May 2, 2012

Maine teen faces manslaughter charge in crash

Kristina Lowe, 19, of Oxford is accused of texting, drinking and speeding before a January accident that killed two.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

A 19-year-old Oxford woman who is accused of drinking, speeding and texting before getting into a crash that killed two teenagers in West Paris was arrested Tuesday on two counts of manslaughter.

Kristina Lowe was held in the Oxford County Jail on $25,000 bail. She is scheduled to appear in Oxford County Superior Court today.

The case against Lowe may be Maine's first manslaughter case in which texting on a cellphone is alleged as a key component of the crime. "It's the first I'm aware of," said Oxford County Assistant District Attorney Joseph O'Connor.

Prosecutors will seek to show that Lowe's behavior on the night of Jan. 7 was "a gross deviation from what a responsible person would be doing in that same situation," he said.

"Her blood alcohol content alone was not high enough to be an OUI, but there also was evidence of consumption of marijuana, and she was speeding, and we believe the evidence will show she was texting," O'Connor said. "A combination of all those factors amounts to criminal negligence."

O'Connor would not say what Lowe's blood alcohol content was. The threshold for people 21 and older to be charged with drunken driving is 0.08 percent. People younger than 21 cannot drive legally with any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.

Lowe was driving a 2002 Subaru sedan on Jan. 7 when she lost control on Route 219 in West Paris and crashed into a stand of trees.

Passengers Rebecca Mason, 16, of West Paris and Logan Dam, 19, of Norway were killed. A third passenger, Jacob Scaff, 22, of South Paris, was injured.

Lowe was critically injured, but authorities say she initially left the scene of the crash without calling for help.

Besides manslaughter, Lowe is charged with aggravated drunken driving, aggravated driving to endanger and leaving the scene of a crash that resulted in death.

Police say the four were returning to a party where teenagers were drinking. Steve McCausland, spokesman for the Maine State Police, said police plan to charge others who were involved with the party and who supplied the alcohol.

The case drew heavy public interest and helped lead the Legislature to increase penalties for texting while driving. Maine law specifically prohibits texting while driving.

Lowe was arrested at her home on Tuesday, McCausland said. Authorities decided to arrest her rather than wait for an indictment because an Oxford County grand jury will not sit again until the middle of June, O'Connor said.

"We felt it appropriate she had bail conditions, including not drinking and being subject to search for alcohol and drugs," he said.

The crash investigation has been time-consuming and extensive, said O'Connor, who noted that the reconstruction, chemical testing and numerous interviews have generated a case file 4 inches thick.

State officials have worked hard to persuade all drivers not to text while driving because of the potentially fatal consequences.

Maine enacted a law against distracted driving two years ago, then specifically banned texting while driving last year. Legislators recently increased the fine for texting while driving from $100 to $250 or more.

 

Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at: dhench@pressherald.com

 

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