TAUNTON — The suspect accused of killing a Seekonk mother walking with her 11-year-old son in a hit-and-run crash last week told police he may have blacked out because he had been drinking heavily at the time, a prosecutor said Monday.
Jeremy Schmidt, 27, of East Providence, was ordered held on $100,000 cash bail after his arraignment Monday in Taunton District Court on a newly filed felony charge of motor vehicle homicide while driving negligently and under the influence of alcohol.
He also faces charges of driving under the influence (second offense), leaving the scene of an accident causing death, failing to drive within marked lanes and driving to endanger.
Schmidt is accused of hitting 37-year-old Antonieta Vargas last Thursday night while she was walking on Newman Avenue with her son near their home.
“He admitted to being extremely intoxicated,” Assistant District Attorney Shawn Guilderson said during the bail hearing.
Vargas’s son was not injured and ran over to help his mother, who was knocked airborne by the vehicle, according to court records.
Schmidt allegedly told police that he woke up around noon the day of the crash and drank three nip bottles of liquor and dropped off his son after sobering up. He then continued to drinking “heavily,” according to court records.
Schmidt allegedly told police he remembered hitting an object and told friends he thought he hit a parked car in East Providence. When one friend spoke to him by telephone after watching the news, the friend told police Schmidt said he knew he hit someone and started crying when he was told a woman died, according to court records.
Vargas was pronounced dead at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence about an hour after the 7 p.m. Thursday crash. Schmidt was arrested early Friday morning in East Providence.
The 1999 Jeep Grand Cherokee was recovered about three miles away at Rumford Towers apartment complex in the Rumford section of East Providence, where his mother lives. The SUV, which is registered to his girlfriend, had heavy front end damage and a right front flat tire, according to court records.
Guilderson said police have video evidence, including from a witness who was allegedly driving behind Schmidt and had a dash cam video camera in her car. The witness told police the vehicle was traveling erratically before the crash, according to court records.
Schmidt’s prior arrest for drunken driving was in 2015 when he was charged in Rhode Island with drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident with personal injury, according to authorities and court records.
In that case, Guilderson said Schmidt did not remember hitting the victim of that crash either.
Schmidt is currently on probation in Providence Superior Court for a 2012 first-degree robbery in East Providence, according to authorities and court records.
Schmidt’s lawyer, John Grasso of Providence, said the Seekonk incident was a tragedy and said his client may be suffering from substance abuse and mental health problems.
“I can’t imagine Jeremy had any intent on doing this,” Grasso said. “I think he has no memory at all or awareness that he hit somebody.”
The defense lawyer said a week before the hit-and-run, Schmidt was found in the woods with rope and had threatened to commit suicide not far from the crash scene. Grasso said Schmidt was taken to Rhode Island Hospital in Providence and was later released.
Grasso said his client worked as a construction worker and was the father of three children. His youngest is 9 months old, Grasso said.
His parents and his girlfriend were in court for the proceedings and declined to comment when they left the courtroom.
The case was continued to Oct. 31 for a pretrial hearing but Guilderson told the judge prosecutors will seek a grand jury indictment in superior court.