BANGOR, Maine — More than two months after the Jan. 30 hit-and-run death of Jordan Bakley, a 20-year-old University of Maine student, police have charged a suspect.
On Friday, authorities arrested Garrett Cheney, 22, of South Berwick on charges that included manslaughter, drunken driving and leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury.
Authorities say Cheney struck and killed Bakley at about 3 in the morning on the street near her apartment in Orono, making her the third fatal victim of a hit-and-run driver in Maine in the last eight years.
As tragic as Bakley’s death was, Maine Bureau of Highway Safety statistics show that hit-and-run pedestrian fatalities are rare, accounting for less the 4 percent of all pedestrian deaths recorded since 2003.
Maine hit-and-run deaths
A total of 75 pedestrians were killed on the state’s roads and highways from 2003 through 2009, according to Michelle Ward, fatal accident statistics analyst for the bureau.
Three more confirmed pedestrian deaths have occurred so far this year, bringing the total to 78. In addition to Bakley, two people were killed in separate incidents in January and February as they walked on a road when it was dark. Both drivers stopped and reported the accidents, and neither driver was expected to be charged.
Ward says it’s difficult to find patterns in the overall statistics.
“It’s not like it’s fluctuating a lot,” Ward said. Data regarding pedestrian deaths from 2003 through 2009 indicate that the range during that period runs from a low of nine deaths in 2005 to a high of 13 in 2003.
The average number of deaths during the same period works out to nearly 11, the bureau’s totals show.
A closer look at the bureau’s data fails to reveal any trends when it comes to people who died after being struck by vehicles.
“There’s no pattern whatsoever,” Ward said. “There’s no rhyme or reason. They happen throughout the year, at all times of day and to people of all ages.”
Only three of Maine’s 78 pedestrian deaths over the last eight years, however, were blamed on hit-and-run crashes, which is “a small handful compared to the overall number,” Ward said.
The two previous hit-and-run fatalities occurred in 2008 and 2009.
In both of those cases, the drivers were identified within a week. And in both cases, the drivers will spend no more than three years behind bars.
Following are brief recaps of the two cases.
Left for dead
On May 27, 2008, Deborah Archer of Berwick, 46, a mother of seven and grandmother of two, was struck shortly after 6 a.m. by a delivery van while walking her two dogs on Route 9.
The driver, Jason Brooks of Saco, was working as a subcontractor delivering glass for area companies when he hit Archer with his van and drove off.
Afterward, he called his parents, who then drove past the crash site to pick him up at Portland Glass in Somersworth, N.H., according to published reports. Brooks left the van he was driving there and returned home with his parents, driving past the accident scene again on his way home.
A week later, state police, with the help of a witness and an anonymous tip, identified Brooks as the driver.
Police said Brooks, then 26, admitted to hitting Archer with his van. Later that month, he was charged with leaving the scene of an accident. His father, Gordon Brooks, was charged with hindering apprehension.
Alcohol, however, was not considered a factor. In his affidavit, Brooks reported that he had a severe pain in his head at the time of the accident.
Jason Brooks pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May to two years behind bars.
On the evening of March 26 of last year Tiffeny Hamlyn of Brownfield, who was 18 and driving drunk, struck 24-year-old Tiffany Hamilton, as the single mom of a 3-year-old boy was walking along Route 113 in Fryeburg.
Hamlyn, who drove herself home after the crash, was arrested about four hours later after police received an anonymous tip, according to media accounts.
According to the Sun Journal of Lewiston, Hamilton sent out the following text: “I just killed someone. She died, and now I’m pretty much waiting for the cops to come.”
A judge sentenced Hamlyn, who pleaded guilty to manslaughter, aggravated OUI and leaving the scene of an accident, to 18 years in prison with all but three years suspended, followed by six years’ probation.