SOUTH PARIS — The man accused of gravely injuring a 28-year-old Portland woman during a police pursuit in Oxford County on Friday should have lost his license in July, but the state courts and the Bureau of Motor Vehicles failed to process the suspension.

The bureaucratic error means that Ethan Rioux-Poulios, of Woodstock, had a valid license when he allegedly got behind the wheel of his father’s silver F-150 pickup truck on Friday and led police on a chase, injuring two people and wrecking a second vehicle before he was arrested, police say.

One of those injured, Nicole Kumiega, remains in critical condition at Maine Medical Center.

Ethan Rioux-Poulios of Woodstock appears in Oxford County Superior Court by videoconference from Oxford County Jail in South Paris on Monday after he was charged with a half-dozen crimes stemming from a car chase on Friday.

Rioux-Poulios pleaded guilty last July to one count of manslaughter stemming from another police chase, in 2019, when he crashed his car into another vehicle, killing a 70-year-old Norway man. At his sentencing July 15, Oxford County Superior Court Justice Thomas McKeon ordered that Rioux-Poulios’ license be suspended indefinitely.

Under state law, it’s up to the courts to file a form – called an abstract of conviction – to the BMV. That form serves as official notice that the BMV should move ahead with a suspension. But it was never sent, Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows said.

“If there is a court-ordered suspension, the court needs to communicate that to us, and that did not happen,” Bellows said. “Obviously that’s unacceptable, and we’ll partner with the courts to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”


Bellows said her office already was working on the error when a reporter for the Press Herald inquired about the status of Rioux-Poulios’ license, which appeared to still be active even though in July the judge had had ordered him removed from the roads for at least a decade, according to a report in the Sun Journal.

“When a motorist has killed someone, then we at the BMV need to do everything in our power to track down the legally required substantiation that will give us the tools to move forward with suspension to get that person off the road,” the secretary of state said. “Bureaucracy can’t get in the way of that. But in this case it did.”

According to court records and the Department of Corrections, after his July 15 guilty plea, Rioux-Poulios was sentenced to serve two years of a seven-year sentence followed by two years probation. Rioux-Poulios was released on probation in August, but court records do not say exactly why. His early release may be an indication that his time spent in jail awaiting trial after the May 2019 crash was counted toward his sentence.


On July 21, Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne, the prosecutor in the manslaughter case, sent a letter notifying the Bureau of Motor Vehicles of the conviction and the suspension. Beauchesne included attested copies of key court records, including the charging documents and the form used by the court to record the guilty plea and sentence.

“Attached please find the necessary court documents needed for your department to move forward with suspending Mr. Ethan Rioux-Poulios’ license … following his conviction for a motor vehicle homicide,” Beauchesne wrote, citing the statute. Beauchesne could not be reached and did not answer a call to his cellphone, which was not accepting voicemails.


But the records he sent did not come from the court – and under state statute, they must come from the court, not a prosecutor, Bellows said.

So a Bureau of Motor Vehicles staffer called Beauchesne back, leaving a phone message on Aug. 31, 2021, at 10:33 a.m., according to a hand-written Post-it note attached to the file, a copy of which was provided to the Press Herald by Bellows’ office.

The BMV Post-it note reminding staff to call about the form that would have initiated suspension of Ethan Rioux-Poulios’ license.

The BMV staffer then called the court, but no one from the court system called back and provided the right form, and no one followed up until Monday, three days after Rioux-Poulios had been charged in the Friday chase, Bellows said.

Part of the problem lies in how the BMV keeps records, Bellows said. Most of the work still involves paper files. The electronic system to track licensing is about 17 years old. The BMV electronic record system does not communicate directly with the court record system, which also is outdated and is supposed to be replaced in the coming months.

It is not the only suspension that was not put into effect, Bellows’s office said. BMV staff have identified at least two other cases in which a court-ordered license suspension did not go into effect because someone in the courts failed to file the correct conviction abstract form.



She said staff will begin work to review old cases that may have been missed, and that the state “absolutely, desperately needs” to invest in modernizing data systems.

“Our technology does not permit for an audit, but given what’s come to light today, we are reviewing (cases),” she said.

On Monday, during his first appearance in court on Friday’s crash, Rioux-Poulios was ordered held on $75,000 cash bail. He faces six new felony charges: two counts of aggravated assault, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, eluding an officer, driving to endanger, and leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury or death.

Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mador asked for no bail pending a hearing on the probation violations still in place from his manslaughter conviction, which Rioux-Pulios denied.

“This defendant’s conduct was egregious,” Mador said. “He placed many, many individuals – in addition to the parties that were actually injured – in serious risk of injury. And it is eerily similar to the factual predicate of the manslaughter conviction for which he is currently on probation.”

In that 2019 incident, the car he had been driving slammed into the back of a vehicle on Route 26 in West Paris while fleeing from an Oxford County Sheriff’s Office deputy, killing John Pikiell of Norway when the collision propelled his vehicle into a tree. Rioux-Poulios fled the scene and was later located at a home in South Paris.


Because the new charges are felonies, the case must go before a grand jury for possible indictment before it can move forward, and Rioux-Poulios will have a chance later to enter a plea and argue for a lower bail amount.

Authorities said Kumiega, of Portland was driving a Ford Escape Friday when Rioux-Poulios crossed the center line and struck her vehicle head on.


Kumiega was first taken to Stephens Memorial Hospital in Norway, then transported by LifeFlight of Maine to Maine Medical Center in Portland, where she remained in critical condition Monday, according to a hospital spokesperson. Kumiega was with another person, Ethan Wyman, who also was injured in the crash but was released after treatment.

Kumiega suffered a ruptured aorta, a brain bleed and a broken neck, according to a police report. State licensure records show she recently was certified as a nurse.

According to court records, the chase on Friday began in Oxford, where a sheriff’s deputy called for help from state police as deputies pursued Rioux-Poulios north on Route 26. Rioux-Poulios had been seen by a Norway Police officer driving the same truck two days earlier, and the state trooper who filed the crash report said he was familiar with Rioux-Poulios because of bail conditions in place before he was charged with manslaughter in 2019.


After Rioux-Poulios allegedly struck Kumiega and Wyman’s vehicle, he fled on foot and stole another vehicle, a Ford Edge, according to the police affidavit. A sheriff’s deputy located that vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed on a snow-covered dirt road.

Rioux-Poulios avoided a set of spike mats deployed by awaiting deputies, but was spun out by another officer, ending the chase on Route 121. Police found a folded piece of aluminum foil with burn marks inside Rioux-Poulios’ pants pocket.

“Burnt residue on aluminum foil is commonly found with people who smoke opiates,” wrote Trooper Jason Wing in an affidavit for the arrest.

Sun Journal Staff Writer Christopher Williams contributed to this report.

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