LEWISTON — The lawyer representing Kristina Lowe, the driver in a fatal crash in January, said a patch of ice caused the crash that killed two teenagers, not texting or drinking.
Criminal defense lawyer James Howaniec said he has proof that Lowe wasn't texting at the time of the crash. He called on Maine State Police and the media to stop saying otherwise.
“She was texting earlier that night, but the forensic evidence indicates, unequivocally, that she was not texting at the time of the crash,” Howaniec said.
Lowe, 19, was driving a Subaru sedan on Route 219 in West Paris in January when it crashed, killing passengers Rebecca Mason, 16, and Logan Dam, 19. Police say she was drunk, speeding and sending a text message when she crashed, and that she left the scene afterward.
She was arrested last week on two charges of manslaughter, aggravated operating under the influence, aggravated driving to endanger and leaving the scene of a fatal crash. She is free on a $50,000 unsecured bond.
Howaniec said Lowe's family has been quiet for months but was concerned about “very inaccurate” information about his client. “We're very concerned about our ability to get a fair trial,” he said.
He criticized Maine State Police for saying before a grand jury could hear the case that Lowe was drunk and texting while driving.
“We've watched this 19-year-old girl get tried and convicted by some people out there before she could even get formally charged,” he said.
Howaniec said Lowe is suffering from severe emotional trauma, is having nightmares about the crash and has been in counseling. Her family has been harassed, he said.
“I think just a lot of people think this is an open-and-shut case,” Howaniec said. He said the state's case is flimsy, that Lowe hit an ice patch that night, causing the crash.
Maine State Police spokesman Stephen McCausland said Thursday that “the charges speak for themselves.”
A sworn statement by Trooper Thomas Welch says Lowe told police she had been texting when she crashed. It also says an analysis of her cellphone by the Maine Computer Crimes Task Force found she had been texting at the time of the crash.
Howaniec also denied that Lowe was drunk at the time of the crash. He said her blood-alcohol level, 0.04 percent, was “an almost nonexistent amount of alcohol.”
Blood-alcohol content of less than 0.05 percent is treated as evidence, under Maine law, that a person is not under the influence of alcohol, Howaniec said.
According to the affidavit, Lowe's blood-alcohol content was 0.04 percent two hours after the crash.
Howaniec also criticized reports that people tried to take Lowe's keys from her before the crash to keep her from driving, an account given to the Sun Journal by someone who was with Lowe before the crash and who asked not to be named.
“This allegation is utterly false," Howaniec said. "There is absolutely no evidence that any such thing ever occurred.”
Lowe's father, Earl Lowe, assisted the Maine State Police in the past as a crash investigator over a four-year period.