The Coast News Group

Conviction reached in boating death of young Carlsbad girl

QUEENSBURY, N.Y. — Alexander West recently was convicted of manslaughter, felony assault, criminally negligent homicide, leaving the scene of an accident and boating while ability-impaired by alcohol in the death of 8-year-old Charlotte McCue of Carlsbad.

The 12-member jury issued the guilty verdict after nearly two full days of deliberation, and following two weeks of witness testimony.

West was acquitted on four other counts, including vehicular manslaughter, boating while impaired by drugs and two counts of vehicular assault.

West crashed his 21-foot powerboat into a 28-foot Gar Wood, being driven by Charlotte’s grandfather, Robert Knarr, on the night of July 25, 2016, after spending the day at Log Bay Day, an annual floating party.

In her summation last week, Cheryl Coleman, West’s attorney, called the police investigation into the crash a “half investigation.” She said police went easy on Knarr, even though he told police he had two glasses of wine with dinner that night and refused to take a Breathalyzer test. Coleman also said West had the right-of-way at the time of the crash.

District Attorney Kate Hogan said the difference in police treatment of West and Knarr was appropriate, considering the circumstances.

Knarr spent the day at his Cramer Point, New York, home fishing with his grandchildren, who were visiting from Carlsbad. He prepared dinner before taking his family out on the lake for a nighttime ride. His wife, Christine Knarr, called it a “putt-putt cruise” in her testimony.

West, on the other hand, spent the day drinking and doing drugs, Hogan told the jury. His friends testified to seeing him smoke dabs — a concentrated form of marijuana — snort cocaine and drink beer.

One witness, Cara Mia Canale, said he also consumed a drink called jungle juice, which contained vodka, champagne and rum. Canale also was the only witness to say West was driving faster than the 25-mph speed limit at the time of the crash, though several others said he was driving at an imprudent speed when his powerboat caught up to Knarr’s 28-foot Gar Wood, an antique wooden boat built in 1928.

Coleman argued that not one witness could attribute any signs of impairment to West around the time of the crash. She also tried to debunk Canale’s testimony, calling her an accomplice to West’s fleeing the scene.

Canale testified to driving West home in the early morning hours of July 26, and Coleman called her a “hollow vessel for drugs,” adding she appeared “high as a kite when she testified.”

Coleman called the crash “an unspeakable tragedy of horrific proportions,” but she continually argued it was an accident.

“All of the evidence in this case is that nobody saw anything,” Coleman said. “Neither boat saw the other boat.”

Hogan argued West would have been able to see the boat, which had three lights on and was driving slowly toward shore, if he had not been impaired by alcohol and drugs.

The crash was no accident, she said.

“This was all a choice — choices made by him,” Hogan said, pointing at West. “And choices have consequences.”