Jesus, gravestones, and a high-speed chase

Vacationer accused of going on reckless ride through Edgartown.


A 31-year-old New Jersey woman led Edgartown Police on a wild, high-speed chase Thursday destroying cemetery headstones, nearly hitting vehicles in the tourist-crowded village, and questioning a police officer’s “love of Jesus,” according to a police report.

Andrea Escoto-Rivera pleaded not guilty to a litany of motor vehicle charges at her arraignment Friday in Edgartown District Court. She was initially held on $25,000 cash bail, but that was reduced to $500 in court. 

Police were called at 7:23 pm for a report of an erratic operator on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road driving at a high rate of speed in an “electric blue” Jeep Wrangler on the rain-slicked road.

“The vehicle approached my location, and the female operator, later identified as Andrea Escoto-Rivera, stopped next to me,” Officer Jake Sylvia wrote. “Escoto-Rivera rolled the passenger window down and immediately screamed at me, ‘Do you love Jesus Christ?’ I ordered Escoto-Rivera to pull the vehicle to the shoulder of the roadway so that I could speak with her further.”

According to the report, Escoto-Rivera questioned Sylvia several times on his love of Jesus during the stop on Upper Main Street. “I exited my cruiser and approached Escoto-Rivera’s vehicle,” Sylvia wrote. “I asked Escoto-Rivera for her license and registration, and she continued to yell at me, ‘Do you love Jesus Christ? You tell me now!’ Escoto-Rivera had a crazed look on her face and, in my opinion, was clearly experiencing some type of manic episode.”

Sylvia called for backup and EMS, according to the report. “Escoto-Rivera’s demeanor then rapidly escalated and she screamed at me, ‘You do not love Jesus, you (expletive),” Sylvia wrote.

According to the report, Escoto-Rivera drove on the shoulder and narrowly missed striking two vehicles. The officer estimated her speed at 20 mph over the posted 25 mph speed limit for the congested area.

“It was clear to me that if Escoto-Rivera were to continue operating this way, she would likely cause death or serious injury and had to be stopped immediately,” Sylvia wrote.

Escoto-Rivera made an abrupt turn onto Cooke Street and into a driveway at 87 Cooke St. where she was allegedly “operating her vehicle in circular patterns on the front lawn of the residence while spinning her tires, creating deep divots,” Sylvia wrote.

According to the report, Sylvia motioned her to stop and approached the vehicle. “The door was locked and I could see that Escoto-Rivera had a crazed look on her face as she shouted unintelligibly inside the vehicle.”

When a second cruiser arrived, Escoto-Rivera allegedly accelerated through some bushes and a fence and then into a cemetery with a third cruiser in pursuit.

“Escoto-Rivera followed the pathway straight in the cemetery but then made an abrupt right turn into a field of gravestones,” Sylvia wrote. “The vehicle struck a headstone, dragged it underneath the vehicle for approximately 50 feet causing deep gashes in the grass, then hit a large headstone, and the vehicle came to a stop. Escoto-Rivera was still making attempts to flee the area by revving the engine and trying to  put the vehicle in reverse, however, the vehicle was hung up on the gravestones and rendered inoperable.”

Escoto-Rivera was taken into custody by Officer Alex Guest. She was evaluated at the scene by EMS.

“Escoto-Rivera was now calm at this time and officers sat her up to speak with her,” Sylvia wrote. “Escoto-Rivera said that she was on Island for vacation for the week and had rented a room. Escoto-Rivera stated she was scared due to something that happened in the residence, which caused her to ‘want to get away’.”

According to the report, Escoto-Rivera apologized several times for her dangerous driving. At Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Officer Guest signed paperwork for an involuntary committal for Escoto-Rivera.

She was charged with failure to stop for a police officer, leaving the scene of property damage, reckless operation of a motor vehicle, marked lanes violation, speeding, three counts of vandalizing a gravestone, two counts of defacing property, and motor vehicle accident with property damage. 

“I’m pleased with the outcome that no one was injured and we were able to get her to the hospital safely,” Police Chief Bruce McNamee told The Times. “The Edgartown officers did a great job in responding and protecting the other motorists.”

In court Friday, attorney Casey Dobel said her client objected to the arraignment being held virtually, and noted that it is important to Escoto-Rivera that the matter be addressed in person.

“She would like to be brought down here to have the ability to speak with me in person, to have the ability to be seen by you, your honor in person. She objects to this proceeding being held virtually,” Dobel said.

Judge Paul Pino overruled the objection.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Preble requested the $500 cash bail, but Dobel noted that Escoto-Rivera has no prior criminal record, and there is nothing in the police report that indicates her charges resulted from a willful incident.

“This was a mental health incident. This is not something where my client had any malicious intent,” Dobel said.

Dobel said Escoto-Rivera is a nanny back in New Jersey where she lives, and although she lives out of state, intends to cooperate with the process and work with the court to address the matter.

“I understand she is not local and lives out of state, but she is a very religious woman, she is a very moral woman. It is important to her to come back here and have these matters addressed and dealt with,” Dobel said, adding that the purpose of bail is to ensure someone’s appearance in court. 

She requested that Escoto-Rivera be released on her own recognizance.

Pino set the bail at $500 cash because Escoto-Rivera lives in New Jersey.

Dobel said she spoke with Escoto-Rivera and one of her siblings, and noted that her client has no history of mental illness, and the incident could have been a result of a panic attack.

Based on the information presented, Pino said he will not order the emergency restraint and hospitalization of Escoto-Rivera, as she does not pose risk of serious harm by reason of mental illness (Massachusetts Chapter 123, Section 12a).

Dobel represented Escoto-Rivera for the arraignment only, and said she has not yet had the conversation with Escoto-Rivera as to whether she will retain her own attorney or request a court-appointed attorney.

