PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The driver who caused a violent crash in Pawtucket that killed three women faced a judge.
James Belanger, 21, entered no plea Monday morning.
Investigators say he lost control of the car around midnight Thursday, slamming it into a pole on Walcott Avenue. Belanger and his front passenger were the only ones who survived.
Everyone in the backseat — Fatima Rosa, 22, Emilly Howell, 20, and Theresa Leary, 24 — was thrown from the car.
Belanger told police he had been drinking earlier that night and smoked two marijuana cigarettes. Police say he also had more than one gram of cocaine in his pocket.
The prosecution requested bail be set at $125,000 with surety. Belanger's lawyer requested $10,000 with surety, arguing that Belanger was not a flight risk and had no prior offenses. The judge ultimately set bail at $25,000 with surety.
Courtney Howell, Emily's sister, was in disbelief that Belanger's bail was not set higher. "My heart just sank," she said. "It was like a slap in the face."
Now, the victims' family and friends want justice.
“Obviously they can’t speak for themselves and they can’t be here for themselves so we have to do it," said Elizabeth Bennett, a friend of Howell and Leary. "Make sure he pays for what he did. He’s going to pay."
Courtney Howell spoke through tears: "My sister, she was one of my best friends. She had a three year-old son that gets to grow up without his mother."
Belanger posted bail and must surrender his license. He is not allowed to drive without permission from the court. He is due back in court July 12 for a pre-arraignment hearing.
Family and friends have set up a GoFundMe account for Howell and Leary. We're told loved ones are working to create a donation site for Rosa as well.