West Hartford Man Sentenced To 3 Years For 2016 Crash That Killed Avon Grandmother

Janet Pulver, an Avon grandmother treasured by her children, sisters and a constellation of friends and family, was remembered Monday in a Hartford courtroom for her kindness toward and concern for others.

Her daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law and sisters described a loving woman who cared about those around her, and committed her life to her children and, more recently, her grandchildren.

Across the courtroom sat Bennett Dunbar, 27, a West Hartford man who on Oct. 20, 2016 crashed his parents’ Volvo station wagon into Pulver’s car. Dunbar was speeding and driving recklessly along Route 4 near UConn Health in Farmington. Police estimated he was going 60 to 85 mph, and a CT Transit bus driver said her bus shook when Dunbar passed it.

At Route 4 and Farm Glen Boulevard, Dunbar’s Volvo crossed the center line and crashed into Pulver’s car and two others. The crash was so violent nearly ever bone in Pulver’s body was broken. She died about 28 hours later at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center.

Farmington police charged Dunbar with manslaughter and reckless endangerment. He agreed in September to plead guilty to a reduced charge of felony misconduct with a motor vehicle and faced a maximum of five years in prison.

“He failed to obey two of the most basic laws of driving — slow down, and stay on your side of the road,” said Oneal Smith, Pulver’s son-in-law. “While his punishment will not bring her back, it needs to be just and harsh to prevent him from doing this again, and tearing another family apart.”

Tracy Smith told the judge that her mother’s purpose in life was caring for others. “She often said her one job in life was raising her children, and then when she had grandchildren, it was raising them, and she would always talk about how she loved that job,” Tracy Smith said.

Oneal Smith said his mother-in-law was so special that he loved spending time with her. He even invited her over for Super Bowl parties.

Defense attorney Hubert J. Santos asked the judge to consider probation and house arrest. Dunbar is a likable young man, Santos said, and has a record of community service.

Dunbar told the judge, and Pulver’s family, that he has little recollection of the crash, but said it’s clear he caused it. “Not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could trade places [with Pulver].” he said. “I am incredibly remorseful and so very, very sorry.”

The judge said she was struck by how fast Dunbar was driving, his rapid shifting of lanes, the fact he was four feet over the center line and the pain Pulver endured in her final hours of life, noting that doctors did not give Pulver pain medication because her blood pressure was so low.

“This was more than an accident,” Dewey said, adding that witness statements indicated Dunbar was extremely reckless.

She then sentenced Dunbar to five years in prison, suspended after he serves three years, and three years of probation.

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