Trooper Charged With Murder in Death of Girl, 11, in a High-Speed Chase
Not long before midnight on Dec. 22, a New York state trooper stopped a car for speeding near Kingston, about an hour and a half north of Manhattan. Inside were Tristin Goods, his wife, April, and his daughters, Monica, 11, and Tristina, 12. They were heading north on the New York State Thruway, on their way to visit family for Christmas.
In the exchange that followed, Mr. Goods and the trooper, Christopher Baldner, began to argue, and Mr. Goods, his lawyer said, asked to speak to a supervisor. Trooper Baldner responded by shooting pepper spray into the car, officials said.
Fearing for his safety, his lawyer said, Mr. Goods drove off. Trooper Baldner chased him at a high speed. When he caught up to Mr. Goods, he rammed his car once and then, seconds later, rammed it again.
The impact knocked Mr. Goods’s car over a guardrail into the highway’s southbound lanes, his lawyer said. The vehicle flipped over several times before landing on its roof. Tossed from the car as it tumbled, Monica Goods died.
On Wednesday, Trooper Balder, 43, was charged with murder, manslaughter and reckless endangerment in an indictment announced by Letitia James, New York’s attorney general.
“Police officers are entrusted to protect and serve,” Ms. James said in a statement. “But Trooper Baldner allegedly violated that trust when he used his car as a deadly weapon and killed a young girl.”
The Daily News reported the indictment earlier on Wednesday.
Trooper Baldner, a 19-year veteran of the State Police, turned himself in to the authorities early Wednesday. He was arraigned in Ulster County Court and ordered held in custody pending a bail hearing next week. He was suspended without pay upon surrendering, said William Duffy, a State Police spokesman.
“As with every state police investigation, our mission is to determine facts and ensure that justice is served, even when it involves one of our own members,” Mr. Duffy said, adding that the State Police was continuing to work with Ms. James’s office in investigating the matter. “Accountability is critically important to our agency.”
The incident involving the Goods was not the first such confrontation for Trooper Baldner, officials said. The indictment also charges him with endangering the lives of three people by ramming his vehicle into their car in a separate incident in the Kingston area in September 2019.
In yet another episode, which Gov. Kathy Hochul cited when she named Ms. James a special prosecutor in the case last week, Trooper Baldner struck a car in the same area in January 2017. The indictment did not include any charges related to that episode.
Trooper Baldner’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted on the murder count.
Thomas H. Mungeer, the president of the union that represents New York troopers, said in a statement that “we look forward to a review and public release of the facts, including the motorist’s reckless actions that started this chain of events.”
Reached by phone on Wednesday, Mr. Goods declined to comment on the charges against Trooper Baldner and referred questions to his lawyer, Joseph O’Connor.
Mr. O’Connor said that his client was “not celebrating today” but “was relieved” to learn of the indictment. Mr. O’Connor also said he expected data recorded by computers in his client’s car and the trooper’s vehicle to figure prominently in the prosecution.
Sanford Rubenstein, a lawyer for Monica Goods’s mother, Michelle Surrency, said the charges were “the first step in the fight for justice” in the case.
Susan C. Beachy contributed research.