PARIS — Kristina Lowe’s father was arrested late Tuesday, charged with contempt of court after he failed to show up to testify at her double manslaughter trial in Oxford County Superior Court.

State Police Trooper Adam Fillebrown arrested Earl Lowe, 43, at his home on Mt. Mica Road in South Paris at 9:30 p.m. on a warrant issued after he failed to show up in court. Lowe was taken to Oxford County Jail, where he was held until court convened Wednesday morning.

Lowe was brought into the courtroom more than half an hour before the jury, escorted by a number of court officers, and was seated in the witness box while officers stood guard. Several times, he looked across the room where his daughter sat at the defense table, but she did not appear to respond to him.

Kristina Lowe, 21, of Oxford, is facing five felony charges in connection with a car accident that killed Rebecca Mason, 16, of West Paris and Logan Dam, 19, of West Paris; two charges of vehicular manslaughter, two charges of aggravated criminal operating under the influence and one charge of the leaving the scene of a fatal accident. The accident occurred in the early hours of Jan. 7, 2012, on Route 219 in West Paris.

If Lowe is convicted on all counts, she faces more than 60 years in jail.

Her father had been subpoenaed to testify for the prosecution and when he took the stand, Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne asked him what his daughter said to Trooper Lauren Edstrom while he and Lowe’s mother, Melissa Stanley of Oxford, were in her hospital room at Maine Medical Center in Portland about five hours after the crash.

Lowe testified that his daughter had said she was driving the car — an issue of contention in the case — and had looked at her cellphone when she heard it ring.

Lowe had been given several doses of painkillers before talking with Edstrom and her parents, and Earl Lowe remembered that she was “extremely nervous about the surgery on her back,” and was in a lot of pain because of a broken back and a broken nose.

“She remembered her phone ringing and looked to see who it was,” the elder Lowe testified. He said his daughter told Edstrom the car began to drift and that “Logan reached from the back to correct left, and that’s when she lost control of the car.”

This is not the testimony offered earlier in the trial when Beauchesne played an audio recording of Edstrom’s interview with Lowe. On that recording, Lowe could be heard denying more than a dozen times that she had been driving the car; after about 30 minutes, when Edstrom told her police believed Jacob Skaff was the passenger, Lowe said she might have been driving the car.

Earl Lowe said his daughter told Edstrom she had been driving the car before the officer turned on the audiotape. “I left when she started taping because she asked us to leave,” he testified. He wasn’t there to hear what his daughter told Edstrom while being taped.

After Earl Lowe testified, he was released and the contempt of court charge against him was dropped, according to officials.

Defense attorney James Howaniec called his sixth and last witness Wednesday, bringing Bowdoin College professor and physicist Dale Syphers back to the stand to finish testimony that began Tuesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Syphers criticized the Maine State Police accident reconstruction analysis and said police had not calculated the right numbers and had come to wrong conclusions about the speed and distance the Lowe car had traveled in the air before it struck a stand of trees roof-first.

Assistant District Attorney Joseph O’Connor picked apart Syphers’ analysis, and asked him whether he was an accredited accident reconstructionist or a member of any professional accident reconstruction association. Syphers said he was not, nor had he ever had any of his 200 or so accident reconstruction evaluations peer-reviewed, which is required of accredited reconstructionists.

O’Connor asked whether Syphers was aware that the National Transportation Safety Board set minimum standards for accident reconstruction, the same standards that Trooper Daniel Hanson used for his reconstruction evaluation. Syphers said he was aware but that he believed those standards were flawed and could be improved with input from physicists.

Hanson’s reconstruction put the speed of the car at 75 mph along a portion of Route 219, zoned for 50 mph, just before the wreck, and about 71 mph when the car went airborne. Syphers’ evaluation had the car traveling more slowly along the road and moving a maximum of 57 mph while in the air.

Whether the car was speeding and by how much is a critical piece of evidence in the state’s case — one of four essential elements that Beauchesne told the jury during his closing argument the state had easily proved.

When Syphers’ testimony was finished, Howaniec rested his defense without calling Kristina Lowe to testify.

In his summation to the jury, Beauchesne said that in order to prove Lowe committed the felony crimes of manslaughter and OUI, he had to prove she was driving the car involved in the wreck, that she was under the influence of alcohol or drugs while driving, that she was speeding and that she was distracted by an incoming text.

That combination of actions, he said, demonstrates what the law recognizes as a gross deviation from the standard of conduct of a reasonable and prudent person under the same circumstances.

And, to prove that Lowe left the scene of a fatal accident, Beauchesne said the state had to show she failed to render reasonable assistance to people injured in a car she had been driving. He said as soon as Lowe and Skaff got out of the car, they knew Mason and Dam were badly injured, perhaps even dead, and that she should have gone to the nearest house to call for help.

She didn’t, he said, “or to any one of the 24 residences between the crash site and the party” at 12 Yeaton Lane in West Paris, where they went instead “because they knew they would be safe.”

Beauchesne said Skaff, 24, of South Paris, could be excused for this lack of action because he suffered a serious head injury in the crash and was disoriented, but there was no evidence that Lowe suffered any such injury and she should have been clear-headed and quick to get help.

