June 26--BEVERLY -- A Salem mother will spend the next year on probation after admitting Wednesday to drunkenly driving her SUV along commuter rail tracks for a half-mile last October as her young son begged her to stop.
A lawyer for Michelle LeClair, 46, called her actions on the night of Oct. 25 "an aberration" from an otherwise law-abiding life as a mother of five.
But on that night, after dinner and drinks with her boyfriend, Jeremy Labrecque of Beverly, and their children, LeClair got into an argument with him. She stormed out with their then-5-year-old son in tow, got behind the wheel of her 1999 Ford Explorer and headed toward Salem.
Or so she thought.
Near the intersection of Route 62 and McPherson Drive, just yards from the Cummings Center, LeClair made a turn, driving onto the Newburyport-Rockport commuter rail line tracks, according to a police report.
Her son pleaded with her to get off of the tracks because a train might be coming, he later told officers.
But LeClair, who apparently thought she was on Bridge Street in Salem, kept going, as Beverly police scrambled to catch up at each train crossing.
Eventually, she crashed, prosecutor Patrick Collins said. Even as police arrived, however, she kept trying to drive the damaged SUV, Collins told a Salem District Court judge.
Neither she nor the boy, who was shaking when police found him, suffered any injuries. But police discovered that she had a blood alcohol level of .18, more than twice the legal limit, and had taken prescription drugs that night, as well, according to a police report.
LeClair was charged with drunken driving, driving to endanger and child endangerment.
Collins asked Judge Michael Lauranzano to impose guilty findings on all three counts.
"Her decision-making that night was extremely unfortunate," Collins told the judge.
LeClair's attorney, John Morris, submitted letters of support from family and friends and noted that she has no record.
"She has five children who mean the world to her," said Morris, who urged the judge to continue the charges without a finding and then dismiss them after a year.
Lauranzano agreed to do so on the child endangerment and reckless driving charges, but he imposed a guilty finding on the drunken-driving charge.
During her probation, LeClair will have to take part in an alcohol safety program, will lose her license for 45 days and will be subject to random tests for alcohol.
Lauranzano, who said he recalled reading about the case last fall, said that while looking at the letters of support filed by Morris, "it brings to mind that people who lead exemplary lives can make huge mistakes, and you shake your head about it."
Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.
Copyright 2014 - The Salem News, Beverly, Mass.