Judge will try to pick Knox jury for trial of trucker charged in deaths of two motorists

By Stephen Betts | Dec 29, 2016
Photo by: Knox County Jail Randall Weddle

Rockland — Family members of two people killed in March, when a tractor-trailer slammed into their vehicles, packed a Knox County courtroom to receive an update on the criminal cases against the trucker.

Justice William Stokes said he expects to try to select a jury in Knox County before considering a request by the defense to move the trial of Randall Junior Weddle to another locale because of extensive local media coverage.

No trial date has been scheduled.

Weddle, 54, of Greeneville, Tenn., is accused of causing the deaths of 45-year-old Christina Torres-York of Warren and 74-year-old Paul Fowles, 74 of Owls Head as a result of the March 18 crash on Route 17 in Washington.

Thirteen family members attended court Thursday, Dec. 29, to hear a report from the status conference held earlier in the day between the state, defense and judge in the justice's office.

Weddle was indicted in June on two counts of manslaughter, three counts of aggravated operating under the influence, two counts of driving to endanger and eight counts of various trucking rule violations. Those violations include false record-keeping, driving while fatigued, driving while using alcohol and driving while possessing alcohol.

He has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. Weddle remains at the Knox County Jail in Rockland in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.

Stokes said a hearing could be held in February on a motion filed by Weddle's attorney, David Paris, to suppress statements made by Weddle to police on March 18 and 19 while he was at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Weddle was not read his Miranda rights against self-incrimination, Paris maintains in a motion filed with the court. The questioning was done while Weddle was heavily medicated, lying prone and receiving medical care, according to the defense motion.

Weddle told investigators at the hospital that he had not been feeling well and had taken a drug called Lortab, which contains hydrocodone, according to court documents. Weddle said he had come from Tennessee and made a delivery in Massachusetts before coming to Maine to pick up lumber in Searsmont. He was traveling back to Tennessee to deliver the load when the crash occurred.

Stokes also said a conference could be held Jan. 25 before Justice Bruce Mallonee for the state and defense to discuss a possible settlement in the case.

The state initially offered a sentence of 30 years in prison with all but 20 years suspended, but Weddle rejected that offer. The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years.

If no settlement is reached, the suppression hearing would be held and then a trial set. Both Paris and Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Baroody estimated a trial would last five to seven days, not including jury selection.

Weddle was arrested in Virginia May 6. Police reported in an affidavit filed in court at the time that Weddle’s license had been revoked in Virginia. He also had his license suspended in Louisiana.

In March, Weddle was driving west in a 1998 Freightliner loaded with lumber on Route 17 near Fitch Road in Washington when the rig veered into the eastbound lane, according to police. Fowles was driving east in a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado and was the first vehicle in line hit by the truck.

The trailer and load of lumber then struck a 1998 Chrysler van that was behind Fowles, driven by Torres-York. The van was pushed into a nearby field and burst into flames.

Weddle was taken by a LifeFlight helicopter to CMMC.

According to an affidavit filed by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to obtain the arrest warrant, Weddle’s blood-alcohol level was 0.09 when a blood sample was taken from him by an emergency medical services worker at the scene of the crash.

A sample taken more than an hour later at the hospital resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.073. The driver also had hydrocodone in his system, according to the police report.

Under Maine law, a person is considered to be operating under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is 0.08 or greater. Federal law says a commercial driver is under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is 0.04 or greater.

Weddle’s truck had been traveling 81 mph shortly before the crash and was going 73 mph when it occurred, according to the affidavit. That information was obtained from data downloaded from the engine control module, according to police. The speed limit is 55 mph on that section of Route 17.

Comments (2)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Dec 30, 2016 16:03

He should be tried for killing willfully and locked up for life without parole. I too grieve for the deaths of these two people and the loved ones left behind!

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Posted by: Dennis Ripley | Dec 29, 2016 23:01

Hopefully this guy will spend his remaining days at Maine s luxury resort and day spa  aka  supermax  in beautiful, Warren Me.  



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