A pretrial hearing was scheduled for Sept. 2. One of the bail conditions was not operating a motor vehicle during the pendency of the case.

Reporter Lucas Thors contributed to this story.



  1. “This was a mental health incident. This is not something where my client had any malicious intent,” Dobel said.
    Malicious intent or mental breakdown, it happened and she should be prosecuted accordingly. If a mental breakdown, she should be committed and evaluated before she is released back into the public. I don’t want to share a road with her and I’m sure the nice folks in Jersey don’t want to either.

  2. Well, thankfully no one was hurt. That being said, we now have a challenger for nuttiest news story of the summer, possibly leading the ‘regifting of septic waste’ story by a nose. But, it’s only the beginning of August.

      • I actually agree with ENGELMAN on this one.

        Besides, stories about mental health crises are no joke to those who suffer and to those who know and love people who suffer in this awful way. There’s so much awareness of being sensitive toward groups of people who are considerd “other”, unless it’s toward the mentally ill. Then it’s fun to mock and make a joke of their suffering and wish for punishment instead of help for them. The police did the right thing in how they handled this case. Oftentimes, people having a mental health crisis can be shot by police, especially if they’re a person of color. Sometimes it’s a criminal action like this dangerous, erratic driving where police have to get involved that gets the person to the help they need, oftentimes medication. It’s too bad that the woman could not be held for longer to determine a course of help for her, but that’s how our mental health system (does not) work. I’m glad no one was injured and hope this woman gets the care she needs and deserves.

      • I’m with ya’, Andy. Can you believe people actually gather to show compassion for a living being. Especially one killed because someone was mad at his mother. The nerve of these people…

        • Agreed, Jim. The series of events with Fergus is tragic and did not need to happen. I understand why it has upset many and am still wondering whether Lola was found. Animals should never be used as revenge.

  3. If I had to do it ALL over again, After I got home from Vietnam I would have used my
    Marine Corps, GI Bill educational benefits to become a Lawyer and then become a Judge in Edgartown!!
    Then I would build the biggest Jail possible on the old military barracks at the Airport!
    “End of Story”!!

    • Judges don’t build jails. On another note, this is the perfect article for you to show that Fox News story you were showing awhile back about unlicensed immigrants on the island.

    • Yes, laws were broken and someone may have been hurt or killed. The defendant needs to be held accountable for this, and part of that accountability starts with a comprehensive psychological assessment and treatment plan that she abides by as she awaits her sentence.

      Prisons should not be used to warehouse people with mental illnesses – secure, locked down facilities with access to evidence-based treatment and medication management can keep both the offender and society safer, and cost less in the long run.

      Incarceration usually worsens an individual’s mental health disorders, making it more difficult to keep them, other inmates, and staff safe while they serve their sentence. When released, they’re likely to have more difficulty in transitioning back to life outside, which (wait for it) increases recidivism.

      • Well said, Jane. It is in the best interest of everyone involved that the courts don’t let this slip through the cracks, which unfortunately I see too often. Assessment, to start with, is vital.

  4. There are already more than enough locals who have never heard of responsible driving and constantly put us in danger on the road. We really don’t need any additional risk in that department. I hope she’ll face consequences but won’t hold my breath after watching others get off.

  5. I don’t think anyone should have her work in their home as a Nanny. I also think she is a danger to society. As the late Walter Steele, Judge in the County of Dukes County Superior Court did one day, he researched and found an old law that was still valid. He ‘banished” the offender from the island. “The Massachusetts Banishment Act, officially named the “Banishment Act of the State of Massachusetts”, was passed in September 1778 “to prevent the return to this state of certain persons therein named and others who have left this state or either of the United States, and joined the enemies thereof.”

    • Jane, banishing someone from MV would not solve things. The safety risk and lack of treatment would just persist elsewhere. The court needs to do everything in its power to ensure she doesn’t drive again. Take her license for good and have her evaluated. As the officer said, she could’ve killed someone, or many someones, yet the judge doesn’t find that she poses a serious risk to herself and others? One that warrants being hospitalized? Absurd. We have no reason to believe it won’t happen again.

      Losing a loved one to reckless driving is absolute hell. Too many have already been through it. I’m very grateful the police were able to handle it skillfully on their end.

  6. I can’t imagine the comments that would be here if I did that and was screaming at the officer to find out if he loved Pasta.( but who doesn’t love pasta ?) Most here would be pointing to my religious beliefs and saying that guy is crazy and the has crazy religious beliefs.
    I never pass on an opportunity to proselytize :

    But thank the FSM that she had Jesus and St Christopher to protect her and everyone else.
    I hope she can get proper treatment for a number of things.

  7. I think Officer Sylvia’s reaction to this situation deserves a sticker on the helmet, and shows leadership potential in the coming Martha’s Vineyard regional law enforcement agency.
    Edgartown’s mutual aid further illustrates the degree to which the island’s police departments already act in concert. Regionalization will only bring more efficiency.

    Too often we hear stories of people having a mental health crisis encountered by an institution offering only a violence solution, and I’m glad that was avoided here.

    May the grass grow back, may the stones be arighted, and may this poor woman put this bad day behind her, and find peace in her heart and mind.

    • Brian– I totally agree with you about the officers handling of this.
      The police department may have some issues, buy I think we are very lucky to have the department and the officers we have — with the possible exception of one..

        • Brian, you are referring to the wrong Silvia…
          Jake Sylvia works for Edgartown, Andy Silvia works for Trashberry.

          • Oops! I stand corrected.

            SILVIA gets a spot on the MVLED PD.

            90% of the others get the lovely set of steak knives as a parting gift.

Comments are closed.