The driver in a fatal car accident last November in Readfield had used heroin earlier that day and was driving so fast the crash’s impact lifted and shifted a 6,700-pound rock and sheared off a tree after the vehicle went off the road.

Authorities allege those new details in court documents filed Wednesday when Thorr Dennis Ellis, 21, of Gardiner, made an initial court appearance at the Capital Judicial Center on charges of manslaughter, driving to endanger and aggravated assault. A judge set bail at $100,000 on those charges and ordered him held without bail on a separate charge of violating administrative release.

Ellis was arrested early Tuesday morning on the charges related to the single-vehicle crash, which occurred Nov. 5, 2014, near 228 Plains Road in Readfield. Alex Cruz, 26, of Connecticut, a passenger in the vehicle, died that night from his injuries. The other passenger, Bradley Plevyak, 20, of Gardiner, is listed as the person suffering serious bodily injuries in the aggravated assault charge.

Defense attorney Lisa Whittier, acting as attorney of the day, requested Ellis’ bail be set lower, but Judge Evert Fowle refused. He referred to Assistant District Attorney David Spencer’s recitation of Ellis failing to appear for previous court hearings as well as the nature and seriousness of the new charges.

Ellis, in an orange jail jumpsuit, kept his arms folded across his chest and spoke briefly with Whittier but said nothing to the judge except to acknowledge his identity. His curly hair was longer than it appears in his mug shot from the jail.

Ellis appeared in court via video link from the Kennebec County jail in Augusta.


Fowle said he would not ask for pleas because the charges are felonies. He told Ellis the manslaughter charge carries a maximum prison term of 30 years in prison, and the aggravated assault charge carries a 10-year maximum imprisonment. The driving to endanger is a class C charge, alleging Ellis was criminally negligent in driving the vehicle and endangered and caused serious bodily injury to the other two men. The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Meanwhile, new court documents allege Ellis had used drugs before driving. Plevyak told deputies that he and Ellis had used heroin earlier that day and that Plevyak and Cruz both told Ellis to slow down just before the crash, according to a probable cause affidavit by Sgt. Frank Hatch, of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office.

Ellis also told police he had used heroin before the crash, according to Hatch’s affidavit, which adds: “Ellis stated that around the beginning of November he was using around four bags of heroin a day. However, (by) the time of that interview, middle of December, he had reduced to maybe one bag a day.”

He also told authorities he didn’t believe he was driving too fast and that he swerved to avoid hitting a deer.

Hatch noted that the 1999 Audi Ellis was driving was inspected following the crash and no evidence of vehicle failure was found.

A collision reconstruction report didn’t indicate a speed but concluded “the crash could have easily been prevented if Ellis had been doing the speed limit,” Hatch wrote. He said that the vehicle moved several feet after striking the rock and sheared off a tree as well.


A state crash report says Ellis’ car crossed the centerline, went off the road and overturned. The report indicates Ellis and Cruz were ejected from the vehicle and that Plevyak, who was in the front passenger seat, was the only one remaining inside the vehicle. He had been wearing a shoulder and lap belt, according to the report. Moody’s report also says there was no insurance coverage.

Along with setting bail at $100,000 on Wednesday, the judge imposed a number of conditions on that bail, including some that prohibit Ellis from use and possession of illegal drugs, from contact with Plevyak and from operating a motor vehicle unless properly licensed, registered and insured.

Fowle also said the bail could be reconsidered at a later hearing once an attorney is appointed to represent Ellis.

In May 2015, Ellis was sentenced to 21 days in jail, fined $200 and ordered to pay $72 for theft of services Jan. 12 and false public report Aug. 27, 2014, in Gardiner and theft by unauthorized taking and transfer Nov. 14, 2014, in Augusta.

In August 2014, Ellis was convicted of a charge of receiving stolen property, an offense that occurred Jan. 3, 2014, in Gardiner. He was ordered to serve 10 days in the alternative sentencing program, with the remainder of the 364-day jail sentence suspended, followed by one year on administrative release. Ellis also was ordered to pay $350 restitution.

The state is seeking to revoke that administrative release, and Ellis was held without bail on that motion.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

Twitter: @betadams

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