Jail term to begin in a year

South Thomaston woman to serve year for causing crash that killed St. George man

By Stephen Betts | Apr 12, 2018
Photo by: Stephen Betts Kelsey Campbell, right, pleads no contest Thursday, April 12, to causing the death of Zachary Elwell last May.

Rockland — A 20-year-old South Thomaston woman will serve no more than a year in jail for a crash last year that claimed the life of one of her passengers.

Kelsey R. Campbell pleaded no contest Thursday, April 12, in Knox County Superior Court to aggravated criminal operating under the influence, and operating beyond license condition or restriction. A more serious charge of manslaughter was dismissed.

Killed in the May 25, 2017, crash on Route 131 in South Thomaston was 21-year-old Zachary Elwell of St. George.

Justice Bruce Mallonee accepted an agreement worked out between the District Attorney's Office and the defense in which Campbell will be sentenced to seven years in prison with all but one year suspended. She will be placed on probation for three years after her release.

She will not formally be sentenced for a year, however, and she will be free during that time.

A no contest plea results in a conviction the same as if a guilty plea had been entered. No contest allows the defendantr to contest claims filed in any civil lawsuit.

Mallonee said, however, that he could only accept the agreement if Campbell agreed to surrender her driver's license immediately and for the following year. Campbell agreed to that change in the agreement.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter is 30 years in prison.

The judge accepted the sentencing agreement after family members and a friend of Elwell's offered emotional testimony about the impact of the young man's death.

His father, Randy Elwell, spoke to the judge while the family's attorney, Alison Wholey Briggs, held a framed color photograph of the young man.

He pointed out that his son was a firefighter and the two of them attended a firefighting academy about a year before his death.

"I wish you could know how much he loved that. He loved being a firefighter," Randy Elwell told Mallonee,

"We'll never have the chance to see if Zach gets married and possibly has children -- grandkids for us to spoil -- all because of Kelsey being irresponsible that night. There are times that I need a hand with a project and I think 'I'll give Zach a call' and then it hits me hard -- he's not here. Sometimes I cry," the father said.

"Zach always said he only wanted to live in St. George -- now he is for eternity," Randy Elwell said.

Campbell sobbed as family members spoke and continued crying as she addressed the judge. She apologized to the family; to the St. George community; and to the police, firefighters and emergency medical responders who came to the crash.

Assistant District Attorney Christopher Fernald said the agreement reached with the defense took into account Campbell's age -- 19 at the time of the crash -- her complete lack of a criminal record; and her acceptance of responsibility early on in the process, even before the matter went before a grand jury.

The prosecutor also pointed out that sentences for such offenses range widely, from completely suspended sentences to many years in prison.

Defense attorney Laura Shaw of Camden also pointed out the lack of a criminal record and that Campbell was sincerely remorseful.

Campbell was arrested in January on a warrant obtained by the Knox County Sheriff's Office and has since been free on bail.

An affidavit filed in Knox County Unified Court by Knox County Sheriff's Office Detective Justin Twitchell stated that Campbell had a blood alcohol level of 0.21 -- more than twice the limit at which a person is considered under the influence in Maine.

In addition, two witnesses reported that a 2004 Subaru Outback passed them on Route 131 in South Thomaston at a high rate of speed. One of the motorists estimated that the vehicle was traveling at 85 miles per hour in the 50-mile-per-hour zone.

That motorist said that after the vehicle passed him, he saw smoke and came upon the crash.

Another motorist said she saw a woman driving the car, laughing as the vehicle passed at a high rate of speed.

Police said the vehicle went off the road, struck a rock wall and several trees and landed on its roof. Elwell was thrown from the vehicle and died of head trauma.

Campbell told officers that Elwell had jumped from the rear passenger seat to the front passenger seat, but she did not recall if he hit the steering wheel or distracted her just before the crash, according to the affidavit.

In another affidavit filed last year to obtain a search warrant for the vehicle, Knox County Deputy Paul Pinkham reported that he smelled an odor of intoxicating liquor on Campbell's breath when he talked with her after the crash.

Campbell admitted to Pinkham that she had consumed three shots of a vodka/cranberry juice mix that she had made, according to the affidavit.

"Campbell had made the comment to him regarding she has driven a lot drunker than this and never had a problem," the affidavit stated.

Campbell and another passenger, Austin Jurkowski, 19, of St. George, were taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport with minor injuries.

Campbell's attorney had attempted to have the court suppress the blood test taken at PBMC and statements Campbell made to police and to emergency medical personnel in the presence of police following the crash.

No hearings were held on those motions before the sentence agreement was reached between the two sides.

Mallonee said that by delaying for a year when Campbell begins her sentence, the state will have an additional year to monitor her.

If Campbell violates terms of the agreement, such as committing another crime, drinking, taking drugs or failing to undergo counseling -- the agreement will be nullified and she could serve a substantially longer prison term.

Family members voiced opposition to Campbell's being allowed to wait a year before she begins her year jail term, but Briggs said after the hearing that the family was pleased that Mallonee demanded that she surrender her license immediately.

More than a dozen family members and friends of Elwell's were in the courtroom. Campbell's mother and a family friend also attended the two-hour hearing.

The operating beyond license restriction charge stems from her having consumed any alcohol, which is prohibited for drivers under 21.

Comments (1)
Posted by: johanna stadler | Apr 13, 2018 17:49

WOW  just wow.... that'll teach her....

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