Bail set at $25K for Northampton man accused of vehicular homicide

Staff Writer
Published: 6/9/2021 10:37:47 AM

GREENFIELD — The Northampton man accused of vehicular homicide in connection with Tuesday’s hit-and-run on Route 2 in Shelburne has been ordered held on $25,000 cash bail. Conditions of release include surrendering his driver’s license and not leaving the state without permission.

Peter Toomey, 51, was arraigned in Greenfield District Court on Wednesday afternoon, appearing before Judge Mark Pasquariello on charges resulting from a hit-and-run that killed 45-year-old Rhonda Thompson of Shelburne Falls. Toomey pleaded not guilty on charges of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, negligent motor vehicle homicide and failure to stay in marked lanes.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph Webber told the court Wednesday that Thompson was struck while on her morning walk with a friend at around 6:30 a.m. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

According to Webber, police were advised to be on the lookout for a truck with heavy front passenger side damage traveling eastbound on Route 2. At about 6:50 a.m., a State Police trooper on patrol in Hatfield noticed a gray Toyota Tundra that matched the description. The officer stopped the vehicle in Northampton, where the driver was identified as the defendant, Toomey, who stated he was coming from his girlfriend’s house.

Webber told the court that in interviews with police, Toomey repeatedly stated that the damage to his truck was from his girlfriend hitting a deer the previous day. The girlfriend, who was spoken to separately by police, reportedly denied that had happened, Webber said. After two hours of interviews and upon hearing the charges against him, Toomey allegedly told officers that he would have stopped had the woman been alone, and not with a friend.

In arguing for setting bail at $50,000, Webber cited the defendant’s prior court history, including violations of probation, indicating that not only does Toomey pose a flight risk, he has “shown a history of inability to abide by conditions set by the court.”

Webber also addressed Toomey’s driving history, which includes an incident of leaving the scene of personal injury, and a speeding citation as recently as this month.

Defense attorney Jonah Goldsmith emphasized that Wednesday’s proceedings were not for litigating the case but instead for determining whether Toomey was, indeed, a flight risk before his next court date. Goldsmith asked Pasquariello to set bail at $1,000, with the condition that Toomey not be allowed to drive.

He told the court that despite the case made by the state, Toomey was not a flight risk. Goldsmith said he has a permanent address in Northampton — where he’s lived for the last 10 years — as well as family in the area and a landscaping job that he’s had for the last decade. Additionally, Goldsmith argued a higher bail would be “well beyond his means.”

Goldsmith added that there are defensible issues in the case that will be “pursued vigorously.”

“There are incentives for Mr. Toomey to return,” he said.

Ultimately, Pasquariello set bail at $25,000 cash, with the conditions that if Toomey posts bail, he’ll not only have the various standard conditions, but also be ordered to remain in Massachusetts; to surrender his driver’s license to the court; to not operate a motor vehicle; and to report twice weekly to the probation office by phone.

The case is next scheduled to have a bind over hearing on July 8, at which time the court will review whether there is sufficient evidence for the case to be moved to Franklin County Superior Court.

The incident remains under investigation by the Massachusetts State Police Detective Unit attached to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office, as well as the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner will determine the cause of Thompson’s death.

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.


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