Charges may escalate after driver in crash dies  

NAUGATUCK — Criminal charges against a local nurse are expected to increase in severity due to the death of the driver she hit head-on while police say was under the influence of drugs.

Jessica Johnson, 31, is being held on a six-figure bond in connection to the serious crash on Spring Street in February that left Anthony Pucillo Jr., 60, a quadriplegic. Though severely injured and on a breathing tube, Pucillo survived until Aug. 21.

Johnson was charged with second-degree assault and driving while under the influence in July in connection to the case, but due to Pucillo’s death, that assault charge may be upgraded.

The investigation into the crash concluded that Johnson’s Ford Taurus had crossed into Pucillo’s lane, slamming into his Nissan Sentra at about 10:30 a.m. on Feb. 15.

At the time of the crash, Pucillo was transporting 61-year-old Smith Payne, of Naugatuck, to a medical appointment. Payne, who was also seriously injured, told police Pucillo was driving safely and appeared to be under the speed limit when he heard him say “oh god, oh god,” before turning the wheel toward the curb before the crash.

Johnson was hospitalized after the crash for a cut to her knee and treatment of pain. Officers trained as drug recognition experts couldn’t test her sobriety at that time because she was given fentanyl and Adivan as part of her treatment.

Johnson told police she was driving to work at a hospice facility in Torrington and may have looked away from the road at her radio.

But police found six bottles of methadone in Johnson’s purse, one of which was empty. She would later tell police that the last time she took methadone was the day before the crash, according to police.

She initially told police that she hadn’t been taking any other medication, but a blood test showed she had clonazepam, sold under the brand name Klonopin, lorazepam and methadone in her system.

Johnson told police she hadn’t taken any other drugs except the anti-anxiety drug Xanax before the crash, but inside the car, police found a pill bottle that held 65 Klonopin pills, which are also used to treat anxiety, among other conditions.

Prosecutor John Davenport, who is handling the case, said that Johnson changed her story three times regarding the drugs she ingested and that she added more and more drugs to the list as the story changed.

Police also ruled out the possibility that Johnson was using her cell phone at the time of the crash after downloading data from it. Investigators concluded that Johnson’s Ford was driving about 36 mph before the crash.

Pucillo, of Woodbridge, was a real estate broker, who owned Westwood Realty, according to his obituary and state records. He was not married and did not have children, according to the obit.

Johnson, who does not have a criminal record, is being held on bonds totaling more than $150,000. She’s due in Waterbury Superior Court in October.