A Vermont man accused of killing a 19-year-old police officer in a head-on crash during a pursuit in Rutland last summer pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a new elevated charge of aggravated murder.

Tate Rheaume, who was ordered held without bail pending an evidence hearing, was “engaged in extraordinarily dangerous driving” at more than 80 mph (129 kph) while also moving in and out of traffic before the fatal crash, Rutland County State’s Attorney Ian Sullivan said.

According to a police affidavit, the July 7, 2023, pursuit started after Rheaume, 20, broke into the home of an ex-girlfriend with whom he has two children. Concerned about his mental state, she had taken the children to her grandmother’s house, but her boyfriend called police after seeing security camera images of Rheaume at their home.

At the time of the collision, he was traveling at between 76 and 82 mph (122 and 132 kph) on a road with a posted speed limit of 35 mph (56 kph), Sullivan said, and he struck two police cruisers.

Rutland City Police Officer Jessica Ebbighausen, who was not wearing a seatbelt and was thrown from the cruiser, was pronounced dead at the scene. Two other officers and Rheaume were taken to Rutland Regional Medical Center, and Rheaume was later transferred to the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, police said then.

Rheume told investigators he did not pull over before the fatal crash because getting arrested would hurt his chances of joining the Marines, according to court documents.

“Mr. Rheaume was actively fleeing from law enforcement at the time he committed the aggravated murder,” Sullivan said in arguing for him to be held without bail.

Rheaume’s lawyer, Sean Milligan, said his client is neither a flight risk nor a danger, evidenced by his compliance with the strict conditions of release, his appearance in court and no prior criminal record. Milligan said Rheaume is unable to work because he is still suffering physically from the crash, and his family posted $100,000 in cash surety in July.

But the judge said the new charge, which carries a potential sentence of life without parole, raises the flight risk. He also agreed with law enforcement’s assertion that Rheaume was fleeing to avoid prosecution.

Sullivan said Rheaume drove into oncoming traffic and hit the two marked cruisers, which had their lights on, and “from our perspective that is the basis to conclude that the evidence of guilt is great for the life offense.”

Ebbighausen, of Ira, Vermont, started working with Rutland police in May 2023 as a part-time officer, state police said. She had been scheduled to start academy training last August to become a full-time officer.

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