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Motorist who struck and killed UMass student Hannah Frilot given four years of supervised probation on plea deal

Daily Collegian/Stephanie DiCarlo

Daily Collegian/Stephanie DiCarlo

Northampton – Cynthia May, an Orleans, Massachusetts resident who struck and killed University of Massachusetts student Hannah Frilot with her car two years ago, pled guilty to negligent operation of a motor vehicle today in Hampshire County Superior Court.

Judge Richard J. Carey accepted the plea deal, placing May on supervised probation until December 31, 2020 and revoking her driver’s license until December 31, 2017. May will also have to perform 300 hours of community service for programs promoting motorist and pedestrian safety in the Amherst area.

“The loss is absolutely indescribable,” Carey said about the death of Frilot, a 20-year-old engineering student about to enter her senior year at the time of her death. “There is no disposition in the world that can make up for that.”

The potential maximum sentence for negligent operation of a motor vehicle is two years in a house of corrections.

Steven E. Gagne, the First Assistant of the Northwestern District, described to the judge a reconstructed narrative of Frilot’s death on July 31, 2014. Frilot was walking home with another UMass student, George Felder, inside of a bicycle lane on N. East Street, with her bicycle around 11 p.m.

At the same time May, who was nearing the end of a drive to Sunderland from Cape Cod, veered into the bicycle lane of N. East Street, which Gagne said was marked with a faded line.

“The next thing Mr. Felder recalls is feeling a swoosh and the next thing he knew, Hannah and her bicycle were gone,” Gagne said.

Gagne said that May immediately stopped her car and called the police after feeling the impact of the collision.

Frilot died at the scene of the accident.

Gagne also described a reconstruction of the accident done by the Amherst Police Department. The reconstruction determined Frilot had not been walking outside of the bicycle lane. The bicycle was scuffed as a result of the impact within the bicycle lane and the vehicle lane May was travelling in at the time was wide enough for two of May’s car, a Toyota Rav4, to travel without touching the bicycle lane.

Amherst Police also performed a visibility test with a person wearing similar clothes to Frilot at the time of the accident. Gagne said the test determined that three seconds before the impact, a driver could have seen something indistinguishable travelling in the bicycle lane. Two seconds before the impact, the person became distinguishable.

“It was her inattention to the road and her inability to control her vehicle and whereabouts that led to the incident,” Gagne said.

Frilot’s father, mother and sister each spoke emotionally about the impact Frilot’s death had on them.

Frilot’s sister, Claire Frilot, said that she had lost the ability to share her childhood experiences with the only person who experienced them with her.

“The ultimate theft taken from my friends, family and her is not tangible, it’s love and time,” Claire Frilot said.

Michael Frilot, Frilot’s father, described the impact of the phone call informing him of Hannah’s death, which left him “alone and in tears on a hotel room floor,” and of seeing Frilot’s “broken body” in a funeral home days after her death.

“This was an unnatural event that should never have happened,” Michael Frilot said.

Michelle Frilot, Frilot’s mother, said that she still found it extremely difficult to process and cope with her daughter’s death two years after May struck Frilot with her vehicle.

“When Cynthia May fell asleep at the wheel and killed my daughter, she didn’t just kill Hannah,” Michelle Frilot said. “She killed my dreams, my family.”

May apologized directly to Frilot’s family, which has also opened a civil suit against May, according to the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Harry Miles, the defense attorney representing May, said that the plea deal offered was an appropriate resolution to the case which encouraged societal good through the mandatory community service.

Miles also mentioned the tremendous impact that Frilot’s death had on her family, as well as the effect the accident had on the defendant.

“It also took away part of the life of Ms. May, who has been living with this tragedy since it occurred,” he said.

While accepting May’s plea of guilty, Carey credited Gagne for his role in the construction of the plea.

“Hannah’s last act, this recommendation executed on her behalf by Mr. Gagne, is an act of mercy,” he said.

Stuart Foster can be reached at or followed on Twitter @Stuart_C_Foster




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