Kenneth Morang listens as a guilty verdict is announced by the jury foreman in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland in October 2022. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

A former corrections officer who fell asleep at the wheel in 2019, causing a car crash that killed a 9-year-old girl, will not serve any prison time.

Kenneth Morang, 65, was found guilty of manslaughter in October in the death of Raelynn Bell of Cumberland. In an emotional hearing Monday, he received a six-year suspended sentence from Cumberland County Superior Justice Thomas McKeon. Morang will be on probation for four years, during which time he cannot drive and he cannot contact the Bell family. McKeon also ordered Morang to pay a $5,000 fine and perform 200 hours of community service.

Raelynn Bell, a 9-year-old from Cumberland, was pronounced dead July 23 from injuries sustained in a Gorham car crash. GoFundMe

“I think it’s important that she become more than just a name,” Raelynn’s mother Charity Chillington said Monday. “She was smart, and sassy, and just beautiful, inside and out.”

Morang was driving home after working two consecutive 16-hour shifts at the Cumberland County jail in July 2019 when he rear-ended the Bell family SUV, with Raelynn in the back seat.

Raelynn’s dad had taken her and her sisters to see the new “Lion King” movie at the theater in Westbrook. She was airlifted to the hospital and died days later from traumatic brain injuries.

“They didn’t do anything wrong or unsafe. They simply went to a movie they were so excited to see. … There’s been no justice for my little girl, who died because of someone else’s decision.” Chillington said.


She said that all of her daughters were victims of someone else’s poor choices, describing long scars on one daughter’s leg, several medical visits and hospital stays, and a delayed return to school.

Morang apologized to Raelynn’s family Monday before receiving his sentence. Gripping the podium and looking directly at the judge, Morang told the court that he has thought about that crash every day for the last three and a half years.

“It was a terrible, terrible accident,” Morang told reporters outside the courthouse. “I think the sentence was just. I think the judge looked at everything. I know some people gotta disagree, but I’m just sorry.”

“I’ve had a 9-year-old girl, I couldn’t imagine. … I would never ask for forgiveness from the family because I can’t forgive myself.”

McKeon said Monday this case has been on his mind since the jury’s verdict in October knowing he would eventually have to decide on a sentence.

Morang faced up to 30 years in prison. While his defense attorney Amy Fairfield asked for a suspended five-year sentence, prosecutors asked McKeon to consider an eight-year sentence, all but 18 months suspended.


“I see someone with a huge, toothy grin,” McKeon said, looking over pictures of Raelynn on the beach, Raelynn in a sports jersey, Raelynn sitting on a rock in the woods.

Morang’s case was also an unusually difficult one to sentence, the judge said, because there are no cases in Maine where someone has been sentenced for falling asleep at the wheel and killing another person.

At the end of the day, McKeon said Morang was just a “regular guy,” one who does his duty and tries to do right by his family and his employer. The 65-year-old grandfather had no criminal history, there’s almost no chance he’ll reoffend and in recorded interviews between Morang and officers after the crash, McKeon said he could clearly hear remorse.

But this likely wasn’t the first time Morang drove while he was too tired, because of a “human weakness” and a desire to “get home, even though he shouldn’t have been driving that day,” McKeon said.

The judge said he couldn’t justify giving Morang prison time as a deterrent to others who might consider driving while tired, but he believes the publicity around Morang’s case will educate others.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who would want to be in a position of being the person who, because you fell asleep, you killed this beautiful young girl,” McKeon said.


York County Deputy District Attorney Justina McGettigan, who prosecuted Morang’s case because he was a Cumberland County employee, said that she felt the judge had carefully considered the facts.

Before sentencing, McGettigan referenced the testimony of a police officer who told jurors that Morang admitted that he was “foolish for not listening to his body” the day of the crash.

Morang was motivated to boost his retirement benefits by working extreme hours, prosecutors alleged, ignoring his health and endangering others by driving when he wasn’t fit to do so. McGettigan said the crash was preventable.

Morang’s daughter, Amy Mejias, disputed any notion that her father’s accident was driven by greed. She described him as the “most generous, most loving man” anyone could ever meet, the kind of father who supported her when she was struggling with medical hardships and a divorce.

“This was an accident,” Mejias said. “How many people go to work and drive home tired?”

Friends and family who spoke on Morang’s behalf painted a more complicated and systemic picture of what led Morang to doze off that afternoon.



Susan Hawes, whose husband worked with Morang in Cumberland County, told the judge that the jail has struggled for years with staffing shortages. Her husband, Morang and countless others have been overworked – victims of policy decisions to assign existing, overworked officers more shifts because it’s cheaper than hiring more employees.

Hawes said she met with the Cumberland County Commission and jail officials several times in 2017 and 2018, pleading for more employees and new policies to address officers’ fatigue. Her own husband was unable to work after a seizure in 2018 – Hawes told McKeon that the event was brought on by the increased stress of handling more people incarcerated at the jail with even less support.

There was an overall, unsaid expectation that officers had to work more than 40 hours a week. Morang often worked twice that. Hawes said Morang went above and beyond so his colleagues could spend more time with their families.

“His willingness to help others had nothing to do with his future retirement,” Hawes said.

The situation at the Cumberland County jail has grown more severe since 2019. The jail has been limiting intake to save on staffing, and after the U.S. Marshals Service withdrew its federal prisoners from the facility last fall, the jail began implementing an expensive corrective action plan to attract more qualified personnel.

Since then, Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Naldo Gagnon said Monday that four new officers have finished training, and another four just started. He said the jail hopes to resume its full intake process once it can get its staffing levels back up, potentially by March.

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