Thursday, December 12, 2013
BIDDEFORD — The parents of David Labonte, the pickup truck driver charged with manslaughter and aggravated drunk driving in a crash that killed a 51-year-old man, said Friday — amid expressions of sorrow and sympathy for Jamerico Elliott and his family — that they believed their son had stopped drinking.
Rescuers attend to one of the victims at the scene of the crash in Biddeford last week. The driver who allegedly struck a family of cyclists has been charged.
Victor Dorais photo
“I was really impressed with how good he was doing,” said Paul Labonte, hours before his son was arrested and charged in connection with the accident that killed Elliott and left his 17-month-old son Lavarice Elliott in critical condition. Labonte is scheduled to appear in Springvale District Court Monday to be formally charged with killing Elliott and possibly to ask that his $100,000 bail be lowered.
Elliott died Wednesday, five days after Labonte’s uninsured pickup smashed into Elliott’s bicycle. Lavarice, who was riding in a child seat on the back of the bike, remained in critical condition Friday at Maine Medical Center in Portland.
The truck also hit Melodie Brennan, the boy’s mother, who was riding on her bicycle and sustained a broken ankle.
York County District Attorney Kathryn Slattery said Friday that a blood sample taken from Labonte three hours after the crash as part of a search warrant - after he refused to voluntarily supply one - showed a blood alcohol content of 0.15. A test taken by Southern Maine Medical Center, where Labonte was taken after the accident and also obtained through a search warrant, showed a blood alcohol content of 0.17, she said.
A blood alcohol content of .08 is considered drunken driving in Maine. Labonte was driving on a conditional license, meaning he is not allowed to have any alcohol in his system. He has four prior OUIs on his driving record.
In addition to manslaughter, Labonte was charged with aggravated operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, according to Biddeford police, who arrested Labonte at his parents’ home Friday. He had been staying with them recently to save money, his parents said.
Labonte met with his attorney earlier on Friday, his parents said. They did not know his attorney’s name.
Paul Labonte, sitting next to his wife Anita, said his family is anguished over Elliott’s death.
“I can’t sleep at night. We feel terrible,” he said. “That man is gone. The little baby...,” he said, shaking his head slowly. He didn’t finish the sentence.
Their son also feels awful and wishes he could go back in time and undo his actions, Paul Labonte said.
“There isn’t anything more we can say or do,” he said. “This man is gone.”
Labonte was raised in a successful, respected family. Paul Labonte owned a local hotel and dispatched buses for the school department, officials said. They live in one of Biddeford’s newer and attractive neighborhoods on the west side of town.
The younger Labonte has always been somewhat of a black sheep all his life, “never catching a break” his father said, even though his three siblings have all done well.
“He seemed to be doing really good - wasn’t drinking. But I guess the blood work shows he was,” Paul Labonte said. “If he did it, he’ll pay the price.”
The day of the accident, David Labonte had come home from work, showered and then told his parents he was going to help a friend in Cape Porpoise move a dock.
“He’s really a great guy - give you anything,” his father said. Paul Labonte believes that around his friends, his son grew weak, and joined them in drinking, despite his problems with alcohol.
A motorist who passed David Labonte’s truck on Friday, moments before the accident, said the driver appeared to be asleep at the wheel, according to a police affidavit.
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