BANGOR, Maine — A Bucksport man was sentenced Thursday to 10 years in prison with all but two years suspended after pleading no contest to charges that he was under the influence of methadone when he crashed his car into a vehicle driven by a Brewer woman, who died six days later as a result of the collision.
Marc Sparks, 30, of Bucksport 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 in the 2014 death of Robin Rie, 59.
He pleaded no contest to the manslaughter and aggravated criminal OUI charges against him, and the other charges were dropped in the plea agreement arraigned by Penobscot County Assistant District Attorney Marianne Lynch, who prosecuted the case, and Sparks’ Bangor attorney, Hunter Tzovarras.
By pleading no contest, Sparks agreed the state has enough evidence to convict him of driving under the influence of methadone Sept. 13, 2014, when he drove south in a gold sedan on Route 15 in Orrington and struck an SUV driven by Rie, who had slowed to make a left turn into a River Road vegetable stand.
She suffered a serious spinal cord injury in the crash and died a week later.
Sparks, who allegedly stopped his vehicle for a moment before he left the scene, was not injured in the accident. Police later found him and his damaged vehicle in Bucksport.
The impact of Sparks’ vehicle forced Rie’s vehicle off the road and into a residence before it came to rest, according to the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office.
Rie was unresponsive when found, but one bystander was a nurse and was able to revive her, Lynch said. She never regained consciousness and lived for six days until her life support was stopped Sept. 19, 2014.
Tzovarras said his client should not have been driving without a license, but he did not intend to cause harm by doing so. Sparks entered the pleas because he wanted to put the situation behind him and move on with his life, his attorney said.
Justice Ann Murray accepted Sparks’ no contest pleas, which result in convictions, and then heard from Rie’s family members, friends and co-workers before issuing a sentence.
Rie’s finance, Michael Cushman, and others were not happy with the plea agreement.
“I guess it goes without saying that I’m not satisfied with the plea bargain,” said Chapman, who met Rie when they were both age 14 and reconnected with her in 2001. “He takes no responsibility.”
Others said they hoped Sparks would use the time behind bars to turn his life around.
“Life is so short and so precious. This has proved it to us,” Rie’s brother, Anthony Wardwell, said.
After hearing from eight loved ones of Rie, Murray sentenced Sparks to 10 years in prison for the manslaughter with all but 24 months suspended and four years of probation with conditions not to possess alcohol or illegal drugs, which is the agreed upon sentence. She also ordered he pay for Rie’s funeral expenses when she ordered he pay $8,992 in restitution.
He also was given a six month concurrent sentence for the aggravated OUI, ordered to pay a fine of $2,100, and lost his license to drive for 10 years. Murray also sentenced Sparks to a concurrent six-month sentence for violating his bail conditions by using illegal drugs.
“There is no sentence I can give that will bring Robin Rie back to her family,” the judge said just before issuing Sparks’ sentence. “There is no sentence that will bring Robin back.”
According to her obituary, Rie was a 1974 graduate of Brewer High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a kindergarten through eighth grade teaching certificate from the University of Maine. She also served 21 years in the U.S. Naval Reserves, four of those years on active duty.
Rie was a U.S. Postal Service employee in Bangor until her retirement. She also was a real estate agent in the Bangor area for many years.
Sparks is not the only driver taking methadone charged with manslaughter after getting behind the wheel in Penobscot County.
Ramsdell, who had received a methadone treatment before the crash, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with all but 27 months suspended and four years of probation. His driver’s license was suspended for six years. Ramsdell pleaded guilty in March to manslaughter and aggravated operating under the influence of intoxicants.
BDN writer Judy Harrison contributed to this report.