will face sentencing in January.

In a brief appearance in New London Superior Court last week, 75-year-old Carol Belli agreed before a judge to plead guilty to two counts of negligent homicide with a motor vehicle. A sentencing hearing has been set for Jan. 12, 2022, according to court records, and an assistant state's attorney has recommended that she serve two consecutive sentences, one for each death, that would total a year in prison with the sentence suspended after 120 days pending completion of a four-year probation. Her attorney has said she will argue for a reduced sentence.

A charge of driving under the influence stemming from the same incident is expected to be dropped as part of the guilty plea, according to court records .

Belli had initially entered a not guilty plea to the charges, which were filed in March 9, 2019, following a crash that took place along Route 27 in the area of Rossie Pentway. A police investigation determined that Belli was driving north along the road after leaving the Daniel Packer Inne just after 8 p.m. when her Ford Fusion struck Seth Wakeman, 88, and his wife Joanna, 78, as the two were crossing the street while returning to their car following dinner.

Belli, a retired principal and teacher, 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.

Both of the Wakemans, who lived on Montauk Avenue, were pronounced dead at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital following the crash.

In an arrest warrant, Stonington police said an investigation determined that Belli and the Wakemans all shared blame for the crash. The police said although Belli had consumed alcohol while taking an antidepressant, and was traveling between 7 and 14 mph over the posted 30 mph speed limit. The Wakemans, meanwhile, were dressed in dark clothing and had stepped into the road without pressing the cross signal while the traffic light was green, a police report said.

The guilty plea comes one year after Belli's insurance company and an insurance company for the Daniel Packer Inne settled a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Estate of Seth and Joanne Wakeman for $1.25 million.

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