Rangeley man pleads guilty in crash that claimed Wilton man's life

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FARMINGTON — A Rangeley man was sentenced Tuesday to serve two years of a nine-year sentence for driving drunk, which resulted in the death of another driver.

Rusty LeRoy Knox, 35, of East Wilton, a self-employed logger, husband of his school sweetheart and the father of four, died at the scene on Lambert Hill Road in Strong on Oct. 25, 2016.

Mark Garner, 25, pleaded guilty to a felony charge of aggravated operating under the influence-death in Franklin County Superior Court.

The state dismissed a charge of manslaughter in a plea agreement that was accepted by Knox’s family.

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Upon his release from prison, Garner will be on probation for three years. The sentence also calls for a 10-year loss of his driver’s license, a $2,100 fine and 400 hours of public service. He is required to go to local area schools 10 times and address students about reckless driving and use of alcohol while driving.

If the case went to trial, Assistant District Attorney Joshua Robbins said Franklin County Sheriff’s Deputy Andrew Morgan would have testified that he responded to a two-vehicle accident and found Garner and two passengers standing outside of Garner’s truck.

Garner told Morgan that he was at fault and had been driving too fast and drinking too much, Robbins said.

A representative of the Maine Department of Health and Human Services would have testified that Garner’s blood alcohol level was 0.096 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, he said.

Passengers in Garner’s truck would have testified that Garner had been drinking and was driving fast to show off his new truck.

Sheriff’s Detective Stephen Charles reconstructed the accident and would have testified that the vehicle’s wheel speed was 73 miles per hour 2.5 seconds before impact and air bags deployed. A half-second before the crash it was approximately 57 mph and brakes were engaged, Robbins said.

Jammie Tyler, Knox’s sister, said Rusty was loved and touched more lives that she ever knew. He fought for the underdog, those being bullied and he was her protector, he said.

“We are scarred. We are broken but we are still here,” Tyler said.

Tyler told Garner he made a very bad decision and unfortunately his choice cost her brother his life.

“You have a chance to change your life,” she said, and a chance to be the man her brother would have been proud to shake hands with.

She told him that she hoped he can forgive himself and not to let her brother’s life be in vain.

Other family members also spoke including his mother, Janette, who said her son crossed many people’s paths and changed so many lives.

Garner’s attorney, Walter Hanstein, said Garner did not have a criminal record. He was remorseful from the beginning and took responsibility for what happened.

“There is not one day that goes by that I don’t think about what happened,” he said.

For lack of better words, he said, “I’m truly sorry.”

Justice William Stokes granted a stay until Sept. 26 so Garner can get a medical issue taken care of before he reports to the jail.

dperry@sunmediagroup.net

Mark Garner
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