Ethyn Buotte, right, is comforted by his attorney, Jeffrey Wilson, on Friday morning in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington as Justice Robert Muller reads the obituary of Griffyn Smith, who was killed in an accident exactly a year ago in a car Buotte was driving. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

FARMINGTON — A Rumford teen was sentenced Friday to serve three years of a 10-year sentence for manslaughter in the death of his best friend.

Ethyn Eric Buotte, 19, pleaded guilty in Franklin County Superior Court to causing the death of Griffyn Smith of Dixfield, also 19. The state dismissed a charge of operating under the influence resulting in death, in exchange for the plea.

Police said Buotte was driving drunk and under the influence of drugs when he crashed his car in Weld on May 31, 2018, killing Smith.

Smith was a four-time state champion wrestler at Dirigo High School in Dixfield. He earned an associate degree in precision machining and had planned to enlist in the U.S. Navy.

 

Ethyn Buotte enters Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington Friday morning for his sentencing. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

Deputy District Attorney James Andrews told the court that Buotte, then 18, was driving a 2008 Toyota Corolla at 71 mph in a 35-mph zone when he lost control of the car at about 11:30 p.m. on West Side Road in Weld. Smith was a passenger in the back seat. The car started to spin and rolled over several times. It hit a tree and the roof imploded and came down on Smith. The car continued to spin and Smith was ejected. The cause of Smith’s death was blunt-force trauma, Andrews said.

Evidence showed that Buotte had been drinking alcohol and had snorted an opioid painkiller — hydrocodone — and had a prescription medicine in his system.

He had a blood-alcohol level of 0.138% about two hours after the crash, Andrews said. The legal threshold for adults 21 and over is 0.08.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Wilson said Buotte disagreed with some of the state’s evidence, including that he attempted to leave the scene and burned evidence. Wilson had filed motions to suppress evidence, but Buotte told him not to go through with them because he wanted to take responsibility for his actions, Wilson said.

Andrews argued for Buotte to serve three years, while Wilson argued for nine months and a day.

Ethyn Buotte, right, listens as his attorney, Jeffrey Wilson, addresses Justice Robert Muller in Franklin County Superior Court in Farmington on Friday morning. Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham

“Ethyn has the rest of his life to live and my son has none,” said Smith’s mother, Cheryl Smith. She said her family has shown compassion toward Buotte.

“It is only fair he get the full amount,” Smith said, meaning the plea agreement’s three-year cap.

Cindy Smith Prakash told the court her nephew was killed by Buotte’s “intentional, selfish and senseless” actions. In a cruel twist of fate, it was on his parents’ wedding anniversary, she said. The car Buotte was driving was unsafe and had two doughnut tires on it, she said.

“I can’t imagine the terror that Griffyn experienced (before his death),” Prakash said, in tears. “Griffyn actually cared about you, Ethyn, when others didn’t.”

A caseworker for Buotte said for the past six to nine months he has not only worked hard to better himself, he has set some goals, including to speak to youths to help them not make the mistakes he made.

Buotte had started to take control of his life, Wilson said, and went back and finished high school. Buotte was barely an adult at the time of the crash, and is very remorseful, his attorney said.

Buotte spoke directly to Errin and Cheryl Smith, Griffyn’s parents, and apologized more than once to the family, and said he recognized that was not enough. He thinks of Griffyn constantly and wishes he could undo that night. He also apologized to his family and the community.

“I will never be able to make this right,” he said. “I want to reach out to young adults to keep them from doing the same things I did.”

Before he was taken into custody, Buotte spoke with Smith’s family privately. It ended with a handshake from Smith’s father and a hug from Smith’s mother.

Cheryl Smith went over and hugged Buotte’s family.


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