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Driver gets prison term in fatal crash

Victims’ family members remind defendant of grief

September 18, 2012
By MICHAEL ANICH , The Leader Herald

JOHNSTOWN - The date of Dec. 4, 2011, changed the lives of Kristine Pinkerton and her family forever.

Pinkerton told 20-year-old Justin M. VanNostrand and a courtroom about that life-changing day as she read a statement before VanNostrand's sentencing Monday.

VanNostrand was the adriver of the speeding vehicle that crashed that day in the town of Johnstown, claiming the life of Pinkerton's 19-year-old son Christopher Insogna, who was the front-seat passenger in the car, and severely injuring her daughter, Kelsey R. Insogna, 17, who was riding in the back seat.

Article Photos

Justin VanNostrand, center, is counseled by
attorneys Ron Schur, left, and Amanda Rose in Fulton County Court on Monday in Johnstown.
The Leader-Herald/ Bill Trojan

Pinkerton said Dec. 4 was a 14th birthday celebration for Christopher's younger brother, Zach, before she learned about the crash earlier that day.

"He now shares his birthday with his brother's death date," Pinkerton told Insogna. "There is no way to change that for him. It is so hard to know the same date I gave birth to one of my children, I lost another one of my children.

"That is the worst part of this whole thing; there is no way to change any of it for any of us," Pinkerton said. "What it all comes down to is this was no accident. This was a choice that you made to drive your car the way you did. Something that could have been prevented, that should have never happened. No matter what happens now, our lives will never be what they were."

Fulton County Court Judge Polly A. Hoye sentenced VanNostrand, of Gloversville, to 2 1/3 to seven years in state prison Monday in County Court.

The defendant read from a prepared statement expressing remorse.

"I stand here to accept responsibility," VanNostrand said. "I wish there was a rewind on life. I would do anything to change that night."

VanNostrand told the families he was "sorry" for his actions and for the accident he doesn't remember.

"I just want everyone to know I hurt, too," VanNostrand said.

The proceeding, attended by family members of the victims and VanNostrand, was emotional.

The police presence was heavy, although no disturbances occurred inside the courtroom.

"I appreciate everyone's proper decorum," the judge said.

"Your actions involved choices that had tragic, permanent results," the judge told VanNostrand.

The sentence was based on VanNostrand's June 13 guilty plea to second-degree manslaughter and third-degree reckless endangerment, both felonies.

"It's so incredibly preventable, which makes these cases so difficult," Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira said after the proceeding.

Authorities said VanNostrand was driving about 100 mph in a 2000 Ford Mustang car in the 7:45 p.m. crash at the intersection of Route 29 and Steele Avenue Extension in the town of Johnstown.

Fulton County Sheriff Thomas Lorey said VanNostrand failed to stop at the stop sign at Route 29, crossed the highway and slammed into the embankment in front of 2151 Route 29. The car smashed into a parked truck, flipped over and came to rest on its front bumper between the truck and the house, he said.

Christopher Insogna was trapped in the car and pronounced dead by Fulton County Coroner Margaret Luck. Kelsey Insogna, who was thrown from the vehicle, and VanNostrand were airlifted to Albany Medical Center Hospital.

In addition to the manslaughter and reckless endangerment charges, a grand jury indictment unsealed March 8 also charged VanNostrand with assault and reckless driving. The indictment said VanNostrand "caused the death of" Insogna by driving "in a reckless manner."

The indictment also said VanNostrand "did recklessly cause serious physical injury" to Kelsey Insogna by operating the Mustang as a "deadly weapon or dangerous instrument."

In addition to serving 2 1/3 to seven years in prison, VanNostrand must make $2,974 in restitution to the victims' family. The money most likely will be deducted from his inmate funds. A $50 DNA sampling fee also was imposed.

Stacey Shepard read a statement from the victims' grandfather, Michael Elmendorf.

"I will not deny that the images of the carnage on Steele Avenue haunt me every night," he wrote. "I cannot close my eyes without seeing the paramedics preparing my princess Kelsey's broken and twisted body for the flight to Albany Med, as her precious life hung in the balance. I cannot remove the image of Christopher's lifeless body on that cold morgue table ..."

County Assistant District Attorney Chad Brown and defense attorney Ronald Schur had no comments at sentencing.

Other victim impact statements included one written by Kelsey and Zach Insogna. It was read by their mother, mostly in Kelsey's words.

"For months, I [lay] in a hospital bed in Albany Medical Center and then to Georgia for rehabilitation with my family by my bedside not knowing whether I was going to live or die while you were walking around driving, laughing and hanging out with friends while my brother C.J.'s life had come to an end," Kelsey wrote.

She suggested that when VanNostrand gets out of prison, he should talk to schoolchildren about "reckless driving and racing."

Kelsey Insogna now uses a wheelchair.

Brown read a statement from the Insogna siblings' aunt, Claudia Insogna, that spoke of her niece and nephew's continued pain.

"You know it's not just that [Kelsey's] in a wheelchair," she wrote. "She is paralyzed from the waist down and has severe nerve pain in her leg that doubles her over and makes her scream out even in her sleep. ... Zach will probably never be able to celebrate another birthday because as you know, Dec. 4 was his 14th birthday."

Michael Anich can be reached at johnstown@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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