The Portland woman who authorities say triggered a serious crash Wednesday on Interstate 295 when she swerved into another car had twice previously sideswiped other vehicles, according to police records.
Julie Caton, 44, who has a history of speeding tickets and other infractions, said she did not realize she had been in a crash Wednesday until she stopped at a store a few minutes later and discovered damage to her car.
“When I found out what was going on, I did feel awful,” said Caton, reached briefly by telephone Friday. “If I had known I had hit them, I would have stopped.”
Caton, who changed her name in 2012 after getting married, has two accidents on her driving record and five speeding tickets in the past 10 years. The most recent ticket was for driving 85 mph in a 65-mph zone in April 2012. Before that, she was ticketed for going 42 mph in a 25-mph zone and 55 mph in a 40-mph zone in 2010.
Other charges include driving an unregistered vehicle, failure to wear a seat belt, and operating after license suspension, a suspension that stemmed from having no insurance in 2005.
She currently has no points on her license and has no charges of driving under the influence or reckless conduct. She has no criminal record, according to the state Bureau of Identification.
In 2010, Caton, whose maiden name was Nowell, sideswiped the back end of a car in Naples while it was stopped in traffic on Route 302, according to an accident report by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office.
In 2008, she also sideswiped a vehicle parked in front of a bookstore in Bridgton when she drifted into it, according to a report by Bridgton police. There were no injuries in either crash.
The man injured in Wednesday’s crash isn’t buying Caton’s account of the collision.
Casey Larcombe, 35, of Brewer was driving his family in a 1994 Saturn southbound on Interstate 295 in Cumberland when he says a 2010 Toyota Corolla swerved into them, knocking them into the median strip, where their car tumbled end over end and wound up on the passenger side.
“She didn’t notice the jarring impact?” he asked. “My assumption from the get-go was there would be a whole bunch of denial and blaming, typical of someone with that type of behavior.”
Larcombe said X-rays taken on his spine Thursday were negative for injuries, but that he has many bruises and strained ligaments. His fiancée, Kathryn LePage, had a concussion, he said. His children, 12 and 8, escaped with no significant injuries.
Maine State Police said Wednesday that a witness to the 4 p.m. crash got Caton’s license plate number and passed it on to police, who used it to track her down.
A trooper charged her with leaving the scene of an accident and failing to report a crash in the quickest way possible. Both are misdemeanor charges and she was not arrested, but issued a court summons.
State police released no new details about the crash Friday.
Caton placed some of the blame for Wednesday’s crash on Larcombe.
“They were driving very slow in the passing lane,” she said. “People behind me passed on the right. … There’s travel etiquette people practice every day,” she said, suggesting the Saturn should have pulled into the travel lane.
She also acknowledged that hand gestures were exchanged between people in the cars.
Larcombe’s 12-year-old daughter, Rylee, told him the driver of the car that hit them waved her middle finger, then pointed her fingers in the shape of a gun.
Caton, however, said the hand gestures originated in the other car, possibly because they did not like her trying to get them to move to the right so she could pass. She conceded her own etiquette may have been questionable, too.
Caton said descriptions of the incident have been very slanted against her.
“I’ve been in health care 20 years and I don’t do it for the money,” she said. “I do it because I want to help people.” She said reports that she stopped and then fled the scene are untrue. At most, she may have touched her brakes, she said. “It was an accident and not deliberate.”
Caton said that if she had known there had been a crash and people were hurt, she would have stopped.
Larcombe tells a very different story, one that he says is backed by witnesses who stopped to help his family.
“Nobody else was passing on the right. No one was even near us. None of the witnesses said anything like that,” he said.
The family was headed from their home in Brewer to LePage’s mother’s house in Hollis. As they got close to Portland, traffic started to get congested, he said. He said he was following a line of traffic all driving the same speed, while passing slower cars in the travel lane.
“I’m quite aware of ‘keep right unless you’re passing,’” he said. “I follow that kind of etiquette. … She was just really impatient, weaving and getting dangerously close.”
He said there was plenty of room in front of his car if Caton had wanted to continue past him in the travel lane and then pull in, but instead she cut her wheel to the left as she passed, clipping his car and dislodging her bumper, which the trooper later recovered.
“She’s obviously not very credible,” he said. “I can’t wait to talk to the prosecutor.”
Larcombe said he appreciated the support the family has been shown. They have had offers of rides to take them home since their car was destroyed in the crash, and their insurance doesn’t cover the cost of a rental.
He said the owner of Stewart’s Towing offered to drive them to Brewer and give him a company jacket.
David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: