Friday, December 17, 2010 11:44 PM EST
By Karen A. Kapsourakis / For the Item
SALEM – Christopher J. Maxson, the 20-year-old Marblehead man who admitted to driving drunk when his SUV crashed into several cars on Glenwood Street in Lynn last March, killing his 19-year-old girlfriend, received a three- to four-year state prison term Friday. Maxson, of 140 Elm St., #2, Marblehead, also of 5 Williams St., Salem, pleaded guilty Friday to a charge of motor vehicle homicide while operating a motor vehicle intoxicated in the March 21 crash that killed Julia Gauthier of Salem. His blood alcohol level was .11 at the time of the crash. The two were returning from a party in Lynn on Essex Street. Judge David A. Lowy said he recognized that the family of the victim wanted him to impose a longer sentence, while the defense asked for a shorter one. “I recognize the sentence does not reflect the pain and horror the family has had to endure. The incident is the result of driving, alcohol and youth. I respect and agree that the defendant (Maxson) needs rehabilitation but such a sentence is not a just punishment,” he said during the sentencing hearing in Salem Superior Court. “There is no fixing what he has done.” Assistant District Attorney Michael A. Patten said it was just after 1 a.m. on March 21 when Maxson, driving a Toyota 4Runner SUV, left a party at the home of Craig Snow at 471 Essex St. in Lynn, where alcohol was served and the attendees were between 19 and 20 years of age. Snow reported later that Maxson came with a bottle of liquor. Gauthier was a front-seat passenger in the car and two others were seated in the back seat. Patten said that reconstruction of the accident indicated that Maxson was driving at 38 mph in a 20 mph zone, went through two stop signs on Glenwood Street and when he got to a third light at Eastern Avenue, ran through it. A Honda approaching from the other direction struck the rear panel of Maxson’s SUV, which forced the SUV to strike another vehicle, bounced and struck a van before the SUV flipped over on Glenwood. Gauthier was ejected through the sunroof onto the ground as the SUV flipped over on the passenger side. She was killed almost instantly. “She was a beautiful girl. She was an amazing athlete, hard worker and a joy. I can only imagine what she would have been,” her mother, Marie Gautheir said. “She’d always be there for me. I will never see my beautiful child grow into a beautiful person.” “She was my sister. She loved me. She was killed instantly. There is only one person of fault here. Drunk driving is not an accident,” emphasized Sherie Weber, the victim’s sister, as she demanded the maximum punishment be imposed. Two other family members, a cousin and aunt, also took the stand telling the judge of their loss and how it has affected their lives. Prosecutors also provided the judge with letters from Gauthier’s father and uncle. Maxson, wearing a red dotted tie, blue shirt, navy sports jacket, tan khaki pants and brown loafers, sat solemnly beside his defense lawyers, John Andrews and Lawrence J. McGuire for almost the entire three-hour hearing. But when his father Vincent Maxson took the stand in his defense, he wept openly, as did his father. His father explained to Lowy how promising his son was, before everything changed in his senior year at Salem High School when his then girlfriend – not Gauthier – got pregnant. He had been accepted to Kent Preparatory School in Connecticut on a full scholarship, but when the girlfriend got pregnant, “something happened,” his father said. “He changed, he did not come home at night, was drinking, his marks dropped,” Vincent Maxson said. “I explained to him he could still be a father and go to school, but he said he was not going to do that. He just wanted to stay home,” his father said. The father also read a recent letter from his son to Lowy, in which Maxson tells of how “reality is really setting in,” how much he misses Gauthier and how he “begs for forgiveness every night.” Lowy asked Maxson specific questions regarding his confession and the defendant admitted he has a bi-polar disorder and is taking Zoloft for his condition. Patten asked for three to five years in state prison based on the nature and circumstances of the case.””It is a situation that repeats itself over and over,” Patten emphasized while adding, “The impact is endless. Mr. Maxson consumed alcohol and got behind the wheel. Once again this is a tragedy resulting in youth and alcohol.” John Andrews pleaded for a more lenient punishment of two-and-a-half years in the House of Corrections. Andrews pointed out how his client had a productive life, but then something happened, he was suffering from a mental disease, not being properly treated at the time and a tragedy occurred when he drove a car while intoxicated. “The woman he loved died,” Andrews said. “The Massachusetts state prison system is not the environment for this man,” insisted Andrews. The lawyer asked for a 30-month jail term, in which he would have served just one-half of the term before being paroled. But because he received a state prison term, Maxson will have to serve at least three years before he is paroled. The maximum punishment allowed under the law for the crime is up to 15 years in state prison with a mandatory one-year term. The judge credited Maxson for the 159 days he has spent at the Middleton Jail awaiting trial. The father of Julia Gauthier has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Maxson and his mother in Superior Civil Court.