It’s been nearly three years since former corrections officer Kenneth Morang, driving home from a 16-hour shift at the Cumberland County Jail, collided with an oncoming vehicle carrying a family returning home from seeing a movie in Westbrook. One passenger, 9-year-old Raelynn Bell of Cumberland, died a few days later.

As Morang ,who is charged with manslaughter, prepares for a jury trial, his attorney argued Tuesday in Cumberland County Court that evidence from a detective who talked to Morang after the crash should be thrown out because Morang’s statements were involuntary. The detective didn’t follow his department’s policy for recording statements, the lawyer said. Morang’s family also testified that he talked to the detective only after the detective promised that he would not be charged.

Detective Sgt. Daniel Young of the Gorham Police Department was mowing his lawn the afternoon of July 21, 2019, when he received a call that there was a “significant” crash and he needed to go to Maine Medical Center in Portland to talk to the drivers. Six people involved in the crash had been transported to the hospital, including Morang and three children.

Kenneth Morang, a former corrections officer, in January, when he pleaded not guilty to manslaughter in a crash that killed a 9-year-old girl in Gorham in July. Standing next to Morang in court is his attorney, Amy Fairfield. Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

Young arrived wearing plain clothes and driving an unmarked police vehicle, not even having stopped by his office to pick up recording equipment, he testified Tuesday. He said he went to the hospital to get the identities of the drivers and collect information on what led to the accident.

Young found Morang in the Emergency Room after meeting Raelynn’s father, Michael Bell. What happened during Young’s first conversation with Morang is the subject of dispute.

According to Young, Morang said that he had “nodded off” a couple of times during his drive from Portland. Young said that the corrections officer went on to describe long stretches of back-to-back shifts at the regional jail, totaling almost 100 hours some weeks, and said he usually only got about four hours of sleep a night.


According to the crash report, Morang was driving west on Route 25 after his shift at the jail in Portland when he crashed his Ford F-150 into the back of the Bells’ SUV when it was stopped in traffic at the Dow Road intersection in Gorham. Morang told police he couldn’t hit his brakes fast enough – and when he hit the SUV, he pushed the family’s vehicle into oncoming traffic. Raelynn was in the third row of the SUV.

Young said he spoke with Morang for about 15 to 20 minutes while Morang’s family waited outside the room, during which time he said he reminded Morang more than once that they were speaking voluntarily and that Morang could tell him to leave anytime.

The detective returned to the hospital two days later to speak with Morang again, this time bringing a small digital recorder. Prosecutors from the state Attorney General’s Office played that recording for the court Tuesday, in which Young asks Morang about his long shifts and lack of sleep.

But Morang’s attorney, Amy Fairfield, said Young violated the Gorham Police Department’s policy for recorded interviews by not recording the first interview, during which Young said Morang spoke of nodding off and being short on sleep. In the recorded second interview, she said, Morang answered Young’s questions with qualifying statements. For instance, when Young said he knew Morang was “obviously tired” before the crash, Morang said, “It’s not something I haven’t felt before,” which Fairfield said was different than admitting he “nodded off.”

Young confirmed that he had a work-issued iPhone with recording capabilities, which Fairfield said he could have used during his first conversation with Morang.

“[All the] inculpatory stuff was said to you, with no other law enforcement officers and no recording,” Fairfield said.


Morang’s family also testified Tuesday that Young’s talk with Morang was shorter than the detective testified, and that Young told them during that first meeting that Morang wouldn’t face charges. They said Young identified himself as a detective and that the statement carried authority.

Morang’s daughter Amy Mejias said she recalled Young saying, “There is going to be no charges. This was an accident.”

Raelynn Bell GoFundMe

Mejias’ two daughters, now 19 and 20, testified via Zoom and also said they could recall Young promising there would be no charges.

Young denied promising anything.

“I would never make any promises to anybody. … I would never tell anybody that they would never see any charges, or anything like that,” Young said.

Tuesday’s hearing was in response to a motion Morang’s attorneys filed in October. Morang was indicted in November 2019, but he has been out on personal recognizance since January 2020. His trial remains unscheduled and it’s unclear when Cumberland County Superior Justice Thomas McKeon will rule on Morang’s motion to suppress evidence from Young’s report. If convicted, Morang, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to 30 years in prison.

Raelynn Bell sustained a traumatic brain injury in the crash. She had just finished third grade at Mabel I. Wilson Elementary School in Cumberland. Family and friends who organized a GoFundMe page for the Bell family said that her organs were being donated to “save the lives of others.” The page has raised nearly $42,000 for memorial services and medical bills for Raelynn’s siblings, who also sustained serious injuries in the crash.

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