AUGUSTA — The driver who struck and killed three pedestrians, including a 1-year-old girl and her grandmother, last year in Augusta admitted to the charges against him in court Wednesday.

Robert Santerre, 57, admitted to three counts of the civil infraction of motor vehicle violation resulting in death, one count each for the deaths of Barbara Maxim-Hendsbee, 69, her friend Rosalyn Jean, 62, both of Augusta, and 1-year-old Vada-Leigh Peaslee of Windsor, Hendsbee’s granddaughter who was in a stroller.

The “admit” pleas to the civil charges are the equivalent of guilty pleas.

Sentencing is still to be scheduled, and the state prosecutor and Santerre’s defense attorney have not agreed on a sentence.

The maximum penalty for that violation, under state statutes, is a $5,000 fine and four-year license suspension per infraction. The charge cannot be punished with any jail or prison time.

Santerre told police he was tired and feel asleep at the wheel before the crash, according to an accident report filed by Sara Rogers, one of the Augusta police officers who responded to the May 20, 2021, crash on Cony Road.


Relatives of the crash victims, who plan to speak at Santerre’s sentencing, have said the consequences he faces in the deaths are not severe enough, either as punishment or as a deterrent.

An attorney representing the families of the crash victims, Walter McKee, said Santerre’s plea Wednesday morning seemed like a foregone conclusion.

“Kind of a no-brainer when Mr. Santerre crossed all the way over the centerline and hit three innocent people on the other side of the road and killed them,” McKee said. “The family members fully intend to speak at the sentencing and ask for the maximum license suspensions and fines.”

Santerre appeared in court at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta via Zoom, as part of a docket call proceeding, with his attorney, Roger Brunelle.

Brunelle asked the court for about two hours for the sentencing hearing, which he said was because he knew family members of the victims wanted to speak at the sentencing.

Megan Peaslee discusses her frustration with the legal system in June, a year after her mother, Barbara Maxim-Hendsbee, and 1-year-old daughter, Vada-Leigh Peaslee, and their friend Rosalyn Jean were killed in a triple pedestrian fatal car crash in Augusta. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

Brunelle and prosecutor Frayla Tarpinian, deputy district attorney, said they had not agreed on a sentence for Santerre, so that will be decided by a judge following the to-be-scheduled sentencing hearing.


Santerre said “Yes, your honor,” when asked by Superior Court Justice Deborah Cashman if he was prepared to enter his plea to the charges, and said he admitted to each of the three counts of motor vehicle violation resulting in death.

“This will be continued for sentencing, to give an opportunity for the state to present its recommendation (for a sentence), as well as for the individuals involved to be heard, and (Brunelle, representing Santerre) to make his argument for an appropriate sentence,” Cashman said from the bench.

Cashman said the sentencing would be in-person in court.

McKee said the family members of the crash victims want the sentences in each of the three counts to be consecutive to each other, meaning, for all three counts, a sentence of up to $15,000 in fines and a 12 year license suspension.

“The families are insisting that there be consecutive sentences here and the District Attorney has agreed to ask for just that,” McKee said.

The three victims were headed northbound, off the road to the side of the southbound lane, when the 2015 Nissan that Santerre was driving northbound crossed the centerline, hit the pedestrians and then struck a utility pole near 269 Cony Road.


Meagan Peaslee, 34, of Windsor, mother of Vada-Leigh Peaslee and daughter of Maxim-Hendsbee, and Amanda Ledoux, daughter of Jean, both said the families were surprised to learn in a meeting with police and district attorney’s office officials following the crash that Santerre would be charged only with the civil violation, not with manslaughter or any criminal charges.

McKee said Santerre should have been charged with manslaughter.

However Maeghan Maloney, district attorney for Kennebec and Somerset counties, has said in general a charge of manslaughter requires conduct that is “a gross deviation from the conduct of a reasonable and prudent person. In general, when there is no alcohol or drug use and the speed is only slightly over the limit, a manslaughter crime is not present. The crime is judged on the conduct, not the outcome.”

Santerre, who initially pleaded not guilty to the charges he admitted to Wednesday, did not have any substances in his system at the time of the crash, family members of the victims were told by police.

Police told family members Santerre had worked a shift at Shaw’s supermarket and was home for lunch when he decided to drive from his home to the track at Cony High School to walk. They said he told police he knew he was tired before he drove. The crash site is about 3 miles from his home.

Despite both families of the victims advocating, through McKee, that the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles suspend Santerre’s license, a recent driver’s record check indicates his license is still active.

Both Ledoux and Peaslee said if a driver is involved in a fatal crash their license should be suspended immediately, so it can be determined whether the driver is a safety risk.

Emily Cook, spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s office, which includes the Bureau of Motor vehicles, said Santerre was issued a notice of suspension of his license after the state received input from the victims’ families this past May. However, Santerre appealed the suspension July 13, and while an appeal is under consideration state law specifies the suspension is stayed, or delayed, until a decision is issued following an administrative hearing. She said the bureau is still coordinating scheduling details for the hearing, but it is tentatively scheduled for the last week in August.

The proposed suspension by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, now under appeal, would be for one year.

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