ROCKLAND, Maine — A Tennessee trucker accused of speeding and driving drunk has pleaded not guilty to 15 counts, including manslaughter, in connection with the deaths of two people killed in a March crash in Washington.
Randall Junior Weddle, 54, of Greeneville, Tennessee, said nothing other than “not guilty” 15 times during a brief hearing held Wednesday before Justice William Stokes in Knox County Unified Court. Weddle remains held at the Knox County Jail in Rockland in lieu of $100,000 cash bail.
Attorney David Paris of Bath, who was appointed to represent Weddle, said he may argue for a lower bail at the next hearing, which was scheduled for Aug. 25. Paris said he is still waiting for the state to turn over what evidence it has on his client.
Weddle was indicted earlier this month by the grand jury on 15 counts. The most serious charges are two counts of manslaughter related to the March 18 crash, which claimed the lives of Christina Torres-York, 45, of Warren and Paul Fowles, 74, of Owls Head.
Weddle also was indicted on three counts of aggravated operating under the influence, two counts of driving to endanger and eight counts of various trucking rule violations. Those violations include false record keeping, driving while fatigued, driving while using alcohol and driving while possessing alcohol.
The maximum possible sentence for manslaughter is 30 years in prison.
Weddle waived extradition after his arrest in Virginia on May 6. Police reported in an affidavit filed in court at the time of his arrest that Weddle’s license had been revoked in Virginia.
According to the Russell County Circuit Court in Lebanon, Virginia, Weddle was charged in September 2013 with driving under the influence. He was convicted the following month for the offense and given a suspended 180-day jail term and had his license suspended for 12 months. The court also required him to have an ignition interlock system that does not allow a person under the influence to drive.
He also had his license suspended in Louisiana for failing to take a test when stopped for suspected driving under the influence and not paying the reinstatement fee.
In March, Weddle was driving a 1998 Freightliner loaded with lumber west near Fitch Road in Washington when the rig veered into the eastbound lane, according to police. Fowles was driving east in a 2009 Chevrolet Colorado and was the first vehicle in line struck by the truck.
The trailer and load of lumber then struck a 1998 Chrysler van that was behind Fowles and being driven by Torres-York. The van was pushed into a nearby field and burst into flames.
A 2014 Nissan driven by Tracy Cook, 51, of Union also was struck by the trailer, and it rolled over once before hitting another vehicle that had been following, a 2015 Kia driven by Tracy Morgan, 33, of Washington. Morgan was able to avoid being struck by the trailer after she took evasive action, but not the Nissan as it rolled over. The Nissan and the Kia came to rest in the field to the right.
Morgan was uninjured in the crash. Cook was taken by ambulance to a local hospital.
Weddle was taken by a LifeFlight helicopter to Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston. A passenger in the Freightliner, Lowell Babb, 32, of Virginia, was taken to Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport and treated for minor injuries.
According to an affidavit filed by the Knox County Sheriff’s Office to obtain the arrest warrant for Weddle, his blood-alcohol level was 0.09 when a blood sample was taken from him by an emergency medical services worker at the scene of the crash.
A sample taken more than an hour later at Central Maine Medical Center resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.073. The driver also had hydrocodone in his system, according to the police report.
Under Maine law, a person is considered to be operating under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is at 0.08 or greater. Federal law states a commercial driver is under the influence if his or her blood alcohol level is 0.04 or greater.
Weddle told investigators at the hospital that he had not been feeling well and had taken a drug called Lortab, which contains hydrocodone, according to court documents. Weddle said he had come from Tennessee and made a delivery in Massachusetts before coming to Maine to pick up lumber in Searsmont. He was heading back to Tennessee to deliver the load when the crash occurred.
Weddle’s truck had been traveling 81 mph shortly before the crash and was operating at 73 mph when it occurred, according to the affidavit. That information was obtained from data downloaded from the engine control module, according to police. The speed limit is 55 mph on that section of Route 17.