August 12, 2013

Driver in fatal Biddeford crash appears in court

David Labonte is charged with being drunk when he struck a family of three out on a bike ride, resulting in the death of the father.

By David Hench
Staff Writer

ALFRED The next step in David Labonte's journey through the criminal justice system will likely be when a grand jury considers whether to indict him on charges of manslaughter, aggravated drunken driving and possibly other charges.

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David Labonte stands with his attorney William Trafidlo during his initial appearance in the York County Superior Court in Alfred on Monday. Labonte allegedly struck a family of three with his truck in Biddeford last week, resulting in the death of the father, and is charged with manslaughter and drunken driving.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

For now, the 56-year-old from Biddeford remains in York County Jail on $100,000 bail, accused of driving his pickup truck into a family of cyclists on Aug. 2, killing a father and critically injuring a toddler.

Labonte made his initial appearance before Justice John H. O'Neil on Monday morning in York County Superior Court in Alfred. He was formally charged with "recklessly or with criminal negligence" causing the death of Jamerico Elliott, 52, also of Biddeford. He also was charged with aggravated operating under the influence -- aggravated because of Elliott's death.

Labonte, accompanied by his attorney, William Trafidlo, did not enter a plea. His next court appearance is a status conference set for Nov. 22, although that could change if he is indicted, said York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery.

Labonte is accused of being drunk when he drove his pickup into a bicycle ridden by Elliott, with his son, Lavarice Elliott, 17 months, riding in a car seat on the back. The child's mother, Melodie Brennan, also was hit. She suffered a broken ankle.

Elliott died at 12:45 p.m., Wednesday. The boy's condition at Maine Medical Center has since been upgraded from critical to serious, a hospital spokeswoman said, meaning his prospects for survival have improved.

In the moments before the crash, a witness who was driving in the opposite direction reported that Labonte appeared to have fallen asleep. She said he almost hit her car on Elm Street and then, as she watched in her rearview mirror, drove into the family without swerving or applying the brakes, according to court papers.

Labonte's Ford truck then slammed into a parked pickup in which a family was sitting, then crashed into an apartment building.

The family in the parked truck was not seriously injured. Labonte told rescue workers that he thought he was having a heart attack, although he was not. He later told a reporter he had had a coughing fit because of asthma, and had fainted just before the crash.

Labonte at first refused to give a blood sample, but police obtained a subpoena and were able to get his hospital records. In paperwork filed in connection with Monday's court appearance, officials contend that Labonte's blood alcohol content shortly after the crash was 0.179. A sample taken three hours later by police showed a blood alcohol content of 0.15, the papers said.

Biddeford police arrested Labonte Friday at his parents' house in Biddeford, where he had been staying.

A blood-alcohol content of 0.08 is considered drunken driving in Maine.

Labonte was driving on a conditional license, meaning he is not allowed to have any alcohol in his system. He has four prior OUIs on his driving record. He had no car insurance.

Labonte has not been charged in connection with the injuries to Lavarice Elliott so far, although that may change after the grand jury convenes in September.

If Labonte is released prior to trial, he is barred from possessing the keys to any motor vehicle and from entering any bar.

David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at
Twitter: @mainehenchman

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