Former Easton firefighter pleads not guilty in fatal hit-and-run

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Declan Kot faces charges of second-degree manslaughter charge, tampering with physical evidence and evading responsibility in operating a motor vehicle resulting in death

Declan Kot faces charges of second-degree manslaughter charge, tampering with physical evidence and evading responsibility in operating a motor vehicle resulting in death

Fairfield Police / Contributed

EASTON — A former volunteer firefighter accused of driving drunk and killing a woman while she walked her dog in Fairfield last summer pleaded not guilty to the charges this week, court records show.

Police said Marileidy Morel-Araujo, 32, a Pennsylvania resident who was visiting her husband’s family on Redding Road, was hit from behind by a vehicle as she walked her dog along that road on July 4, 2020.

The driver, later identified as Declan Kot, 22 an Easton volunteer firefighter at the time of the collision, did not stop after the accident, police said.

He was first arrested a few days after the deadly crash, on July 9, 2020. He was initially charged with misconduct with a motor vehicle, evading responsibility in operating a motor vehicle resulting in death and tampering with evidence. In March, the misconduct offense was increased to a second-degree manslaughter charge.

Judicial branch records show Kot entered not guilty pleas to the charges during a court appearance on Wednesday. Kot’s attorney, John R. Gulash, confirmed in an email Friday his client had entered a pro forma plea of not guilty, but did not comment further.

The case is now headed for trial.

With the increased manslaughter felony charge, Kot faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison if convicted. Court records indicate Kot is next scheduled to appear in court on June 28.

Court records show Kot is free on a $150,000 bond.

Three days after the deadly collision, a Fairfield police officer spotted the vehicle allegedly involved in the hit-and-run — a white pickup with an American flag on the back. The driver, Kot, agreed to go to police headquarters, where he admitted to driving his truck on July 4 after having six alcoholic drinks, his arrest affidavit said.

During an interview with investigators, the affidavit said, Kot said he drove off the road near some bushes or trees and heard a loud bang. He told police he thought he hit a tree branch, the affidavit said.

Police said the area where the crash happened does not have any shrubbery or trees near it.

Later in the interview, Kot told police he saw the victim on the side of the road, the affidavit said.