An Etna man was sentenced Tuesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center to 15 years in prison with all but 44 months suspended in connection with the death last year of a 73-year-old grandmother, who was known as “the nurse in the neighborhood.”
Richard Lupo II, 32, pleaded no contest last month to manslaughter and aggravated operating while under the influence of intoxicants.
No contest pleas result in convictions.
Debra Calderwood of Etna was described by family Tuesday as a devoted caregiver who, even in retirement, was known as “the nurse in the neighborhood.” She volunteered regularly at her church and Bangor Area Homeless Shelter, where she provided health care to residents.
Calderwood was a nurse in the U.S. Air Force when she met her husband, John Calderwood, who was a member of the U.S. Coast Guard. He said in his victim impact statement that she had survived cancer and was looking forward to finally settling into retirement when she was killed.
“After a life of hard work and a fight with cancer, she deserved a retirement where things were finally a little easier,” he said. “We thought we had arrived at that peace and, now, it’s gone.”
Following the crash, a blood test performed at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center showed that cocaine, methadone, other opiates and the tranquilizer benzodiazepine were in Lupo’s blood, Devon DeMarco, assistant district attorney for Penobscot County, told Superior Court Justice Ann Murray.
An emotional Lupo told the judge that his addiction to opioids took over his life. Lupo said after serving his sentence, he would try to honor Calderwood’s memory by helping others as she did.
“All through the years I was an addict, I thought the person I was hurting was myself,” Lupo said. “I failed to see everyone else and that I was hurting them. I acting shamefully and now this beautiful woman is gone because of me.”
“I don’t ask you to forgive me,” he continued. “What Debra deserves is for me to try to be a decent human being and to help others like she did.”
He also urged others in the throes of addiction to seek help before they harm someone as he did.
In his plea agreement with the Penobscot County district attorney’s office, one count of driving to endanger was dismissed.
Silverstein said his client, who was seriously injured in the crash but not insured, has saved more than $2,300 toward restitution.
DeMarco recommended a sentence of 15 years in prison with all but four suspended to be followed by four years of probation. Defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein urged Murray to send Lupo to prison for 3½ years.
In imposing the sentence, Murray said that she found Lupo’s remorse over Debra Calderwood’s death “sincere.” The judge said it was a substantial mitigating factor in her decision not to impose the sentence DeMarco recommended.
Calderwood died instantly at about 3:13 p.m. Aug. 4, 2017, when the car Lupo was driving struck her vehicle head-on along Route 2 in Etna, DeMarco said. Lupo, who was not insured, was driving west in the eastbound lane more than 30 mph over the speed limit.
Lupo’s 2009 Dodge Caliber was traveling at 81 mph 5 seconds before hitting Calderwood’s 2009 Honda Fit, data from his airbag showed. The speed limit on that section of Route 2 is 50 mph.
Empty methadone bottles and drug paraphernalia were found in Lupo’s car, DeMarco said.
Lupo was arrested in January. He was released in April on $20,000 cash bail, after a motion to lower bail from $50,000 cash.
In addition to prison time, Lupo was sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to pay $1,062 in restitution to the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office for drug testing and $500 to John Calderwood to cover the cost of deductible from his car insurance. Lupo also was ordered to pay a mandatory $2,100 fine on the OUI charge.
The most serious charge of manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a maximum fine of $50,000.
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