FARMINGTON — A Jay woman pleaded guilty Friday in Franklin County Superior Court to a felony manslaughter charge in connection with an accident that killed her husband last year.
Barbara Benoit, 51, waived her rights to a trial and accepted a plea agreement. The deal dismissed a second charge of aggravated operating under the influence of alcohol in the crash on Route 133 in Jay that killed Peter Benoit, 56, on July 12, 2009.
Justice Michaela Murphy postponed sentencing to Aug. 20 on the manslaughter charge, for which Benoit faces a maximum of 30 years in prison for causing the death of her husband.
If the case had gone to trial, Assistant District Attorney Andrew Robinson told the court, state evidence would have shown Benoit admitted to having two glasses of wine before the couple left their Farmington restaurant and headed home to 39 Davis Road, off Route 133, about a half-mile from the accident scene. She also admitted to being the driver.
Blood tests taken from Benoit by emergency personnel that night would show her blood-alcohol level was 0.12; Maine's legal threshold for driving is 0.08.
Benoit was driving a 2008 Subaru Outback when she lost control of the car and hit a guardrail, police said. Her husband's head came in contact with the guardrail and a section of the car. Barbara Benoit drove home and called an ambulance, police said.
A medical examiner would have testified that the cause of her husband's death was a skull fracture suffered in the accident, Robinson told the court.
On that night, police went to the scene of the wreck when someone reported hearing a crash and pinpointed the vicinity. Jay officer Troy Young found a large amount of debris and indications that a car had hit a guardrail, but no vehicle was at the scene. Young also found a purse with cards belonging to Barbara Benoit, Robinson said.
The local dispatch received 911 hangups from the 39 Davis Road residence.
When Young arrived at the home, he found the passenger had died, Robinson said. Barbara Benoit showed signs of shock but was cooperative, submitted to testing and admitted to having the wine, he said.
Benoit's lawyer, David Austin, told the court that Benoit did not have a phone with her at the accident scene on a not heavily traveled highway and drove the short distance to their house where she tried to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation on her husband.