Officer says she wore wedding dress, bit man
(by Ethan Wilensky-Lanford)
November 08. 2007
A Gilford, New Hampshire woman in a wedding dress tried to run down two state Department of Fish and Game officers, and, failing, drove into Saltmarsh Pond yesterday, according to authorities.
She then refused help as her SUV sank, yelled for the officers to shoot her, and bit the arm of the man who finally pulled her to safety, a fish and game officer said.
Toni Neville, 42, has been charged with felony reckless conduct, two counts of simple assault, driving after suspension, and transporting a controlled drug.
Two conservation officers, Michael Eastman and Glenn Lucas, drove to the swimming area at Saltmarsh Pond for lunch, shortly after noon. He pulled his vehicle up next to hers, stepped out and asked if she was okay. She seemed distraught, he said, and she was wearing a sleeveless, white wedding dress over her clothes. Upon closer inspection, he saw marijuana in her truck, and pills, he said.
Eastman asked her to step out of the truck. Instead, she shifted gears and drove off, causing the door to shut on Eastman’s arm. he said. He pulled his arm free, got back into his vehicle and, expecting that Neville would flee the scene, turned around to give chase.
But Neville was speeding straight at him. Fearing for their lives, Eastman said he and Lucas tucked their car behind a cluster of tall white pine trees, for shelter. Neville sped by and then turned around to take another pass. In the process, Eastman said, she hit a metal signpost. Once freed, she sped back down toward the officers and straight into the water. Eastman said she was driving 50 miles an hour when she left land.
The SUV had enough momentum to carry it about 70 feet from shore, according to the divers who later towed it out. After Neville drove into the water, Eastman said that he and Lucas called the Gilford authorities.
As the truck drifted out, the engine compartment filled with water. Neville climbed onto the roof, leaving her dress behind. She hung onto the roof rack, Eastman said, letting go when her truck slipped underwater. Eastman and Lucas yelled for her to swim to shore. She yelled back that they should shoot her, said Eastman. Instead, he threw out a rescue rope, which she did not take.
A neighbor, Harry Bean, and two men working on a foundation at his property came to the shore. Eastman, Lucas and the two workmen commandeered a 12-foot aluminum skiff. Using Bean’s two-by-fours in place of oars, they paddled out to Neville, who was by now floating on her own.
She would not grab on to Eastman’s plank, he said. One of the workmen, sitting in the bow of the boat, reached out and took hold of her shirt. She bit him, Eastman said. Eastman and the workman then pulled her halfway aboard.
“I was able to get one handcuff onto her, and at that point, she wasn’t able to fight anymore,” Eastman said. “She was basically saying she wanted it over, she wanted to die.”