Coral Bay Mom Recovering Slowly; Injuries Will Require Rehabilitation

Karen Barrett, the Coral Bay businessowner who was pinned to a stone wall by a Jeep on March 6 in front of Aqua Bistro —with her six-week-old baby in her arms—is in the Sea View rehabilitation center and, hopefully, will be able return to her family’s Connecticut home in two weeks, according to friends.

Both of Barrett’s legs were crushed in the accident, which occurred in front of a handicapped parking space, but her baby was unharmed. Barrett spent two weeks in Schneider Regional Medical Center before being transferred to Sea View, also on St. Thomas.

Both Legs Crushed
“She can’t walk or move herself,” said Karen’s brother Joe Barrett. “We’re trying to figure out basically how to get her and the baby taken care of right now.”

Family and friends still question why the driver of the Jeep, James Julien, was not arrested after the accident occurred.

“He was given a couple of tickets and just drove away,” Joe Barrett said. “This guy ruined at least a year of her life and just drove away. It doesn’t make sense.”

Julien was issued three citations—for negligent driving, parking in a handicapped space and operating defective equipment, according to V.I. Police Department (VIPD) spokesperson Sgt. Thomas Hannah.

“The seats in his vehicle were being held up by two-by-fours,” Sgt. Hannah said. “That is improper. Seats need to be welded to the body of a vehicle so that they don’t move.”

Driver Was Drinking
Julien, who is being treated for cancer, admitted to drinking four vodka cocktails before the accident as well as taking chemo-therapy medication, Sgt. Hannah explained.

“In the statement that he gave police, the driver said that he had had drinks earlier in the day,” said Sgt. Hannah. “He did not specify what time of the day he had the drinks.”

The responding VIPD officers did not suspect Julien of driving under the influence and did not administer field sobriety tests, according to Sgt. Hannah.

“The driver was not given field sobriety tests because there was not probable cause,” he said. “We must have a reasonable suspicion that the individual is intoxicated in order to give that person sobriety tests.”

Slurred speech, impaired motor skills or irregular driving are signs that VIPD officers look for before administering field sobriety tests, according to Sgt. Hannah.

No Breathalyzer on Island?
Sgt. Hannah cold not determine whether there is a breathalyzer machine on St. John.

“I don’t have the answer to that yet,” Sgt. Hannah said when asked about the existence of an alcohol detection device.

Although newer models can run to $1,000, other legal breathalyzers range from $200 to $300.

Julien, who is undergoing treatment for cancer, had also taken chemotherapy medication, Hannah added.

“The problem here is that the man is being treated for cancer and he has chemotherapy drugs,” he said. “If we did take him to get tested for alcohol, it would have shown the chemotherapy drugs as well.”

VIPD officers must have probable cause to make an arrest, according to Sgt. Hannah.

“If the responding officer did not have enough probable cause to believe that the driver was under the influence, he won’t make an arrest,” Sgt. Hannah said. “People need to understand that officers must articulate what they do.”

“We have to answer in court why we did what did and what caused us to make an arrest,” he continued. “If we can’t do that, we can’t make an arrest.”

Slipper to Blame
VIPD officials contend Julien was not drunk or speeding at the time of the crash—despite visible skid marks at the scene and a witness account that he smelled of alcohol. Instead, police are blaming the accident on Julien’s “slippers,” according to Sgt. Hannah.

“The driver of the Jeep was operating the vehicle while wearing slippers,” he said. “One of the slippers came off his foot and got lodged between the gas pedal. In the process of trying to retrieve his slipper, he lost control of the vehicle.”

“There is no indication of drunk driving at this time, it seems to be a matter of the slipper,” said Hannah. “The investigation is still continuing.”

Even after Karen Barrett is released from the Sea View clinic, she will have to undergo extensive rehabilitation before she will regain use of her legs. As her medical bills begin to pile up, friends are concerned that she doesn’t qualify for assistance from a federal crime victim’s fund because Julien was not arrested.

“It doesn’t seem fair,” said one Coral Bay resident. “She should be able to get some compensation for this.”

Karen Barrett’s friends and neighbors in Coral Bay came out in force on Saturday afternoon, March 11, for a fundraiser at Aqua Bistro, which raised more than $15,000 (see related story).

The Barrett family could have had a lien placed on Julien’s car but that window of opportunity is now closed.

“The family members had 10 days after the date of the accident to file a lien against the vehicle,” said Hannah. “I know people are saying that the vehicle wasn’t worth much, but that was one possibility.”

The Barretts have secured the service of a lawyer who is looking into recovering expenses for Karen’s medical bills, Joe Barrett said.

People are forgetting that Julien was cited for causing an accident, according to Hannah.

“Everyone is forgetting something, and that is that the driver was charged for causing an accident,” he said. “He was given citations. There was not enough probable cause to arrest the man.”