Kenneth Morang and his attorney, Amy Fairfield, listen to testimony Monday. Morang is charged with manslaughter in the death of 9-year-old Raelynn Bell, who was killed when Morang fell asleep behind the wheel and crashed his pickup truck into a car carrying Bell and her family in July 2019. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Prosecutors said a former Cumberland County Jail corrections officer on trial for manslaughter had a duty to stop driving after he nearly crashed head-on into a tractor-trailer shortly before he slammed into a family’s SUV, killing a 9-year-old girl.

Kenneth Morang’s defense attorney did not dispute that Morang dozed off and that the crash killed Raelynn Bell on a Sunday afternoon in July 2019. Bell was in the third row of her dad’s Honda SUV when Morang struck the family vehicle from behind. Morang’s lawyer said he was hot, sick and tired that day, but he was not reckless or criminally negligent.

Prosecutors say he had a duty to pull over.

“When people get on the road to drive, other operators expect them to be safe,” prosecutor Thad West said during his opening statements to the jury in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court on Monday. “They expect them to be alert. They expect them to be paying attention and they expect them to be awake. Ultimately, what we’re talking about here is his actions, his choices to operate in that state of tiredness.”

Bryan Bean told jurors he was heading home from an auto parts store and was traveling behind Morang’s blue pickup truck when he noticed the truck drifting in and out of its lane, at one point crossing the center line.

Bean said he thought the driver of the blue Ford F-150 was drunk.


Morang had worked two consecutive 16-hour shifts in the days before July 21, and a total of 88 hours in the seven days leading up to the crash, and had a habit of working massive amounts of overtime.

He was on his way home when he struck the Honda Pilot driven by Michael Bell, who was stopped in a left-turn lane approaching Dow Road along Ossipee Trail, also called Route 25. The temperature hit 94 degrees in Portland that day, and Morang’s exhaustion may have been compounded by the heat and an infection he did not know he had, said his attorney, Amy Fairfield.

Officer Mark Sanborn of the Gorham Police Department discusses a photograph held up by Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan. Sanborn was the first Gorham police officer on the scene of the crash where Kenneth Morang fell asleep at the wheel and struck another vehicle, causing the death of 9-year-old Raelynn Bell. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

To find Morang guilty, jurors must agree that not only did Morang’s actions cause the crash, but that he recognized and consciously disregarded a known risk, and in doing so, showed a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would show.

“The state and I agree on many facts of this case. My client was driving a vehicle that caused the death of Raelynn Bell. What we do disagree about is his state of mind that day,” Fairfield said. “That is what you should be keying in on.”

Morang was a longtime corrections officer close to retirement; he has adult children and grandchildren, and would sign up to take shifts so staff with young children could spend time with their families, she argued. The death of Raelynn is heartbreaking and a tragedy from end to end, but Morang’s actions do not add up to a crime, Fairfield said.

“Indeed, Ken Morang did work a lot. The jail was chronically understaffed. People were frequently forced to work overtime. And Ken was older than most of his colleagues, and Ken would pick up (shifts) so the other correction officers could be at a child’s birthday. He was that person.”


West objected twice during Fairfield’s opening statement, an unusual move. The first objection came when Fairfield said the manslaughter charge was the first in the state for someone who had fallen asleep behind the wheel, a case of “first impression” for the court and the jurors. The second objection came after Fairfield suggested the criminal prosecutors were maneuvering like civil attorneys in a wrongful-death suit.

“What they’re trying to do is elicit sympathy for Raelynn,” Fairfield said.

“I don’t like doing this, but at some point, I have to; she’s attributing motivations that are not relevant,” West said.

Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon held sidebar conversations with both attorneys after each objection.


The state slowly built its case Monday. Michael Bell, Raelynn’s father, was the first to testify. He was heading back to Standish when he saw Morang’s F-150 approach from behind “really, really fast,” Bell said through tears.


Two off-duty police officers who were passing near the scene testified about stopping to help during the chaotic moments following the crash. Another Good Samaritan, an off-duty emergency room nurse, became emotional when he described assessing Raelynn’s injuries in the crumpled back row of her father’s SUV.

Bean stopped after Morang’s crash and helped people out of their vehicles, and then left when police showed up, he said.

Before the crash, Bean said he saw Morang nearly hit a tractor-trailer.

“We was going down Brandy Brook Hill, and (the pickup) had drifted over in front of a tractor-trailer truck and he had just barely gotten back to our side of the road,” Bean said. “That’s when I gave him a little space.”

Bean said the driver of the pickup did not pull over after the close call, and then Bean backed off to give him space.

Why give more space, asked West.

“I didn’t want to be in an accident,” Bean said.

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