The woman killed in a Friday crash in Alton was on her way to work at her daughter’s church cafe when she was struck by a relative who was texting while driving, police and a family member said.
Robin Gardner, 63, of LaGrange died instantly when Tyler Creighton, 25, crossed the centerline on Bennoch Road just before 7:30 a.m. and pushed her car into a ditch, according to police.
Creighton of Medford is the half-brother of Gardner’s son-in-law, Alex Creighton.
Creighton was texting at the time of the collision, he later told police. He also admitted to officers that he was headed from a methadone clinic, and might have marijuana in his system, according to District Attorney Mark Rucci, and one responding officer reported Creighton was slurring his speech and had “glassy eyes” after the crash.
Methadone, a medication used to treat opioid addiction, is not known to impair driving, according to a clinical study.
Robin’s daughter, Brooke Gardner, said she was stunned when she found that Creighton was allegedly behind the wheel of the car that killed her mother.
“I also really felt like, ‘OK, I don’t understand this,’” the 30-year-old Old Town pastor recalled. “But God, you must have a plan for this, because it just doesn’t make any sense [that] it was this person.”
Creighton was arrested Friday on charges of driving to endanger, and violating conditions of release from an Oct. 23 OUI charge in Piscataquis County, according to a booking officer.
The district attorney’s office brought an additional Class A charge of manslaughter against him during his first court appearance in Bangor Monday via video conference from the Penobscot County Jail. The class A charge carries a maximum penalty of up to 30 years in prison and a $50,000 fine.
His lawyer, Zachary Smith, said the crash “wasn’t necessarily anything more than a head-on collision” caused by Creighton inadvertently taking his eyes off the road, and shouldn’t warrant criminal manslaughter charges.
In an interview earlier that morning, Brooke recalled her mother as “just one of those people” — a nurturing, straight-talking woman, and a beloved member of the LaGrange community for the last 30 years.
She often helped Brooke — one of Robin’s three children — work the window at the New Life Old Town church cafe, where she was headed the morning she died.
Brooke, who founded the church and cafe, stayed in her parents’ spare bedroom the night before, after she helped her mother prepare a Thanksgiving meal for their immediate family.
When she left in the morning, Brooke said she told her mother she loved her, twice, and left Robin reading her Bible in the living room.
“Those moments are so precious,” she recalled tearfully Monday.
A memorial service for Gardner will be held at the New Life Old Town at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.
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