The Maine Attorney General’s Office, along with the Berwick Police Department, has taken over the investigation into a fatal automobile crash that claimed the life of a well-known special education teacher last week.
Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said his office was asked by York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery to oversee the investigation because the driver of the vehicle, who survived the crash, is related to her family.
Stokes said he is not allowed to identify the 17-year-old male driver because he is a juvenile and has not been charged with any crimes, but he is fairly certain the teenager is not Slattery’s son. Stokes said he was not aware of their exact relationship.
Slattery, when contacted Tuesday night, declined to comment on the matter.
Stokes said it is not unusual for a public official to ask his office to take over a case in which charges could be filed in order to avoid the perception that there might be a conflict of interest.
“We know what the end result was, unfortunately. We just don’t know yet what happened before the accident,” Stokes said of the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, Amy Harris’ family announced Tuesday that it has established a trust fund to benefit her husband, Sam Harris, and their two children – Abbie, 4, and Luke, 7.
Amy Harris, 34, died on April 10 after a sports utility vehicle operated by a 17-year-old Berwick Academy student crossed the centerline and hit her car head-on on Route 4 in Berwick around 8 a.m.
Berwick police have not identified the male student, but they have taken blood samples and are trying to determine if he was using a cellphone at the time of the crash.
Abbie Harris suffered lacerations and was released from a local hospital on the day of the accident, but her brother had to be transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he underwent surgery for a broken vertebra and torn intestine, according to Cindy Dumond, a friend of the Harris family.
Dumond said Lucas Harris was released from the hospital on Tuesday and was able to return to his family.
The boy is expected to make a full recovery.
“He was up and walking the last time I heard,” Dumond said.
Dumond is the office manager for Salmon Falls Nursery and Landscaping in Berwick. She works for Mark Pendergast – Amy Harris’ father and the children’s grandfather.
Sam Harris – Amy’s husband – works as a lead residential foreman for Salmon Falls Nursery and Landscaping, installing hardscaping, trees and shrubs.
Dumond said Pendergast has been flooded with an outpouring of community support. Gov. Paul LePage even sent flowers to him after the crash.
“He (Pendergast) is a very good-hearted man, who has given back to his community,” Dumond said. Michelle Poppleton Chumsae, a spokeswoman for the Harris family, said the family asks that donations be made to “The Abbie and Luke Trust Fund” in lieu of flowers.
Donations should be sent in care of: Salmon Falls Nursery & Landscaping, 511 Portland St., Berwick, ME 03901.
Funeral arrangements have not been made yet.
Chumsae said a special page has been established on Facebook called “Angels for Amy Harris.” Friends and family can leave comments on the page and learn more about a May 17 silent auction to benefit the family.
Harris had worked at the Vivian E. Hussey School for the past three years as a special education teacher. She graduated in 1997 from Noble High School and from Simmons College in 2001.
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at: