Kenneth Morang listens as a guilty verdict is announced by the jury foreman in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court in Portland on Thursday. Morang, a former Cumberland County corrections officer who fell asleep at the wheel, was found guilty of manslaughter in the death of 9-year-old Raelynn Bell. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A jury found a former corrections officer who fell asleep at the wheel guilty of manslaughter in the death of a 9-year-old girl.

Kenneth Morang, 64, was driving home after working two consecutive 16-hour shifts at the Cumberland County jail in July 2019 when he rear-ended an SUV carrying Raelynn Bell of Standish in the back seat. She was airlifted to the hospital and died days later from traumatic brain injuries.

Raelynn Bell GoFundMe

Morang has been out on personal recognizance while awaiting trial and will remain free on the same conditions until reporting to state prison after his sentencing, Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon said after the jury reached its verdict Thursday. Sentencing has not yet been scheduled. Morang faces zero to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutors said Morang was criminally responsible for Raelynn’s death because he was aware that he was too tired to drive and still got in his pickup truck, motivated to work long hours by the desire to boost his state retirement benefits and earn more overtime.

Morang and his defense attorney, Amy Fairfield, never disputed that Morang caused the fatal accident when he plowed into the Bell family’s Honda Pilot as it was stopped in a left-hand turn lane along Ossipee Trail in Gorham on July 21, 2019, or that he was tired that day. Fairfield said the state didn’t have the evidence to prove Morang knew he shouldn’t have been driving.

Two police officers who reconstructed the crash using measurements from the scene and data pulled from Morang’s vehicle computer testified Tuesday that Morang’s Ford F-150 was traveling 51 mph at the moment of impact and that he did not brake before the crash.


There were roughly a dozen members of the public in the courtroom for the verdict. Most were there to support Morang, including his family.

As they waited for the jury to come back from deliberations, Morang walked to the back of the courtroom to join his family in conversation. When the verdict was read, the crowd was silent. Morang stood at the front of the courtroom, quietly shaking – his arms rigid at his side as if standing at attention.

Bell’s mother, Charity Chillington, sat on the other side of the courtroom. She was with a victim’s witness advocate, who advised reporters before closing arguments that Chillington did not wish to speak following the verdict.

In a written statement last week, Chillington said her daughter is still the “first thing I think about when I wake up, and she is the last thing I pray about as I fall asleep.”

“3 years and 3 months … of not just losing her but being reminded of the accident, the loss and the trauma every time a court date changed, continued, another hearing was set, or another meeting was scheduled to discuss trial,” Chillington wrote.

Raelynn’s father, Michael Bell, was the first to testify when the trial began on Monday. He was driving his daughters home after seeing “The Lion King” movie when he saw Morang’s pickup approaching from behind “really, really fast,” Bell said through tears.


Kenneth Morang listens as a clerk reads his prior testimony just before a jury found him guilty of manslaughter. Morang fell asleep at the wheel in Gorham in 2019 and crashed his truck into the family SUV carrying 9-year-old Raelynn Bell. She died days later. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer


In closing arguments, Fairfield tried to discredit the state’s key witness, Gorham Police Detective Sgt. Daniel Young, who spoke with Morang in the hospital after the crash. Young testified Tuesday that Morang said he had been “nodding off” and that he admitted he was “foolish for not listening to his body.”

Young had violated policy by not recording that interview, Fairfield said, and told jurors Morang’s family remembered Young promising him there would be no criminal charges. Young has disputed this.

Jurors heard a recorded interview Young made a few days later. Less than an hour before delivering their verdict, jurors asked to listen to that interview a second time, as well as Morang’s testimony in which he denied being too tired and said he doesn’t remember the crash.

Morang also disputed testimony from Bryan Bean, who said he had been driving behind Morang and noticed him swerving as if he were drunk. Bean testified Monday that minutes before rear-ending the Bell family SUV, Morang nearly collided head-on with an 18-wheeler. Morang said he would’ve remembered if this had happened.

Morang was charged with manslaughter in January 2020, nearly six months after the crash.


Over four days, attorneys painted a picture of a Mainer who spent his life working long hours, investing in a retirement that he planned to spend with his wife, children and several grandchildren.

Morang married young and had a 10th-grade education. He spent 15 years in the U.S. Air Force, where he worked on three different types of aircraft missions and was deployed a handful of times in the 1980s and 1990s. He joined the Cumberland County Jail in 2006 and quickly obtained a reputation for voluntarily working overtime, investing heavily in the benefits he hoped to reap from a second retirement.

On the stand, Morang told prosecutors he worked at the jail at least 80 hours a week, often more. He was the guy who worked holidays like July 4 and Thanksgiving. He was the one his colleagues, whom he considered “brothers,” would approach if there was a shift they couldn’t take.

“What we’re not here to decide today is whether Mr. Morang was a hard worker,” Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan told jurors, hours before their verdict. It didn’t matter how close he was with his family and his co-workers, McGettigan said, or why he took the shifts he did and what he was hoping to do in retirement.

“You’re here to decide – did the defendant commit manslaughter?” McGettigan said.

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