Gregory Frechette, 35, of Darlington, was recently found guilty on one charge of first degree recklessly endangering safety and one charge of strangulation and suffocation by Judge Thomas Vale in Lafayette County Circuit Court on Wednesday, March 18.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2014 when Frechette held a pillow over his girlfriend’s face to muffle her screams while strangling her with both hands, rendering her unconscious. The incident occurred after the couple got into an argument while camping in Woodford Park.
Frechette pleaded guilty to both counts as part of a plea agreement orchestrated between his attorney John Smerlinksi, and Lafayette County District Attorney Kate Findley. The agreement included the amending of the original charge of first-degree attempted homicide to recklessly endangering safety.
The state recommended a sentence of seven years of probation for each count to be served concurrently, as well as nine months to be served in the county jail with work release option.
Some conditions of Frechette’s probation included not consuming alcohol or controlled substances, not entering establishments with the main purpose of serving alcohol as well as having no contact of any kind with the victim in the situation.
The victim, Michelle Leahy, was present in the courtroom during Frechette’s appearance and submitted a victim impact statement to the court and also presented her statement to the court in person, saying that she was unhappy with how the situation had progressed through the legal system.
“This was the most traumatic experience in my entire life and I got nothing for answers throughout this whole process,” said Leahy, who stated that she had hoped to have contact with Frechette and thought that they would have been able to work things out with the assistance of counseling. “I don’t see that it’s a legal issue,” she said. “I really believe he didn’t know what he was doing and I’m very disappointed with how things turned out.”
After the victim’s statement Findley reiterated that the state’s recommendation for Frechette to have absolutely no contact with the victim, except with the approval of his probation officer would remain and that it was based on several factors, including the fact that both the victim and the defendant were drinking when the incident occurred and that Frechette’s being intoxicated does not excuse his actions or his admittance to law enforcement of his being angry enough to kill her.
“Mr. Frechette is someone who should not be drinking, ever,” said Findley, who went on to explain that one of the reasons the count of attempted homicide was amended was due to the fact that Frechette was the one who called 911 and had had no prior felony convictions and very little criminal activity in the past, but Findley also pointed out that in the past police had been called to the home shared by the victim and Frechette about incidents also fueled by alcohol consumption.
“Mr. Frechette is extremely lucky this was not a homicide,” concluded Findley.
After hearing the victim’s statement, Frechette’s attorney requested that the court reconsider the recommendation of no contact with the victim as he was unaware that the victim wished to have contact with his client and that he wished to accommodate the victim’s wishes.
Frechette also chose to make a statement to the court.
“I realize that my drinking was a problem and I’m done drinking,” he said. “I didn’t have a reason to drink in the first place.”
Judge Vale accepted the plea agreement and recommended sentence.
“I want to see stability in the defendant and a successful track record before there is ever the possibility of contact,” said Judge Vale. “A lot of people get drunk, but not a lot of people get violently drunk and our primary concern is for the safety of the public and the victim.”
Judge Vale upheld the no contact requirement, unless contact was specially authorized by the defendant’s probation agent and also requested by the victim.
Frechette requested that he be able to serve his jail time in Iowa County, due to the fact that he has a job set up in that area. Judge Vale approved the request, on the condition that the Iowa County Jail is willing to take the transfer.