Teen charged in connection with fatal DWI crash

Chelsea Kuss / photo: MCSO

A teenage driver involved in a head-on drunk driving crash that killed a fellow teen and critically injured another woman now faces criminal charges.

17-year-old Chelsea Lynn Kuss arrived at the State Police station on Lakeport Road around 10:00 Thursday morning where she was booked and processed. She hung her head low as Troopers then led her into the Sullivan Town Court for arraignment, where family members tried to block TV cameras at the proceedings.

Kuss entered a not guilty plea to one count each of aggravated vehicular homicide, aggravated vehicular assault, driving while intoxicated, and reckless driving. Sullivan Town Justice John Button set bail at $10,000 cash or $15,000 bond. Kuss was then taken to the Madison County jail.

If convicted, the most serious charge of aggravated vehicular homicide carries as possible prison term of 8.3 - 25 years.

Troopers say Kuss was behind the wheel of an SUV on May 24 that was traveling west on State Route 31 at speeds of up to 90 miles per hour. The crash took place just east of Bridgeport, where the red 2002 Chevrloet Trailblazer she was driving attempted to pass several vehicles.

Police and witnesses say Kuss lost control of the SUV and crossed the center median, where she collided head-on with a minivan driven by 38-year-old Peggy Blume. Blume is recovering from critical injuries she sustained in the crash.

A passenger in the SUV, 17-year-old Victoria Deverso, was killed in the crash . Deverso was Kuss's friend. Investigators had initially said it was not clear which girl was driving the car because the impact of the crash was so violent.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, authorities offered more details about the investigation. The Troop D Collision Reconstruction Unit determined that Kuss was operating the Trailblazer at approximately 84 miles per hour when the crash took place. Blood test results also revealed Kuss had a blood alcohol content level of .13%. .08% is the legal limit in New York State, and Kuss is not yet 21 years old.

State Police Investigator Donna Wassall also revealed that a number of young people did not cooperate with the investigation. I believe it TMs a cultural thing at this point, where nobody wants to rat on their friends," said Wassall. "It TMs something that TMs prevalent. It was frustrating.

Madison County District Attorney William Gabor says the case will now go before a Grand Jury.

After the arraignment, Kuss TMs attorney, Bob Durr, said Kuss feels great remorse for the accident that killed her friend.

Deverso TMs father, Chris Deverso, told CNY Central "they're all remorseful when it's time to show up in court. He added that the court proceedings were the most difficult thing he TMs experienced since his daughter TMs funeral.