It was a Friday night, and Barbara A. Trojan had been drinking beer for five hours at the American Legion bar in East Greenwich, R.I., before she climbed into her 2007 Volkswagen and headed into the darkness shortly before midnight, a police detective told a District Court judge Thursday.
While Trojan was being captured on video imbibing at the Legion on Friday, Sept. 6, Patricia A. Daniels, Donna Daniels and Bruce D. Bartels were with Heather A. Lee at a family wedding at the Valley Country Club in Warwick.
In one of several cruel twists of fate that night, Lee told the police that she had served Trojan drinks at the Legion bar when Lee worked there for almost three years. Trojan would sit at the bar on Friday nights while her husband, John J. Bruskie, played in a poker tournament.
In 1984, Bruskie was drunk behind the wheel in a crash that killed an 18-year-old single mother. Three and a half decades later, his wife is the defendant in another drunken-driving death.
At the Friday-night wedding in September, Patricia Daniels, Bartels and Lee had been drinking, so they designated Donna Daniels to drive them home in Lee’s 2004 SUV.
They left around midnight, about the same time as Trojan.
As Daniels and her friends headed east on East Greenwich’s Frenchtown Road, Trojan headed west. Their paths crossed near Davisville Road.
Trojan’s car veered left, crossing into the oncoming lanes, crashing into the front end of Lee’s SUV, Detective Lt. Jeremy Fague told Judge Elaine T. Bucci. The impact caused the SUV to flip and roll onto its side. Trojan’s Volkswagen came to rest against a guardrail.
Lee and Donna Daniels, who were in the front seat, were helped from the vehicle. Bartels and Patricia Daniels, in the back seat, had to be extricated by the fire department.
As an officer tended to Trojan, still behind the wheel of her car, “her speech was mush-mouthed,” Fague told the judge.
Bartels, 58, of North Kingstown, and Donna Daniels, 49, of East Greenwich, were taken to Rhode Island Hospital. Trojan, 60, of 267 School St., North Kingstown, Patricia Daniels, 46, of North Kingstown, and Lee, 38, of East Greenwich, were taken to Kent Hospital. Patricia Daniels was later transferred to Rhode Island Hospital, where she died.
While at Kent Hospital, Lee related to officers what she called “a strange thing” that had happened there, Fague said.
Lee had spotted Bruskie coming toward her in a hospital hallway.
“Hi, John, what are you doing here?” she asked.
He told her his wife had just been in a bad accident on Frenchtown Road.
“Oh, yeah, well she just hit my car and flipped us over,” she told him.
Bruskie told her that Trojan had been unconscious since getting to the hospital.
“Someone died,” he said, before walking away.
When officers had arrived at Kent, hospital staff told them that Trojan was unconscious and that Bruskie was making decisions for her treatment. The staff also told officer that Bruskie had barred the police from talking to his wife.
Bruskie was no rookie when it came dealing with the police. In 1984, in a crash while he drove drunk, he killed an 18-year-old single mother and served three years in prison.
On Oct. 26, 1984, Kim A. Quigley and her roommate needed a ride home from a long-since-closed Exeter watering hole, the King of Clubs Bar. Bruskie was there with his younger brother, Leo Jr., who knew Quigley from high school. After dropping the roommate off, the Bruskies and Quigley, with John at the wheel, headed for a late-night breakfast at a truck stop near the Connecticut line.
They never got there. At about 2:30 a.m., Bruskie’s Karmann Ghia swerved off Route 138 in Richmond, became airborne, and slammed into a tree. Quigley and Leo Bruskie had to be extricated from the wreckage. Quigley died two days later at Rhode Island Hospital.
While Trojan was at Kent Hospital four weeks ago, on Sept. 6, the medical team drew blood as part of treating her injuries.
On Sept. 11, with a warrant, the police seized five vials of Trojan’s blood, according to court paperwork. On Sept. 30, test results showed that Trojan’s blood alcohol content was 0.225%, nearly three times the 0.08% legal limit for driving.
The next day, the police requested an arrest warrant for Trojan, who turned herself in at the East Greenwich police station Thursday morning.
She was arraigned later in District Court, Warwick, on one count of driving under the influence resulting in the death of Patricia Daniels, one count of driving under the influence resulting in serious injury to Bartels and one count of driving to endanger resulting in physical injury to Donna Daniels.
A not-guilty plea was entered on her behalf, as is customary with felony charges at a District Court arraignment. Judge Bucci set bail at $25,000 with surety, meaning Trojan must post 10% in cash or the full amount in property. Bucci also ordered Trojan not to drive if she makes bail. The case was continued until Dec. 16 for felony screening.
Friends and family of Patricia Daniels were in court on Thursday morning and declined to speak to reporters.
The police are still reviewing security video from the Legion to determine how much Trojan drank, according to Fague. He also said the police have not yet determined whether action should be taken against the Legion’s liquor license, though he said it is unlikely the Legion would face criminal charges.