Woman crashes SUV into building (update)

SARANAC LAKE – Police say a drunken woman angry at her ex-boyfriend tried to use a sport-utility vehicle as an assault weapon, crashing it into the front of a downtown apartment building where he was around 2 in the morning Sunday.

Village police said they arrested Julie A. (Phinney) Bova, 34, of Bloomingdale, at 2:20 a.m., taking her first to the hospital and then, when she was quickly treated and released, to the Franklin County Jail in Malone, where she remained this morning.

“Based on the information that we’ve gathered so far, it seems that this was an intentional act,” village police Chief Bruce Nason said this morning.

Nason and witnesses expressed surprise and relief that no one was seriously hurt. The two men in the apartment were away from the door at the time of the crash. As for Bova, Nason said, “If there was anything, it was minor injuries, nothing serious.”

Chris Baker is the tenant whose apartment front was smashed in. He lives on the ground floor of 12 Bloomingdale Ave., a 19th-century building known as the Leis Block, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. On Sunday afternoon, with his apartment patched up with tarps and 2-by-4s, he was sitting in the apartment of first-floor neighbor Barbara Darrah (pronounced “Dar”). Also there was Marlene Hare, Baker’s second cousin and next-door neighbor, whose front door was also damaged by the crash.

Baker said he was woken from a deep sleep around 2 a.m. by a friend knocking on his door. The Enterprise is not identifying the friend because police consider him a domestic violence victim.

“I got up, let him in, ’cause he stays with me once in a while,” Baker said. “And the next thing I know, she’s banging on the door, wanting me to let her in, and I said no.”

“She” was Bova, whom Baker’s friend had gone out with until recently.

“They’ve been broken up for about five days, six days,” Baker said.

After turning Bova away, Baker said he went to his bedroom in the back of the apartment to return to sleep. His friend followed him shortly afterward.

“He came out to tell me she was gone,” Baker said. “The next thing we heard was a crash through the door – her vehicle.”

Bova had driven the large SUV, a 2000 GMC, over a snowbank-covered curb and into the bay door to Baker’s apartment, which was completely destroyed.

It was obvious the woman had been drinking, according to Baker.

“You could smell it right on her,” he said.

The crash woke several neighbors, who came out to see what was going on. Darrah and Hare said they were surprised the vehicle didn’t look badly damaged. None of its glass was broken, they said, not even the windshield.

Police, fire and ambulance personnel came as well. Bova did not go quietly.

“She was fighting with everybody that was trying to help her,” Darrah said. “They had to put the handcuffs on her” to get her on the ambulance gurney.

“Several bystanders and police attempted to assist Bova, and she became very combative,” police said in a press release this morning. “She was restrained and transported to the Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake for medical treatment. Further investigation revealed that Bova was upset at a third party who was in Apartment 3B at the time and she attempted to use her vehicle to cause serious physical injury to that third party.”

After the hospital treated and released Bova, police took her to the town of Brighton court, where she was arraigned before Justice Nik Santagate and charged with first-degree attempted assault, a class C felony; second-degree criminal mischief, a class D felony; driving while intoxicated, with refusal to take an intoxication test; and reckless driving. The judge sent her to jail in lieu of $75,000 cash bail or $150,000 bail bond.

More charges are pending, Nason said, adding that it’s very likely the district attorney will send the case to a grand jury.

Hare said it’s not the kind of event she expects in Saranac Lake.

“You see that in the city,” she said. “You don’t think it’s going to happen at your house.

“There’s too many bars on this corner,” she added.

“Yes, there is,” Baker responded.

Right across Bloomingdale Avenue is Romano’s Saranac Lanes, a bowling alley with a bar. Within eyesight across Broadway are two more bars: Captain Cook’s and the Rusty Nail. Baker said he heard the woman had been at Romano’s.

Romano’s owner Jeff Romano said the woman had left his establishment two to three hours before the incident. When she returned later, looking drunk, he said a bartender refused to serve her more alcohol, giving her a glass of water instead. Romano said he knows this both from his bartender and from checking the security videos. He was there that night but was working in the back office.

“She almost hit my car,” he said.

Charlie Nicastro, who owns the apartment building at 12 Broadway, said he showed up at the scene around 3 a.m. and that his son C.J. was there until 6 a.m. securing the hole in the building’s front against the elements.

Not all the building’s tenants were woken by the crash. Cindy Elleman, who lives on the second floor just above Baker, said she slept right through it. She said she was tired because she had been awake the whole night before; she went to sleep around 6 p.m. Saturday.

“My mother couldn’t believe I slept through it,” she said.

Elleman woke up around 3:30 a.m. to the sound of the building maintenance man’s truck, but she didn’t know what he was there for. Neighbors told her about the incident later that morning when she came downstairs.

“I thought, my God, I don’t know if I want to go back upstairs because that’s what’s holding me up,” she laughingly said of the now-missing walls beneath her apartment’s front window. “It doesn’t feel too comfortable walking about upstairs because I feel like I’m going to fall though.”

As for Baker, even if he could have entered his apartment Sunday afternoon, he said he wasn’t allowed to because it was considered a crime scene. He said he had people he could stay with temporarily, but beyond that he wasn’t sure what he was going to do.

“I don’t have any food right now,” he said.

Nason said this morning that police are done with the site.

“It appears at this time that we’ve gathered all the evidence we need to gather from that location,” he said.