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Hartford man arrested in fatal hit and run that killed Trinity College student

Jillian Hegarty was killed in the crash that injured two others.

HARTFORD, Conn. — A Hartford man was arrested Wednesday in connection with a fatal hit and run last year that killed a Trinity College student and killed two others.

Karanja Thomas, 45, of Hartford was charged with negligent homicide with a vehicle, assault, reckless endangerment, evading responsibility resulting in death, evading responsibility resulting in injury and driving a vehicle under a suspended license. He is being held on a $300,000 bond.

Thomas was taken into custody by members of the Hartford Police Fugitive Task Force, Violent Crimes Unit and Auto Theft Task Force. 

Police said they were called out to the area of New Britain Avenue and Henry Street just after 11:30 p.m. on March 31, 2022, on the report of the pedestrian crash.

When officers arrived, they found the three students struck by an SUV. One of them, 20-year-old Jillian Hegarty of Vermont, was unresponsive at the scene. All three students were rushed to the hospital where Hegarty was pronounced dead from her injuries.

“It’s good for the detectives to bring closure to a family that’s been grieving for almost a year here,” said Lt. Aaron Boisvert.

Thomas is a lifelong Hartford resident and Weaver High grad. He tried to hide his face from cameras inside Hartford Superior Court Thursday where he was arraigned on a slew of charges including negligent homicide and evading responsibility.

“There’s no indication from the report that there was any reckless driving. The warrant is noticeably absent as to whether these people were in a crosswalk,” said Public Defender Sean Crowshaw.

But Judge Stephanie Damiani raised bail for Thomas from $300,000 to $750,000.

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“It may have been an accident, but it stopped being an accident when the defendant left the scene of the accident, leaving three people that were injured and stopping to check the car rather than stopping to check if these individuals were OK,” said Damiani.

According to the arrest warrant, a Volkswagen vanity plate was left at the scene. Police believe the car was traveling 32 to 40 miles per hour in a 30-mile zone when it hit three students. Two other students were hurt but have since recovered.

Video evidence appears to show the car stopped shortly after impact, accessed the car damage, and then drove to New Haven where it was seized the next day by Hartford police. They spent months analyzing evidence that led them to Thomas.

“It was forensics based so there was DNA that needed to be collected and analyzed. Our crime scene division was relentless,” Boisvert said.

Hegarty came to Trinity by way of St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont. Its headmaster said Thursday, “This news is incredibly raw and emotionally charged for Jillian’s family and loved ones, and I hope that as the justice process unfolds all will respect their privacy and give them the space they deserve to make sense of it.”

Samaia Hernandez is a reporter for FOX61 News. She can be reached at shernandez@fox61.com. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Doug Stewart is the Senior Digital Content Producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.


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