SOUTH PARIS — Kristina Lowe’s sobs were heard throughout the courtroom Thursday as the clerk read the verdicts against her: guilty of two counts of manslaughter and one count of leaving the scene of an accident.

Lowe, the 21-year-old Oxford woman who was charged with driving drunk and reading a text message when she crashed her car, killing two teenage passengers, was found not guilty of operating under the influence.

The jury in Oxford County Superior Court began deliberating Thursday morning after a trial that began last week with jury selection.

Prosecutors said that Lowe, who was 18 at the time of the crash, was driving on Route 219 in West Paris just after midnight on Jan. 7, 2012, when she crashed her Subaru. Police said that Lowe had been drinking and was texting friends who were at a party just as she lost control on a patch of ice.

Two of her three passengers, 19-year-old Logan Dam of Norway and 16-year-old Rebecca Mason of West Paris, were killed in the wreck. Lowe and another passenger were injured.

A date for Lowe’s sentencing has not been set, and she remains free on bail.

The verdict capped an emotional case that divided this western Maine community and led the Maine Legislature to pass a ban on texting and driving.

A champion of that legislation was Jerrold Mason, Rebecca Mason’s father, who was surrounded by his wife and friends Thursday as the clerk read the verdicts against Lowe. He gripped the bench in front of him and his eyes welled with tears as Lowe was convicted of the first manslaughter charge.

In an interview after the verdict, Mason said he struggles to understand what motivated Lowe to leave the scene of the crash. He acknowledged that his daughter also made mistakes that night, but said he couldn’t understand why Lowe didn’t immediately seek help for her friends or wait for the police to arrive.

“When you do that kind of stuff, you gotta pay,” he said.

His daughter Rebecca, a well-liked student-athlete who played basketball and field hockey, would have graduated from Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School next month.

Ryan Samson, 18, a close friend of Rebecca’s, said the tragedy reverberated through the high school, where pain and anger at the loss of a friend transformed into hurtful messages on social media and antagonistic behavior.

Samson, who lingered in the courtroom during the deliberations with his girlfriend, Molly Mahn, 18, said that after his friend’s death, he decided to stop drinking and hanging around with kids he felt would be a bad influence.

Samson said he and a couple of other students raised money to buy a memorial page in the high school’s yearbook, where students wrote messages they would have written in Mason’s yearbook.

The school has also helped to memorialize her, retiring her field hockey jersey number 4. A granite bench now stands on the team’s field in her honor.

Samson said the prospect of Lowe’s trial kept alive tension that he hopes may finally ease after more than two years of mourning, anger and division.

“I think after this (trial) will be the biggest closure anyone can have,” he said. “This is the only thing that’s keeping it in people’s minds.”

Emotions were still raw after the verdict for relatives of Lowe and Mason.

Jerrold Mason said this time of year is especially difficult for him and his wife, as they watch other families go through the rituals of celebrating their children’s graduations.

“I hope teenagers in the area, or in any area, learn something of repercussions, that hey, if you look down at that phone for 10 seconds it can be over,” Mason said.

He said he doesn’t know whether he will ever be able to forgive Lowe or her family, and said he is still processing the verdict.

“The community has really been paying attention to this, and they want to see that justice has been served where it needs to be served,” he said.

Skip Stanley, Lowe’s stepfather, declined to speak with the media after the verdict, but said in an interview while the jury was deliberating that he knows that his stepdaughter will pay for her mistakes long after the end of any court sentence.

Since she was charged, Lowe’s case has cast a pall over his family. When his two teenage stepdaughters enter a room, he said, people whisper and stare.

Stanley said that several times over the past two years, strangers have parked in his driveway in the dead of night, motor idling and headlights shining, presenting a threatening reminder of the animus his daughter’s case spawned.

Stanley’s family and the Masons have not communicated, and an open hostility lingered in the courthouse before the verdicts. Stanley wants to tell the Mason and Dam families that he and his family are sorry.

“We wish there was something we could do to bring their kids back,” he said. “If there is anything we can do to help them in the healing process, we’ll do it.”

Before he could finish the statement, Jerrold Mason approached and, without regarding Stanley, suggested to a Portland Press Herald reporter that he interview a biological parent, someone who truly knows how a loss like his feels.

Mason walked away, and Stanley continued:

“He’s been very angry in this whole process,” Stanley said. “And rightfully so.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

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