AUGUSTA — A U.S. Marine home on leave pleaded not guilty Tuesday to criminal charges in connection with a car accident in Belgrade that left two passengers dead, including his sister.
Travis Lawler, 23, whose family lives in Oakland, was on leave from Camp Lejeune in North Carolina when the car he was driving went off the road on a curve and slammed into a tree about 11 p.m. June 16 in North Belgrade, according to police.
Police said alcohol and speed caused of the crash, but did not file charges against Lawler until now.
At a brief arraignment in Kennebec County Superior Court early Tuesday, Lawler pleaded not guilty to an indictment charging him with two counts of manslaughter and two counts of aggravated operating under the influence. The manslaughter charges each carry maximum penalties of 30 years in prison.
Lawler, who was accompanied to court by his father and several other relatives, immediately posted $1,000 cash bail.
Justice Michaela Murphy set bail conditions that ban Lawler from driving and from use or possession of alcohol.
The indictment lists Lawler’s address at Jacksonville, N.C. He was home on leave when the accident occurred. Gurney said Lawler is living in Oakland on an extended leave from the Marines.
Lawler was indicted Thursday by a grand jury in Kennebec County, but the indictment was sealed until his arraignment Tuesday, according to court records.
Lawler’s sister, Kristin Lawler, 20, of Oakland, was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash, which occurred on Horse Point Road, which is off Route 8. Her boyfriend, 25-year-old Jackson Bolduc, of Belgrade, died from his injuries the day after the accident, on June 17, after being flown to the hospital by helicopter.
A fourth person, Dylan Desroches, 20, of Waterville, also was flown to the hospital with serious injuries, but survived. Under bail conditions, Lawler is banned from contact with Desroches.
Travis Lawler was not with the wrecked 2011 Toyota Corolla when police arrived at the crash scene. Police said at the time they found him about a half-mile away on the shore of Great Pond after a resident reported a man on his property. Police were organizing a search party at the time. Lawler was taken to MaineGeneral Hospital, Thayer campus in Waterville, for treatment of cuts and scrapes.
In an interview with the Kennebec Journal shortly after the crash, Lawler said he was in the water when police found him. He said he did not recall leaving the accident scene, why he left or where the group had been before the crash.
After the court appearance Tuesday, Lawler’s attorney, Scott Gurney, wouldn’t comment until more evidence is received in the case.
Lawler’s next court hearing is set for Jan. 8.
Betty Adams — 621-5631