A state-licensed Vermont inspection mechanic pleaded not guilty Tuesday to negligently giving a passing mark to a dangerous car that later crashed, killing its 83-year-old passenger.
The man, Steven Jalbert, 30, of Barre City, was arrested Tuesday and charged in Washington County Criminal Court with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment in the July 5, 2014, death of Elizabeth Ibey.
Ibey was in the passenger seat of the 1992 Chevrolet Corsica when the driver — her husband, Donald, 86 — applied the brakes to stop for a turning vehicle. There was a "pop," and the brakes didn't function, Donald Ibey told investigators. The car jumped a curb, plunged down an embankment, crossed a street and rammed into some tree stumps, police said.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles said Tuesday that an annual safety inspection two months earlier should have spotted the defective brakes, along with dangerously rusted-out sections of the car's body.
"Inspecting braking components and a vehicle's uni-body are a mandatory part of annual safety inspections in Vermont," the DMV said. "Brake, frame and uni-body inspection procedures are outlined in the Vermont Periodic Inspection Manual, which all licensed inspection mechanics are required to adhere to."
If convicted, Jalbert could face up to 15 years in jail. He was released pending trial, on the condition that he have no contact with Ibey's family.