William Senne pleads guilty to vehicular homicide in crash that disabled, ultimately killed trooper

BROCKTON, MA , 01/ 29 / 14:William Senne standing between his two attorney's Dan O'Malley and Jon Ciraulo listen to the Judge Charles Hely. Plymouth County District Attorney Tim Cruz says bringing new charges of vehicular homicide against William Senne is about holding someone accountable for their actions. State Police trooper Ellen Engelhardt lost her life as a result of this individualÕs actions of driving roughly 100mph, weaving in and out of traffic, back then, he had between a .08 and .12 blood alcohol [level],Ó said Cruz while standing inside Brockton Superior Court Wednesday. William Senne appeared in Brockton Superior Court, as a young man who hit state trooper years ago (she later died), was in Brockton court has worked out some sort of deal with DA/judge. It's a complicated deal under which he would agree to vacate his guilty plea in 2005 but DA Tim Cruz still charged him with her death. BUT judge Charles Hely agreedto give him time served and some probation and more community service working with brain trauma victims ( David L Ryan/Globe Staff Photo ) SECTION: METRO TOPIC Senneplea(1)
William Senne was flanked by his attorneys during today’s hearing.
David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

BROCKTON — William Senne pleaded guilty today to vehicular homicide in the 2011 death of State Trooper Ellen Engelhardt, who was critically injured by Senne in a 2003 accident and died eight years later without ever having regained consciousness.

The plea brings an end to the high-profile case whose victim was the first female trooper killed in the line of duty.

Judge Charles J. Hely, sitting in Plymouth County Superior Court, sentenced Senne to 2½ years in jail, but gave him credit for time already served. In 2005, Senne began serving 2½ years at the Plymouth County House of Correction after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment and causing bodily injury while driving drunk.

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Senne, 29, was also sentenced to serve three years of probation and 500 hours of community service. He had already completed five years of probation and another 500 hours under his 2005 sentence.

The plea ended more than a decade of legal issues for Senne, who was a teenager when the accident occurred, inflicting severe brain damage on Engelhardt. Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz brought the vehicular homicide charge against Senne upon the trooper’s death, igniting a controversy over whether it constituted double jeopardy since Senne had already pleaded guilty and served time for the crash. If found guilty at trial, Senne could have faced a 10- to 15-year sentence.

“I’m glad this chapter is over,” Senne said after the court hearing. “I’m glad I don’t have the continuing risk of prosecution.” He said he pleaded guilty because “it’s the right thing to do, and it puts this behind me.”

Both prosecution and defense made it clear that Engelhardt’s daughter was not seeking further punishment for Senne. Only the trooper’s cousin, Sheila Faiella, was in court today. “I thought a little more [jail] time would have been good for him,” said Faiella, who lives in Marshfield.

Engelhardt was one of the first women to serve on the State Police. At 6 a.m. on July 26, 2003, she had pulled off Route 25 in Wareham to examine a guardrail as part of an investigation into an earlier accident.

Senne was driving to his summer job teaching sailing lessons on Cape Cod when he smashed into Engelhardt’s cruiser at nearly 100 miles per hour. Senne says he has no recollection of the crash, and had been awake nearly 24 hours before falling asleep at the wheel of his father’s Volvo.

Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton, who has handled the case since the crash, said in court today that Senne had a .05 percent blood-alcohol level four hours after the accident. Under Massachusetts law, the limit for those under 21 is less than .02 percent.