Tony Reilly and Susan Camardo Reilly founded and were the creative force behind the American Irish Repertory Ensemble in Portland. Staff file photo by John Patriquin

EAST BROOKFIELD, Mass. — A Pennsylvania man was found not guilty Tuesday of motor vehicle homicide in a fatal crash on the Massachusetts Turnpike in December 2014 that killed South Portland resident Susan Camardo Reilly and seriously injured her husband, Tony Reilly.

Susan Reilly, 64, died in the accident, which occurred during heavy holiday traffic heading west on the Massachusetts Turnpike near Charlton at 1:40 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2014. The couple were traveling for the holidays from their South Portland home to visit family in New York. They were part of a three-vehicle accident in which they were struck by a tractor-trailer driven by Matthew W. Norman.

The jury of four men and two women found Norman not guilty Tuesday on the charges of motor vehicle homicide by negligent driving and a marked lanes violation.

Tony Reilly, who was 60 at the time of the accident, was in an induced coma for three weeks after losing his left leg below the knee and sustaining several broken ribs, facial fractures and other injuries. He limped slightly but opted to stand when he testified Monday before Judge Steven Power and a jury in Western Worcester District Court. Reilly, an actor, told the jury that he also broke his left shoulder and his right vocal cord is paralyzed.

The Reillys were well-respected in the southern Maine theater scene, having founded and provided the creative force behind the American Irish Repertory Ensemble, the Portland-based theater company known as AIRE.

Norman, who was 42 when the crash occurred, wasn’t charged until more than a year later.

CHAIN-REACTION CRASH

State police alleged that Norman was driving a tractor-trailer west on the turnpike on the afternoon of Dec. 23, 2014, when he moved from the right lane slightly into the center lane and back again. His truck made contact with a another tractor-trailer, causing the driver of that truck, Richard Rivera of Springfield, to lose control of his vehicle, police said.

Accident reconstruction specialists from the state police said that caused Rivera’s truck to collide with the Toyota Camry driven by Tony Reilly. The Camry, with Susan Reilly as a passenger, landed on its roof.

Police said the chain-reaction crash involved a fourth vehicle, a Toyota RAV4 driven by a New Jersey woman, with her husband as a passenger. Police said the RAV4 driver moved from the center lane into the right lane, between the Reillys’ car and Norman’s truck, before the two tractor-trailers made contact. The RAV4 was bumped, according to the driver, Sousanna Oganesian, who testified that she pulled over and saw a tractor-trailer go by.

DEFENSE ARGUMENTS

Assistant District Attorney Katie Wildgrube asked jurors to find Norman guilty. She spoke of the serious injuries suffered by Tony Reilly and the death of his wife, which state police said occurred as a result of the crash that was caused by Norman’s actions.

Norman’s lawyer, Steven Rappaport, questioned why Rivera, who state police said was going about 5 mph over the speed limit, wasn’t culpable. Rappaport said Rivera was not wearing prescription eyeglasses and that state police should have looked into how much that impaired his vision.

The trial began Monday morning.

A call to Tony Reilly for comment on the verdict wasn’t returned Tuesday night.

The Reillys made theater the focus of their two-decade-long marriage. They did not have children. Instead, they produced interesting and unusual plays with characters that actors wanted to portray, and had fun doing it. They specialized in Irish theater, a subgenre defined by ribald plot lines.

The Reillys moved to Maine in 2003, purchasing a home just across the Casco Bay Bridge in South Portland.

In more than 10 seasons, the couple produced nearly three dozen plays. Susan managed the business side of their American Irish Repertory Ensemble while working as a freelance writer. Tony focused all of his energy and attention on the creative side of the theater.

Tony Reilly spent several months recovering from his injuries, and in June 2015 he returned to the stage in Portland, where he told the story of the dreams he had while lying comatose in the hospital. “The Coma Monologues” moved people to laughter and tears. After the performance, he left the stage with his hands clasped to his heart and tears flowing.