2 Whittier Regional staff members placed on leave after DWI arrests

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Mike LaBella and Allison Corneau, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.
·4 min read
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Feb. 17—HAVERHILL — Two Whittier Regional Technical High School staff members have been placed on paid leave while the school conducts an investigation following their arrests on charges of drunken driving.

"The district is aware that criminal complaints were issued on Saturday, Feb. 13, against two Whittier Tech faculty members following their arrests by the Haverhill Police Department during an alleged impaired driving incident," Whittier Superintendent Maureen Lynch said Tuesday.

Police said they arrested Ryan Richards, 33, of 156 Lake St., Haverhill, and Ariel Dupont, 29, of 128 Newton Road, Plaistow, and charged each of them with one count of operating under the influence of liquor.

Richards was arrested Saturday at 12:29 a.m. at 50 Newton Road, police said. His girlfriend Dupont was arrested at the same location at 12:39 a.m., according to a police report. Both listed Whittier Regional High as their employer. Richards told police he is a teacher at the school, while Dupont said she works as an adjustment counselor.

Lynch said Whittier began its own investigation after being notified of the arrests, and that the two staff members have been placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the investigation. Whittier, like other schools in Massachusetts, is on school vacation this week.

"The district is following its established policies and procedures in regard to this matter," Lynch said in a prepared statement. "Because this is a personnel matter, no further information is able to be released at this time."

According to a police report on file in Haverhill District Court, on Friday of last week at 11:14 p.m., police were patrolling the area of Newton Road and saw a white Kia Optima that appeared to be stuck in the snow. The car was partially blocking the travel lane, police said.

When police approached the driver, later identified as Richards, he said he just left a restaurant in Haverhill and that his girlfriend, Dupont, was driving in another car behind him.

According to the report, Richards said that when he pulled onto Newton Road from Kenoza Avenue, he lost sight of Dupont's car and pulled over to wait for her. He had pulled over into the snow and then realized he was stuck, the report said.

During an officer's conversation with Richards, he was found to have a strong odor of alcohol and had bloodshot, glassy eyes, according to the report. Asked how much he had to drink, Richards told police he had between three and four margaritas since the time he and Dupont arrived at the restaurant at 3 p.m.

Richards told police that once he realized his car was stuck in the snow, he asked Dupont to go home and get a shovel so he could dig himself out, the report said.

As police spoke with Richards, Dupont drove up to the Newton Road location, according to the police report. Dupont also smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes, the report said. Through slurred speech, she was able to corroborate her boyfriend's story that they had been at the restaurant that night, the report said.

She told police she drank three margaritas, according to the report.

Richards consented to field sobriety tests, telling officers he was "fine to drive," according to the report. Several times he was unable to maintain his balance, the report said, and needed to have directions for the tests repeated. He was placed under arrest after completing the tests, according to the report.

Dupont refused to perform field sobriety tests and was handcuffed after unsteadily getting out of her car, the police report said.

Once Richards arrived at the police station, he refused to consent to a breathalyzer test, which resulted in an automatic license suspension, according to the police report. Dupont did submit to the test, and her blood alcohol level registered 0.15, police said. The legal blood alcohol limit in Massachusetts is 0.08. She was also issued a notice of license suspension, police said.

Both Richards and Dupont were arraigned on the charges Tuesday in Haverhill District Court, where Judge Cesar Archilla released them on personal recognizance and scheduled pretrial hearings for April 6.