Driver texted 'drunk' prior to fatal Seabrook crash

TIM JEAN/Staff photoDawn Marie Barcellona, 58, sits with her defense attorney, Stephen Jeffco, during a bench trial in Rockingham Superior Court in Brentwood, N.H.

BRENTWOOD, N.H. — The text Dawn Marie Barcellona sent to a friend simply read "drunk." 

And roughly 10 minutes later, Barcellona struck and killed Andrew "Dibba" Dobson, 51, as he was walking on Ocean Boulevard in Seabrook after a trip to the nearby convenience store, according to testimony and a police report. 

Barcellona was on trial Wednesday before Rockingham Superior Court Judge Dan St. Hilaire for just a single misdemeanor count of driving while intoxicated following the crash Oct. 21, 2018, that killed the Salisbury, Massachusetts, man.

She said Dobson jumped out in front of her as she was slowing for a red light, according to testimony.  

Testimony in the drunken-driving case was heard all day Wednesday. St. Hilaire then took the matter under advisement and will issue his verdict in the near future. 

"You have more than enough evidence to find she was legally impaired," prosecutor Jennifer Haggar said in her closing argument. 

"Mere minutes" before Dobson was killed, Barcellona sent a text to a friend and co-worker who was looking for her saying she was "drunk." 

The text was sent at 7:53 p.m. Dobson was struck at 8:03 p.m., according to testimony and police reports. 

"Her own wounds. Her own thoughts," Haggar said of Barcellona's text to a friend and co-worker at Seaglass restaurant in Salisbury Beach Center. 

However, defense attorney Stephen Jeffco urged St. Hilaire to acquit Barcellona, saying the crash was never properly investigated by police and a key piece of evidence, cruiser dash cam video of Barcellona taking a series of sobriety tests, could never be located. 

"The benefit of the doubt should be given to the accused," Jeffco said. "Dawn Barcellona is entitled to be acquitted." 

Last week, Barcellona, 58, rejected a plea deal that would allow her to avoid jail and instead pay a $500 fine and surrender her license for nine months. She opted to take the case to a trial, which opened Wednesday morning in Superior Court. 

Previous indictments on two counts of negligent homicide and driving under the influence against Barcellona were dropped. 

A prosecution witness, a bartender, testified Wednesday morning that she made Barcellona three White Russians, a two-liquor drink with milk, in the hours before she struck Dobson with her Jeep. 

Rachael DiGenova, a bartender from Capri restaurant at Salisbury Beach Center, also said she gave Barcellona water and refilled her water glass that night. 

Dobson lived nearby on Commonwealth Avenue in Salisbury at this parents' home. He left the house on foot that night to grab a pack of cigarettes at a nearby convenience store.

The father of a 12-year-old son was hit by the Jeep on his way home.

The indictment indicates Barcellona was using her phone while behind the wheel that night.

With DiGenova on the stand, Haggar played surveillance video from the Capri bar that night.

DiGenova is shown hugging Barcellona when she arrived at the bar at 4:30 p.m. DiGenova and Barcellona worked at different restaurants but both are owned by the same company, she testified. 

The surveillance video captures DiGenova making Barcellona white Russians, which are milk combined with vodka and Kahlua liquors. At times, the bartender pours the double liquors into the glass with ice for approximately six seconds. She also testified that she added additional Kahlua to the drinks to make them sweeter.

"She liked them sweet, like the girls do," DiGenova said.

DiGenova testified Barcellona did not finish her third drink, leaving about half of it in the glass on the bar, and had been drinking water. She also ordered food with co-workers, she testified.

Barcellona can be seen on the video hugging, talking and toasting drinks with others bar patrons, including her co-workers and a couple who regularly go to Capri, according to testimony.

Under cross-examination by Jeffco, DiGenova testified that Barcellona did not appear impaired or intoxicated when she left Capri that night.

DiGenova also testified she lost her job at Capri three weeks after Dobson was killed and Barcellona was arrested.

Called as a defense witness, co-worker Peggy Panagiotakos said she had been with Barcellona at Capri but left before her. She later texted her twice asking where she was. 

At 7:53 p.m., Barcellona texted back "drunk." 

Panagiotakos, however, testified she did not think Barcellona was drunk or impaired that night.  

"I do not feel she was," she testified. 

Barcellona later texted her and said she "hit" someone. She went to the accident scene and hugged Barcellona but still did not feel she was drunk, she testified. 

"She said, 'He came out of nowhere. I did not see him,'" she said. 

John Motta of Seabrook had just started dating Barcellona and met her at Capri about 6:45 p.m.

He ordered a glass of wine and said while Barcellona had a full white Russian in front of her, she did not drink it. Instead, she was drinking water. 

Jeffco asked him if Barcellona was coherent. 

"Very, fine, 100 percent," Motta said.

He added that if he felt she was impaired or drunk, "I would have said something. I have no problem saying something." 

Barcellona struck Dobson as she was driving to Motta's home on Seabrook Beach, he said.

When she was delayed, he texted her and asked where she was. 

"I hit someone," she texted back. 

Several of Dobson's family members were present for the trial.

In a recent interview, Dobson's loved ones said they are horrified by how the case has been handled and the loss they are left with.

Sean Dobson, Andrew's younger brother, said the family was happy with how the trial went Wednesday and awaited the verdict. 

However, the family does want to know why the fatal accident was not reconstructed or further investigated, he said. 

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill. 

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