Driver sentenced in trooper’s death

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Jeremy VanNostrand

FONDA — The Johnstown man convicted in April of felony criminally negligent homicide in the November 2018 death of a state trooper was sentenced Friday in Montgomery County Court to one to three years in state prison.

Aaron M. Munise, 34, was sentenced by Judge Traci DiMezza as the result of his conviction for the November 2018 death of state Trooper Jeremy VanNostrand, 36, of Rotterdam.

Prosecution of the case was handled by a special prosecutor – the office of Saratoga County District Attorney Karen A. Heggen. Her office handled the case due to a conflict in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s office. Heggen couldn’t be reached for comment this morning.

But in a statement, Heggen said: “It is my hope that the sentence pronounced today offers some solace for the loved ones of Jeremy VanNostrand knowing that his tragic death is a loss that will never go away or be fully healed.”

A Montgomery County Court jury on April 23 convicted Munise of felony criminally negligent homicide.

Troopers said that on Nov. 27, 2018, at approximately 7:45 a.m., VanNostrand was reporting to work at the state police barracks in Fonda when he was involved in a motor vehicle crash on Route 5S in the town of Glen.

VanNostrand was stopped in the westbound lane of Route 5S, waiting to turn into the station in his personal vehicle, when he was rear-ended by a box truck driven by Munise, and pushed into oncoming traffic. His vehicle was then hit by a pickup truck traveling eastbound.

VanNostrand was transported to Albany Medical Center where he succumbed to his injuries. He was posthumously promoted to the rank of sergeant.

Following the jury’s verdict in April, Heggen’s office issued a news release indicating: “The jury’s verdict today holds Mr. Munise responsible for his criminally negligent conduct that resulted in the tragic death of Trooper VanNostrand.”

In July 2020, Munise was arrested in connection with the trooper’s death. State police in Fonda, in consultation with then-Montgomery County District Attorney Kelli P. McCoski, arrested Munise for criminally negligent homicide, a class E felony and reckless driving, a misdemeanor. The charges were the result of a sealed indictment passed up in Montgomery County Court.

A few days after VanNostrand’s death, there was a strong outpouring from regional law enforcement, who came to pay their respects at services. A service was held at Mayfield Junior/Senior High School because VanNostrand grew up in Mayfield, and services were also held at the St. Gabriel the Archangel Roman Catholic Church in Schenectady.

In 2019, a portion of Route 5S in Glen was dedicated to VanNostrand following his tragic death. The dedication comes after the approval of legislation introduced by state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara. The legislation designated the portion of Route 5S where the Troop G Barracks is located and where VanNostrand served, as the “Sergeant Jeremy J. VanNostrand Memorial Highway.”

According to a press release issued at the time, the legislation was introduced at the request of VanNostrand’s fellow officers in the New York state police. Route 5S will serve as an ever-present memorial, honoring his life of sacrifice to the state of New York, the release stated.

By Patricia Older