Danielle Larochelle of Kingfield is flanked by defense attorneys Jesse James Ian Archer, left, and James Howaniec in a Farmington courtroom Friday for her sentencing for a drunken-driving accident that killed a passenger in 2018 in Kingfield. Donna M. Perry/Sun Journal

FARMINGTON — A Kingfield woman was sentenced Friday to serve eight months of a five-year sentence for drunken-driving that resulted in the death of a Strong man in July 2018 in Kingfield.

Danielle Larochelle, 32, reportedly attempted to avoid a deer on West Kingfield Road, lost control and the car struck several trees on July 8, 2018. One of her three passengers, Nicholas Shurtleff, 25, of Strong, was ejected from the car and died at the scene.

In February, Larochelle pleaded guilty to aggravated criminal OUI, which carries a maximum five years in prison. Charges of manslaughter and OUI resulting death were dismissed in a plea agreement due to evidence issues.

Larochelle wiped tears from her eyes during the hearing as she sat between defense attorneys Jesse James Ian Archer of Auburn and James Howaniec of Lewiston at Franklin County Superior Court.

Family members of Larocheele and Shurtleff were in the courtroom and several of them shed tears.

Deputy District Attorney James Andrews said Larochelle and friends were at a social gathering the evening of July 8. Hard liquor and beer were being consumed, he said. Larochelle had nine to 11 drinks or doses of alcohol. Shortly before 10 p.m. she asked three friends if they wanted to go for a drive.

Archer said Larochelle and a witness said she had two drinks of whiskey.

Andrews said Larochelle was not showing off or racing her car but because of intoxication she could not react quickly or safely when the deer stepped into the road.

The unsuspended portion of the sentence was capped at one year and a minimum six months. The state argued for one year while the defense argued for the six-month range.

The sentence is not going to be long enough for the family; it won’t bring back Nicholas Shurtleff, Andrews said.

“It won’t fill a hole in their lives,” he said.

Andrews asked the court to give Larochelle enough time to interrupt her life and to be rehabilitated.

Taylor Henderson, Shurtleff’s cousin, read a statement from Shurtleff’s aunt, Diane Henderson, stating that it was a preventable tragedy. Nicholas Shurtleff made sure family members knew they were each important to him, Henderson said.

Shurtleff was concentrating on his blacksmith skills, he was responsible and was an extraordinary musician, Henderson said.

“There is not a day that goes by that we don’t miss him,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s mother, Diane Henderson, would never hear him say “I love you’ auntie,” again as he always did, Taylor Henderson said

She wanted Larochelle to be held accountable and suffer consequences.

“She will never know what she took from us,” Henderson said as she wiped tears.

Archer said it was very difficult as Andrews said “when there is a grieving family.” He asked the court to look at mitigating factors. He thanked Shurtleff’s family for being there.

Officers in the case, emergency medical technicians, and other personnel did not see or detect any impairment, Archer said. A doctor stated in a report Larochelle was not impaired, Archer said.

“I think Danielle has owned up to the crime,” he said, and taken responsibility for it.

She has nightmares about it and cannot sleep at times, he said.

“The day after the accident I could see a difference in Danielle. She was not the same. She doesn’t talk much any more,” her mother, Margaret Larochelle said.

“Nick was an amazing man,” she said, as well as co-worker of hers.

“She is not a bad person. She never intended for this to happen,” she said.

Danielle Larochelle said she was “incredibly sorry . . . I so wish I could change all this.”

She  said she is haunted by it and will pay for what happened forever, she said.

Saying goodbye to her 12-year-old son Friday morning was the hardest thing she has ever done, she said.

Justice Bruce Mallonee said he took everything into account before issuing a sentence. He had the Shurtleff family members sit in the jurors’ seats closer to him while he talked to them. He explained the sentence to Larochelle.

In addition to jail time, he sentenced Larochelle to two years of probation, a six-year loss of driver’s license and a $2,100 fine.

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