AUBURN — A Lewiston man will lose his license for four years and spend 30 days behind bars after pleading guilty to charges related to a head-on car crash on Route 196 two years ago in which an 80-year-old woman was killed.

Spencer Emerson, 22, of 78 Winter St. had been driving on July 13, 2013, with a suspended driver’s license because of an April 2013 traffic infraction. Had he paid the reinstatement fee after the 30-day suspension, he would have avoided the criminal charges, prosecutors said.

Emerson had been listening to music on his iPhone while driving with an earbud in one ear, according to prosecutors. Emerson briefly glanced down and that was the last thing he remembered from the incident. He hadn’t been calling or texting on his phone and there was no indication he was otherwise impaired, prosecutors said.

On Wednesday in Androscoggin County Superior Court, the driver of the other car limped to the microphone with the aid of a cane and told the judge how spry and independent she had been before the incident robbed her of those things.

The collision also stole the life of her friend, Charlene McKeen of Sabattus, who had been a passenger in her car.

“Charlene was killed in my car and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about Charlene,” said Arlene Harris of Lisbon Falls.


The impact fractured Harris’ two hip bones, two ribs, arm (requiring a metal plate) and pelvis (broken in three places.) The collision bruised her liver and nearly severed her foot, which was reattached after multiple surgeries, District Attorney Andrew Robinson said Wednesday.

Before the incident, Harris had been a “young 80.” She was “always busy,” didn’t take any medication, walked everywhere and volunteered.

Since the collision, her life has “been really, really rough.” After six surgeries, one of her legs was left shorter than the other, causing her to be off-balance.

“I’m just not able to do things I’ve always been able to do,” she said.

She spent months in rehab. When she came home, she had to use a wheelchair and was cared for by her family, she said.

“It’s been a long two years and four months,” she said.


“I just want to tell you that, despite all of this, you don’t look 80 at all, so you’re doing really, really well, ” Justice MaryGay Kennedy said. “I’m so very sorry for all that you’ve gone through.”

“Charlene was so loving and she’s missed every single day,” said Jane Peach, who called McKeen her “other mother.” The two would attend church every Sunday then dine out for lunch afterward, Peach said.

“It’s not fair, but I hope Spencer can think about all these things and realize what he did to us and how much Charlene was loved,” she said.

Robinson said the victims of the crime were understanding and didn’t intend to derail Emerson’s life plans by “shackling him with a felony.”

But, Robinson said, “it’s super-important to know what happened to (them), what his conduct resulted in and the impact it had on their lives.”

He said his office worked to reach an agreement that weighed the seriousness of the incident against the life of the 22-year-old senior at the University of Maine.


They crafted a plea and sentencing deal that dismissed the Class B felony of causing death while license suspended or revoked, a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Spencer also had been indicted by an Androscoggin County grand jury on a charge of operating after revocation, a Class C felony, punishable by up to five years in prison.

On that charge, prosecutors offered Emerson a deferred disposition. That means, over the next two years, Emerson must not drive a motor vehicle, must perform 200 hours of community service and attend school or work full-time. If he were to comply with those terms, he would be able to withdraw his plea to the felony in November 2017 and replace it with a misdemeanor plea of operating after suspension.

A third charge was added of driving to endanger, also a Class E misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. On that charge, Emerson was sentenced to 30 days, starting on Dec. 19. That way, he won’t miss classes, but will spend the holidays behind bars.

On a civil complaint of motor vehicle violation resulting in death, Emerson lost his license for four years.

“Mr. Emerson, you have got to stay away from a car for a very long time,” Kennedy said. “Hopefully, the impact of (the victims’) words will resonate with you.”

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