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Family settles suit against AAA, driver

PLYMOUTH -- The family of Melissa Gosule yesterday settled its case against the American Automobile Association and the Bourne tow truck driver they say were partly responsible for her murder for leaving her stranded with her disabled car in the summer of 1999.

The terms of the settlement, which came as Gosule's mother, Sandra Glaser, was about to testify, were not disclosed. The family had originally sought $10 million.

The parties released a two-paragraph statement that AAA lawyer Bobby R. Burchfieldread to reporters on the steps of Plymouth Superior Court late yesterday afternoon, flanked by Gosule's parents and stepfather.

"All parties involved in this lawsuit over the course of the past three years agree that Melissa Gosule's death was a tragic event. But reliving this tragedy in a lengthy and expensive court proceeding is not in anyone's interest," Burchfield said. "The parties have decided to resolve this case and refrain from making public statements."

Though not admitting wrongdoing, AAA and its southern New England chapter said they regretted "the circumstances that led to Melissa's tragic death."

"The American Automobile Association and AAA Southern New England are constantly striving to provide the most prompt and professional emergency road service, and will not forget this tragedy," Burchfield said. "Once again, they convey their deepest sympathy to Melissa's family and friends for their terrible loss."

Judge Paul Troy formally announced the settlement around 2 p.m. yesterday in Plymouth Superior Court, but it was clear hours before the announcement that the wrongful-death trial was over before the first witness had taken the stand.

Gosule and her family called AAA on July 11, 1999, when Gosule's car broke down in a parking lot near the Sagamore Bridge in Bourne. When he arrived, AAA tow truck driver John Cubellis told Gosule that he could not tow her car and drive her to Hyde Park for several more hours.

Gosule, a 27-year-old substitute teacher in Boston, decided to accept a ride from Michael P. Gentile, who has been convicted of stabbing her to death and leaving her body in a Pembroke grave. In opening statements Tuesday, lawyers for AAA and Cubellis sharply criticized the Gosule family's failure to pick up Melissa. Michael Paris, who represents the Gosules, linked Cubellis's decision to leave Gosule to her eventual murder. Yesterday, Heidi Gosule, Melissa's sister, spoke on behalf of the family -- as she had when Gentile was sentenced to life in prison without parole in 2000. "It's been a difficult four years for all of us," she said, standing on the courthouse steps. "But now I hope that my parents will be able to move on from this and put this sad experience behind us."

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