In setting up the elements of the case, Beauchesne said the state was not working to prove that Lowe purposely intended to kill Mason and Dam. He argued that the state must prove that she acted recklessly with a conscious disregard of the known risks of her actions. And, he said, there were multiple instances in which Lowe acted with what he called guilt of consciousness, including when she asked her friends not to call 911, asked another friend to take her away from the party, denied to medical personnel and police officers that she had been driving and said what she had to to avoid getting into trouble.

She “had the presence of mind to make some self-serving statements” to her friends at the party, Beauchesne said, including telling one man not to call police because she “didn’t want to go to jail.”

“If she was clear-thinking enough to make those statements, she was clear-thinking enough to stop at one of those 24 houses” to get help for Mason and Dam, Beauchesne said, and didn’t because she was trying to avoid police.

Beauchesne said the state proved Lowe was driving through the testimony of passenger Skaff, who said he couldn’t drive the manual shift in the 2002 Subaru Impreza, which is consistent with testimony offered by Earl Lowe and others that Kristina Lowe told them she had been driving.

He said the state proved Lowe had been drinking, first through the 0.04 blood alcohol content, tested two hours after the crash, and also through testimony of her friends at the West Paris party who saw her drinking Jagermeister from the bottle, and by EMTs, doctors, nurses and police officers whom Lowe told she had been “too drunk to drive.”

Beauchesne put more credence in the accredited testimony of Trooper Hanson on the speed of the vehicle, but said that even if the jury looked at Syphers’ speed analysis, both of the reconstruction reports concluded Lowe had been driving much faster than the posted speed limit at the time of the crash.

Finally, Beauchesne said the fourth element, proving that she was distracted while driving, was clear in the timeline of the crash. She, Skaff, Mason and Dam left The Big Apple on Route 26 in West Paris right after Lowe left the store at 12:10 a.m. The Maine State Crime Lab identified an incoming text on her phone time-stamped 12:11 a.m., which read: “you guys coming or not? Me and Bolduc are gonna bounce.”

The crash occurred at 12:15 a.m.

More than an hour later, when Lowe and Skaff got back to the party, seven of the young people attending that party testified that Lowe — who was upset and crying — told most of them that “she had been reading a text and lost control of her car,”  Beauchesne said. She gave more details to other party-goers, including the fact that Logan had leaned forward in the car to try to correct its direction, which matches Earl Lowe’s testimony.

The jury broke for lunch before Howaniec made his closing argument, and when he did, he reminded the jury that only the party-goers said Lowe was intoxicated. None of the medical personnel who treated her, nor the police officers who interviewed her, saw any sign she was drunk, he said.

He suggested the jury disregard the statements of the party-goers, whom he believed would say anything to see Lowe get punished for the deaths of their friends. He said he counted more than 50 versions of their combined stories since the day of the accident, and that even though Lowe had been invited to the Yeaton Lane home, none of the people at the party liked her.

“Some of them,” he said, “are just dripping with disdain with my client over what happened.”

He was particularly hard on party witness Megan Plummer.

Howaniec told the jury he has been practicing law for 28 years and had “never in my life met a witness like Megan Plummer. I’ve seen some crazy witnesses before, but I’ve never seen anyone like Megan Plummer,” whom he said changed her story mid-sentence multiple times during her testimony.

He also said witness Donovan Dow “was just itching to dump on my client,” not just in the courtroom, but in telling police officers that he thought she was a regular drinker, “the kind of girl who would drink five out of seven nights.”

“This young lady had a full-time job and was a top student at Oxford Hills” whom Dow didn’t like and whom Dow hardly even knew, Howaniec said.

He argued that the state had not proven its case that Lowe had been driving and pointed to how many medical workers testified that she said she had not been behind the wheel. He said the state could never prove she was intoxicated because a 0.04 BAC is below the statutory limit considered for intoxication, and that the state could never prove that she even saw the 12:11 a.m. text because her phone doesn’t clock when texts are read, only when they arrive.

As for consciousness of guilt, Howaniec asked the jury to remember that “a little after midnight on Jan. 7, Kristina Lowe and three other kids were in a horrific accident and two of them were killed. And 18-year-old Kristina Lowe and Jacob Skaff dug themselves out of a ditch in subfreezing temperatures in the darkness of West Paris and made their way home to where they knew some people” who could help them. That wasn’t her acting on her guilt, he said, but from fear, stress, pain and confusion.

Howaniec asked the jury to apply some common sense about the strain Lowe was under that night, and to consider that she acted from confusion and fear.

In court Wednesday, Mason’s father, Jerrold Mason, was wearing a camo T-shirt with the number 4 and the name “Becca” on the back, and the words, “Forever on the fields; Forever in our hearts.”

Mason had been a member of the Oxford Hills field hockey team and her teammates had the shirts made after she died. The school district also retired her jersey number.

Jerrold Mason has attended all six days of the trial, as have a number of other family members and friends.

Deb Sande of Norway, Logan Dam’s mother, had attended the trial last week but was too upset to be in the courtroom Monday or Tuesday this week. She returned late Wednesday morning to hear closing arguments, but left after Howaniec implied that if Dam had leaned forward in the car, that may have contributed to the crash.

Lowe’s mother has also attended each day of the trial, supported by family members and friends. She left the courtroom during Earl Lowe’s testimony Wednesday morning, by direction of a court officer, and returned once it ended.

Active-Retired Justice Robert Clifford will give the jury of eight women and seven men instruction on the law they must consider in evaluating this case on Thursday morning before they begin deliberations.

[email protected]


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.