SKOWHEGAN — A local man is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to manslaughter in a 2013 accident that killed a Starks man the night before Thanksgiving.

Mark Bussell, 39, entered the plea May 4 as part of a plea bargain, according to records filed in the Somerset County District Court. The terms of the agreement include a recommended sentence of 10 years in prison with all but four years suspended and four years of probation. A charge of operating under the influence was dismissed as part of the deal.

Sentencing is scheduled for May 29, and Bussell is free on bail, his attorney said.

Bussell was arrested in June 2014 on charges of manslaughter and aggravated criminal operating under the influence more than six months after the pickup truck he had been driving crossed the center line on Norridgewock Road in Fairfield and collided head-on with a 1998 Subaru Outback driven by James Murphy, 67, of Starks.

Results from a blood-alcohol test indicated that Bussell had a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, according to court records.

“From conversations I’ve had with him, he is remorseful,” said John Martin, Bussell’s lawyer. “What happened was a tragedy and he knows that.”

The court file includes photos of Murphy picking pumpkins and playing the guitar, as well as letters from a victim’s advocate on behalf of his family and Ernie Hilton, a selectman in Starks and friend of Murphy’s.

According to the letters, Murphy was a graduate of Boston University with a degree in chemistry who worked as a hospital chemist and phlebotomist in a number of hospitals, including Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington. The oldest of 10 children, he was originally from Massachusetts and moved to Starks in 1990 when he bought an old dairy farm. A member of the local historical society and the town’s appeals board, he was voted the town’s Citizen of the Year in 2012.

Murphy also owned apartment buildings in the area, including a large one at 77 Elm St. in Waterville, and enjoyed traveling and gardening. He learned Greek while traveling and had a side business translating ancient Greek texts into English. His home was filled with dozens of Greek texts that his family plans to donate, according to the letters.

“He did all these things quietly, unobtrusively, graciously, without raising hackles or creating jealousness or rivalries,” Hilton wrote in his letter. “He was generous in praise and in sharing credit for his accomplishments.”

Murphy also started a community garden in Starks and had started a municipal Agriculture Commission shortly before his death. He had been planning to run for the Legislature in 2014.

The accident on Nov. 27, 2013, came just weeks after Murphy and his siblings lost their mother on Nov. 7, 2013.

“Less than three weeks later, we were still coming to terms with the loss of our mom when Jim was ripped away from us by his untimely death,” said the letter submitted on behalf of Murphy’s siblings by victim advocate Kristen Washburn.

According to the letter from Hilton, on the night of the accident, Murphy was returning from running an errand in Waterville on the town’s behalf.

“Through Mark Bussell’s utter recklessness, we of Starks, indeed all of society, have lost much,” he wrote.

“No increase in actual jail time will bring Jim back,” said the letter from his family. “We do feel strongly, however, that the absolute longest probation period and potential jail time would be in the best interest of the community.”

Rachel Ohm — 612-2368

[email protected]

Twitter: @rachel_ohm

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.