BANGOR, Maine — A Cutler man charged in connection with the death 14 months ago of a Millinocket teacher in a head-on collision on Route 9 in Eddington pleaded guilty Friday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to manslaughter and aggravated operating under the influence.
Scott Ramsdell, 44, was released after entering his pleas on personal recognizance bail with strict conditions that include living with his wife in Machias, abiding by a 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew, not using illegal drugs or alcohol, and checking in daily with a caseworker from Volunteers of America.
A sentencing date will be set after Ramsdell undergoes orthopedic surgery related to lingering problems from the crash, Superior Court Justice William Anderson said after accepting Ramsdell’s pleas. Ramsdell said that he broke both legs and injured his shoulders and hands in the accident, according to a previously published report.
“I’m really upset about what’s happened,” Ramsdell said in response to a question from the judge about why he was pleading guilty. “I want some closure for both sides. I want to take responsibility for what happened.”
Ramsdell’s attorney, Stephen Smith of Augusta, said that he felt his client could have been exonerated at a trial.
The plea agreement with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office calls for Ramsdell to be sentenced to 10 years with all but 27 months suspended followed by two years of probation. Four other charges — driving to endanger and three counts of stealing drugs — will be dropped when Ramsdell is sentenced.
Ramsdell faced up to 30 years in prison and fine of up to $50,000 on the manslaughter charge.
By pleading guilty Ramsdell admitted that he was under the influence of methadone and other drugs when he crossed the centerline at about 6 a.m. Jan. 27, 2014, on Route 9 and struck a car driven by Denise Golding, 47, of Eddington. Golding died in the ambulance en route to Eastern Maine Medical Center, Assistant District Attorney Marianne Lynch told the judge Friday.
Golding was on her way to meet a colleague with whom she car-pooled to Millinocket, Lynch said Friday. Ramsdell was traveling from Bangor, where he had gotten his methadone dose at a local clinic, to District Court in Machias, where he was to appear on a domestic violence assault charge.
Ramsdell got his methadone dose about 35 minutes before the accident, the prosecutor said. His methadone dose was increased 43 percent over the nine days before the crash.
He was arrested in connection with the crash on June 23 when he appeared at Machias District Court on unrelated domestic violence charges stemming from a November incident in Washington County.
Ramsdell was sentenced to six months in jail for that incident, according to Lynch. He had been held for about four months on the crash-related charges unable to post bail. That time will count toward his sentence, the prosecutor said.
A single mother of four grown children, Golding taught English as a second language to Chinese students at Stearns Junior/Senior High School. She had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Maine in Orono.
Her mother, Donna Oliver, and other family members attended Ramsdell’s arraignment. Outside the courtroom, Oliver said that once Ramsdell is sentenced, she hopes to advocate for changes to the law concerning people driving after receiving a dose of methadone.
“I think they should have a driver,” an emotional Oliver said. “If I have a colonoscopy, I have to have a driver when I go home from the hospital. Or, maybe, they could have some testing before they’re allowed to drive.”
Oliver said she did not know if such a test was yet available.
Last month, a Bucksport man pleaded not guilty in connection with a similar fatal accident. Marc Sparks, 29, was indicted Feb. 27 by the Penobscot County grand jury on one count each of manslaughter, aggravated criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants, causing a death while driving with a suspended license and leaving the scene of a personal injury accident.