Driver arrested, charged with DUI, after close call with historic relic

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – One of the town’s oldest relics – a stone embedded in the wall of Union Cemetery – was nearly destroyed last month when a car left Smithfield Road, careening head-on with the structure.

Kevin Rooney, 44, of North Smithfield was charged with reckless driving and driving under the influence, along with several violations, including leaving the scene of an accident and refusal to submit to a chemical test, following the incident.

Officers who arrived at the scene around 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 6 reportedly discovered the damaged wall, along with the front bumper of an orange car that was no longer at the scene.

They found Rooney is a Chevy Camaro with heavy front end damage driving along nearby Milton Avenue.

Rooney smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes, according to police. During physical sobriety tests, officers reportedly observed several signs of possible intoxication, but the suspect refused to submit to a chemical test.

The wall sustained heavy damage – but it could have been worse according to local historians. Just feet from the spot struck, a stone embedded in the wall from 1774 once served as a mile marker. Symbolic of the region’s roll as a transportation hub during the time of stagecoach travel in the 1700s and early 1800s, the Peleg Arnold stone is engraved, marking “12 miles to Providence.”

In an undated photo from the Rhode Island state archives, passersby observe the Peleg Arnold stone.

Named after a prominent lawyer, tavern-keeper, jurist, and statesman of the time from Smithfield, the Peleg Arnold stone incorporated into the Union cemetery wall is one of five such historic mile markers in North Smithfield and neighboring Woonsocket.

North Smithfield Department of Public Works took quick action to protect the relic following the accident, placing two large boulders on either side of the stone.

Rooney has a pretrial conference scheduled for Thursday, May 27.

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