Sunday, December 8, 2013
By BETTY ADAMS Kennebec Journal
AUGUSTA – David Kimberlin of Windham was driving his pickup truck on a snowy, slick road on Jan. 19, 2011, when it crossed the center line in Unity Township and hit an oncoming car head-on.
The scene of a 2011 crash that claimed the life of Jessica Elridge.
David Leaming / Staff Photographer
Jessica Eldridge, 36, of Winslow died in that crash on Unity Road, leaving behind three daughters.
Two of them were in Kennebec County Superior Court on Monday, along with other family members, to hear Kimberlin admit to causing the death of a person while committing a traffic infraction.
Assistant District Attorney Tracy DeVoll said Kimberlin was speeding.
"I know that no matter what I do or whatever will happen, it will not bring back the lost life," Kimberlin said before apologizing to the family. "I wish none of this would have happened. I don't think I was speeding."
Kimberlin, who had two previous speeding citations, said he works fulltime as a welder. He and his girlfriend, who watched the hearing, were both injured in the crash.
Eldridge's family blamed Kimberlin for her death.
Eldridge's mother, Sarah Luce of Vassalboro, said she wanted more revisions to the laws covering irresponsible drivers.
"Today I feel the impact of having my daughter ripped from my life as a sharp jab to the heart," Luce said.
Outside the courthouse, she said, "I hope that we can all continue with a little more peace of mind than we have had up to this point."
Under a plea agreement, Kimberlin, 22, was fined $1,500 and ordered to complete 250 hours of community service. His driver's license was suspended for three years, running concurrently with a three-year suspension imposed by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles for the accident.
The civil violation carries a maximum penalty of a $5,000 fine and a four-year license suspension.
Kimberlin was not charged with anything else in the crash, DeVoll told Justice Nancy Mills.
Kimberlin was to go on trial for the violation Monday, but instead DeVoll and Kimberlin's attorney, David Van Dyke, reached a plea agreement.
Mills heard from Kimberlin and five members of Eldridge's family.
"Jess was the core of all our family gatherings," said Eldridge's uncle, Stephen Brough of Bangor.
Eldridge's daughter Monique Sutherland, a high school sophomore, broke into tears while describing her loss. Her father, Alan Sutherland of Vassalboro, stepped in to help her.
Van Dyke told the judge that a police reconstructionist and a college physicist came to different conclusions about Kimberlin's speed that night, with the deputy's estimate higher than the civilian's.
The exact speeds were not disclosed, but Alan Sutherland told Kimberlin: "You need to understand what your careless actions have done. You've impacted a lot more than just the person you killed. The reconstructionist said you were going 30 mph over the speed limit in a snowstorm. What were you thinking?"
Eldridge's eldest daughter, Kirsten Violette of Orono, told the judge about being a college freshman and losing her only parent, and having to face life on her own. She described her mother as "an outstanding parent who would have been a loving and outstanding grandmother."
She recalled the "Fun Fridays" when the girls and their mother would take off for spontaneous day trips.
Eldridge advocated for children's services as an employee of Child Development Services, Project PEDS in northern Kennebec County.
"It's obviously disappointing to the family, because there's a lot of love in that family," Van Dyke said afterward. "The Legislature, in its wisdom, recognized that there are accidents without crimes."
A wrongful-death lawsuit brought in Kennebec County Superior Court by Eldridge's widower, Douglas Eldridge, ended with a minor settlement in January. Details of the settlement were not available Monday.
Kennebec Journal Staff Writer Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at: