Plea deal reached in 2015 death of Sgt. Peggy Vassallo
ST LOUIS, MO: Sgt’s Vassallo‘s 25 plus year career as a police officer was the epitome of a life of service; she was dearly loved by her family, department and community and the accident that resulted in her death was a horrible tragedy. Exhaustive investigations were conducted by St. Louis County Police Department and the office of the prosecuting attorney and information generated by these reports showed discrepancies from the initial findings recorded under an assistant prosecuting attorney who left the office prior to the current administration. The investigations included a detailed analysis of cellphone usage by the defendant (who willingly gave her phone to officers at the scene of the accident), as well as an accident reconstruction by an expert (who had been a close friend of Sgt. Vassallo since their time together in the academy). Additional evidence included a Metro Bus video recording of the accident plus witness and responding officer statements about the extreme glare of the sun surrounding the time of the accident.
TIMELINE & FACTS SUMMARY:
☐7:50 AM - Victim Sgt. Vassallo was driving her personal vehicle to work and crashed into a vehicle stopped at a red light because the glare from the sun was extreme and Sgt. Vassallo did not see the stopped vehicle.
☐Victim Sgt. Vassallo left her vehicle and approached the right passenger side of the vehicle she hit to check on the driver. She was on her phone reporting the accident to dispatch and noting the sun’s glare as the cause of her accident. A Metro Bus video shows the Victim take 3-4 steps away from the vehicle and into the center of the right hand turn lane as the vehicle driven by defendant Ms. Waites approaches the scene of the original accident.
☐7:57:57 AM - Victim was struck by defendant’s vehicle where she is standing in the center of the right turn lane and the impact knocked her 81.9 feet away from the scene of the accident.
☐According to the Accident Reconstruction Expert, the defendant did not see victim. Defendant was traveling 36 miles per hour; 9 miles under the posted 45 MPH speed limit. There were no skid marks before the point of impact. The report concludes that defendant had changed lanes to avoid the stopped vehicles, never saw the victim and that there was no evidence of negligent or aberrant driving by the defendant.
☐7:58:21 AM - Defendant calls 911 to report the accident (21 seconds after moment of impact).
☐Sun glare was documented by 3 officers at the scene and a photo was taken about 1 hour after the fatal crash which still showed glare.
☐Analysis of defendant’s cellphone usage shows that defendant was not on her phone at the time of the accident and her last phone usage occurred 3 minutes and 43 seconds prior to the accident when she would have been an estimated two miles away from the scene.
☐Defendant Ms. Waites was very upset but cooperative; she voluntarily gave her cell phone to officers for examination, she voluntarily submitted to drug and alcohol tests which were negative. She has no criminal history and repeatedly stated that she never saw the victim because of the glare of the sun.
☐A probable cause stating that the defendant was distracted by her phone at the time of the accident was inaccurate.