AUGUSTA — A Gardiner man who was behind the wheel during a 2014 crash in Readfield that killed one man and seriously injured another will spend the next four years in prison.

Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy on Thursday sentenced Thorr Dennis Ellis, 21, to serve the first four years of a 15-year prison sentence. The sentence will be followed by a probationary period of four years.

Ellis, who was driving during the crash that killed Alex Cruz, 26, of Connecticut and broke the neck of Bradley Plevyak of Gardiner, pleaded no contest to manslaughter and aggravated assault during a hearing at the Capital Judicial Center.

Ellis faced a possible 30-year sentence for the class A manslaughter charge and an additional 11 years for the class B aggravated assault.

Ellis’ attorney, Brad Grant, said the sentence takes into account his client’s age and circumstances of the case, which includes Ellis’ willingness to accept responsibility before the case could go to the grand jury.

“I just think it’s fair given everything he’s had to deal with,” Grant said. “Thorr has done everything in his ability to lessen the impact on others.”

Ellis’ sister, Jasmine Lavoie, the only person to attend the plea and sentencing hearing, through tears urged her brother to remake his life moving forward.

“I’d just like to say to Thorr that I love you and I would urge you not to let this define who you are,” Lavoie said. “You’re worst act should never be allowed to define what you become. I think you’re wonderful.”

Kennebec County Deputy District Attorney Paul Cavanaugh said the crash investigation, coupled with witness statements, indicate Ellis was driving at a high rate of speed the night of Nov. 5, 2014 when he crashed his car on Plains Road in Readfield. The state crash report says Ellis’ 1999 Audi crossed the centerline, went off the road and overturned.

The report indicates Ellis, who was 20 at the time, and Cruz, were ejected from the vehicle and that Bradley S. Plevyak, 21 at the time, 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.

Ellis originally told investigators he had swerved to avoid a deer, according to a court affidavit filed by Staff Sgt. Frank Hatch of the Kennebec County Sheriff’s Office. Plevyak told investigators Ellis was driving more than 80 miles per hour, but Ellis said he was driving 58. The speed limit on the section of road is 40 miles per hour.

“Thorr Ellis did not believe that he was traveling excessively, however, the impact with a 6,700 pound rock was enough to lift the rock out of the ground and move it several feet,” Hatch wrote. He said Cruz and Plevyak told Ellis to slow down before the crash.

Cavanaugh said Thursday that skid marks in the road indicate the car lost 50 miles per hour in speed before hitting the rock, but the impact was still enough to move the boulder and send the car hurtling into the trees.

“Mr. Plevyak indicated Mr. Ellis was using the phone when he was driving,” Cavanaugh said, adding that investigators were unable to confirm whether that was true.

Ellis was charged in July of this year and attempted to run away from police when they came to his home.

Cavanaugh said Ellis, who had a license for just a few months at the time of the crash and had purchased the Audi a few days before, was an inexperienced driver operating a car with which he was unfamiliar.

Ellis, whom Cavanaugh said was driving the men to a home to buy marijuana, told investigators he had used heroin earlier in the day, but there was no indication that he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

“It was hours before,” Grant said of the heroin use. He said the charges were based on Ellis’ speed rather than operating under the influence.

Cavanaugh said neither Cruz’s family nor Plevyak were aware of the plea deal. Cavanaugh said officials have been unsuccessful in multiple attempts to reach the family of Cruz, who was on probation in Connecticut at the time of the crash.

“We don’t know the circumstances there,” Cavanaugh said.

Plevyak was in contact with the district attorney’s office until recently, but his phone number has been disconnected and he has not reached out to the office, Cavanaugh said.

The district attorney’s office asked Plevyak to submit paperwork detailing his medical costs, or apply for money from a victims fund, neither of which he did, Cavanaugh said. As a result the state did not seek restitution.

According to court documents, Plevyak is scheduled to appear Monday at the Capital Judicial Center on charges of failure to make an accident report and use of drug paraphernalia.

Ellis has a juvenile record dating back to 2009 when he was 15 years old. The details are sealed, but Cavanaugh said they revolve around substance abuse. Ellis was convicted of criminal mischief in 2013 and in May of this year was convicted of theft. Ellis also was investigated and charged for telephone harassment and assault on a food delivery person since the crash, Cavanaugh said. The state agreed, as part of the plea, to drop those charges.

Lavoie said she was sorry for the victims.

“I know Thorr is incredibly sorry as well,” she said.

Murphy said Ellis’ age, his willingness to accept responsibility and his “genuine remorse” helped lessen the sentence, but his criminal record and the fact that the crash led to a death and severe injury called for a longer sentence.

“A significant deprivation of liberty has to be imposed,” she said.

Murphy urged Ellis to take advantage of substance abuse programs in prison so that he can emerge free from the addictions that helped lead him to prison in the first place.

“It certainly seems like that has a lot to do with why you were driving on that road with those people,” Murphy said. “Those days have to end for you. I hope you listened to what your sister had to say.”

The hearing over, Ellis turned to his sister and smiled before being led away in handcuffs.

“I love you,” he mouthed.

“I love you, too,” Lavoie said.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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