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Man charged with negligent homicide in Suffield crash that killed correction officer
By:Max Heuer and Luke Foster, Journal Inquirer

SUFFIELD - A Hartford man has been charged with negligent homicide in connection with an accident on Mountain Road early Thursday morning that killed a motorcyclist who was a correction officer from Canton, police said.

The man, Luis Perez-Lopez, 23, was arraigned Thursday afternoon in Enfield Superior Court, where Bail Commissioner Paul Maselek said Perez-Lopez was an illegal immigrant from Guatemala who had been working in Suffield.

According to Maselek, Citizenship and Immigration Services had ordered Perez-Lopez held as of Thursday, making the $50,000 cash or surety bond set by Judge Howard Scheinblum essentially meaningless.

The crash killed Gary Thorenson, 47, a correction officer, police said. Information on which state facility he worked at was unavailable today.

Thorenson had been traveling west on Mountain Road on a motorcycle while Perez-Lopez was driving east in a Toyota Camry approaching the intersection of Hill Street shortly before 7 a.m.

Perez-Lopez made a left turn onto Hill Street in front of Thorenson, who tried to avoid the collision by laying down his motorcycle but fell off it, police said. Thorenson and his motorcycle were then struck by Perez-Lopez's car, police said.

A police officer and several bystanders lifted the car off the trapped Thorenson, the report states. He was taken by Life Star to Hartford Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Perez-Lopez later told police through a translator that the sun was in his eyes when the accident occurred, police said. Given Perez-Lopez's direction of travel and the time of day, it is possible the sun was in his eyes, police said.

Soon after the accident, police said they learned that Perez-Lopez is an illegal alien from Guatemala. Through a translator, Perez-Lopez gave police a statement about the incident.

An accident reconstruction team quickly found there was probable cause that Perez-Lopez was at fault in the crash, police said.

Perez-Lopez was arrested at the scene because police felt that if he were allowed to leave, there was a high risk they wouldn't be able to locate him again since he isn't a legal resident of the United States, police said.

Public Defender Douglas Ovian said Perez-Lopez had worked full-time since coming to the United States from Guatemala three years ago.

Maselek, the bail commissioner, said Perez-Lopez had previously lived in North Carolina.

In addition to negligent homicide with a motor vehicle, Perez-Lopez also faces charges of operating an unregistered motor vehicle, failure to maintain minimum liability insurance, failure to grant right of way when making a left turn, operating a motor vehicle without a license, and having a device obstructing the windshield.

The last charge was filed because there was an air freshener and other objects hanging from the vehicle's rear view mirror, police said.
Perez-Lopez is scheduled to appear again in Superior Court on May 2.

The road was closed around the accident from 7 to 10:30 a.m., police said. Traffic was rerouted down Canborne Way and Remington Street during that time.

Any witnesses to the accident are asked to call Sgt. Shawn Nelson, 668-3870.

Staff writer Jennifer Hoyt contributed to this story.