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UMaine student was struck by vehicle on Orono street, experts say

Posted July 20, 2011, at 1:27 p.m.
Last modified July 22, 2011, at 6:37 p.m.
Garrett Cheney of South Berwick sits in a courtroom at the Penosbscot Judicial Center in Bangor and listens to opening statements to the jury on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. Cheny is accused of driving his truck into University of Maine student Jordyn Bakley of Camden as she walked down a snow-covered Middle Street in Orono in January 2010 and then driving away.
Garrett Cheney of South Berwick sits in a courtroom at the Penosbscot Judicial Center in Bangor and listens to opening statements to the jury on Tuesday, July 19, 2011. Cheny is accused of driving his truck into University of Maine student Jordyn Bakley of Camden as she walked down a snow-covered Middle Street in Orono in January 2010 and then driving away.
Jordyn Bakley
Courtesy photo
Jordyn Bakley

BANGOR, Maine — It was the snow wedged against her feet and legs that helped convince Dr. Edward David, a deputy medical examiner, that Jordyn Bakley, 20, of Camden was struck by a vehicle traveling up Middle Street in the early morning hours of Jan. 30, 2010.

David arrived at the accident scene in Orono about 2½ hours after the body of the University of Maine student was found by a newspaper carrier in front of 15 Middle St., the doctor testified Wednesday afternoon in the jury trial of a York County man at the Penobscot Judicial Center.

Garrett Cheney, 23, of South Berwick allegedly was drunk and driving his pickup truck on the wrong side of the street when he hit Bakley, who died instantly.

Cheney is charged with manslaughter, aggravated criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury and criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants.

David’s testimony supported what Officer Christopher D. Watson, an Orono Police Department accident reconstructionist, told the jury Wednesday morning and the conclusions of Dr. Marguerite DeWitt, a retired medical examiner, who testified Tuesday.

The 72-year-old David, who has been responding to accident and suspicious death scenes since 1979, told jurors that he parked below the scene and walked up Middle Street, making observations as he went.

“As I came up the road, I passed a dooryard and saw a bumper imprint in a snowbank where it had been plowed,” he said.

In examining Bakley’s clothed body, David told the jury he concluded her upper left leg bone had been broken above the knee and that she had suffered head injuries.

“I made the presumption that given the head and leg fractures that this person was struck by a motor vehicle,” he testified. “I concluded from the loose snow piled up on the uphill side of her body that she was pushed forward by a striking object, most likely a the bumper of a truck or SUV.”

Under direct examination by Penobscot County District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, David said he did not see tire tracks on the body and concluded that she had not been run over after being struck.

Watson testified that he concluded that the truck that struck Bakley passed through the downhill snowbank where the driveway had been plowed, struck Bakley as it crossed the driveway, and continued moving forward until it became stuck in a snowbank. Then the truck backed up across the driveway, before spinning its wheels and moving forward into the road.

Under cross-examination by defense attorney William T. Bly of Biddeford, Watson said he did not compare the footprints coming down Middle Street to the boots Bakley was wearing or carefully examine the tire tracks next to them. The officer also said that once David told investigators that Bakley had not been run over or suffered a crushing injury, the tire tracks in the snowbank closest to her body were ruled out as belonging to the vehicle that struck her.

The Orono policeman also told the jury that Bakley was thrown forward after being hit by a vehicle traveling between 23 and 28 mph. Watson testified under direct examination that although it was not possible to pinpoint exactly where Bakley was when she was struck or exactly how far her body traveled, she most likely was in the area of the driveway of 15 Middle St.

No one has testified about how far Bakley’s body was from the driveway.

Watson said that based on the location of her cell phone, scarf and mitten, he concluded she was in the area of the driveway because “hats, shoes, things a victim was holding, may fall at the area of impact.”

In answer to a question from Bly, Watson said a person’s center of gravity was between the waist and the hips. That contradicted testimony Tuesday from Dewitt and David on Wednesday.

Both doctors said that a woman’s center of gravity was between the hips and upper thigh area. DeWitt told the jury Tuesday that an abrasion above Bakley’s knee and a break in her thigh bone led her to conclude that was where the University of Maine junior was struck by a bumper, most likely on a truck.

When she was struck below her center of gravity, DeWitt said, Bakley was projected forward, hit the snow-covered pavement on the left side of her head, then slid a short distance before stopping.

Cheney was in Orono on Jan. 29 visiting a cousin to celebrate the cousin’s 21st birthday, according to an Orono police affidavit filed at the time of his arrest on April 16, 2010.

After allegedly hitting Bakley, Cheney headed south on Interstate 95. His ChevroletSilverado went off the highway about 3:30 a.m. in Etna, according to the affidavit. The damaged pickup was towed to the storage lot of a Newport towing firm.

Cheney was not injured but was charged with drunken driving. His blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit, two hours after his truck left I-95, according to the affidavit.

Bakley was a 2007 graduate of Camden Hills Regional High School, where she was a talented swimmer and active in the Diversity Coalition and Water Monitoring Program, according to her obituary. She was an advocate for a number of humanitarian causes and spent one summer volunteering for a program that worked to keep inner-city kids off the streets and another as part of a Habitat for Humanity group that built a home in Mississippi.

If convicted of manslaughter, the most serious crime with which he is charged, Cheney, who has no criminal history, faces up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

CORRECTION:

An earlier version of this story contained wrong information about where Garrett Cheney, the man on trial in the hit-and-run death of Jordyn Bakley, lives. Cheney is from South Berwick, not North Berwick.

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