Investigators close case in fatal Trenton accident

Posted Dec. 30, 2008, at 8:58 p.m.
Last modified Feb. 13, 2011, at 10:53 a.m.

ELLSWORTH, Maine — A local woman won’t be prosecuted for her role in an accident that killed a pedestrian in Trenton last year.

Jill Ihle, 31, initially faced charges after the April 28, 2007, accident that resulted in the death of Arthur Smith Jr., 29, of Steuben. She was behind the wheel of a 2001 Dodge Caravan when she struck Smith just before 1 a.m. as he was walking in the middle of the southbound lane of Route 3, police said at the time of the accident.

Police initially suggested rain and fog likely were to blame for the nighttime collision, but said later that tests indicated Ihle had alcohol in her bloodstream when her vehicle struck Smith.

Earlier this year, Ihle made a first appearance in Hancock County Superior Court on prospective charges of aggravated operating a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants, driving to endanger and reckless conduct.

Hancock County Deputy District Attorney Carletta Bassano said Tuesday, however, that Ihle is not being prosecuted.

“The status of this case at this point is that it is closed,” Bassano said.

The prosecutor said the Hancock County Sheriff’s Department and the district attorney’s office thoroughly reviewed and investigated the case and tried to pursue felony charges against Ihle.

“We did what we could do with that case,” Bassano said. “That case went through that process and it simply did not survive. We did not draw up charges in this case.”

A review of published Hancock County grand jury indictments since the accident indicates that Ihle never was indicted in connection with the fatal collision. Unless a defendant agrees to waive indictment, felony charges cannot formally be filed in Superior Court without a grand jury indictment.

When asked about the lack of a grand jury indictment, Bassano declined to comment. She said grand jury proceedings are confidential and are not considered public.

Smith’s father, Arthur Smith Sr., said Tuesday that he doesn’t think the case was handled properly. He said that Ihle was not given a blood-alcohol test right away when police arrived at the accident, and that some have suggested his son was partially to blame because he also had been drinking and was walking in the road.

Hancock County Sheriff William Clark said Tuesday that, as far as the investigation goes, his department did everything appropriately.

“We did what we needed to do,” Clark said. “Understandably, [Mr. Smith] is upset. I stand behind the investigation we did.”

Bassano said she understands the frustration of Smith’s family.

“I feel terribly for them,” she said.

Ihle was represented by Ellsworth attorney Daniel Pileggi before the case was closed without formal charges being filed against his client. A woman who answered the phone Tuesday at Pileggi’s office said he is on vacation this week and cannot be reached for comment.

Arthur Smith Sr. said he still thinks Ihle should be charged, even if it will never bring his son back.

“There were things done that weren’t done right,” the father said. “I just don’t understand it. I guess I never will.”

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