Manslaughter trial begins for Middlefield man in motorcyclist’s death

  • Stock gavel in court

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Editors Note: This story was updated on Feb. 13, 2018 to correct Kenneth Dejordy’s hometown. He was of Montgomery.

NORTHAMPTON — A Middlefield man who prosecutors say was legally blind and shouldn’t have been driving when he allegedly turned in front of an oncoming motorcyclist two years ago went on trial Monday in Hampshire Superior Court.

Wayne Main, 74, is charged with manslaughter and negligent motor vehicle homicide in the Feb. 20, 2016, death of Kenneth Dejordy, 22, of Montgomery. Main is represented by attorneys Luke Ryan and Leah Kunkel, who contend that the accident occurred because Dejordy was traveling too fast.

Main and Dejordy were out that day on Route 20 (Russell Road) in Huntington around 1:30 p.m., taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather. Main had gone to get gas in his GMC Yukon after cutting brush, and Dejordy was out for a ride.

“He would have gotten home that day but for some decision that Mr. Main had made,” First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said in his opening remarks.

“The fact of the matter is that Mr. Wayne Main never saw him coming until he already started his turn and a crash was inevitable,” Gagne said. “The reason Mr. Main did not see Kenneth Dejordy coming is because he was legally blind.”

Gagne told the court Main’s doctor had determined in June 2012 that Main’s eyesight had reached such a poor level that he met the definition of being legally blind. By the time the notification was made to the Registry of Motor Vehicles as well as the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind, Main’s license had expired.

“It is not just the case of an older driver with poor eyesight making a bad judgment,” Gagne said. “For 3½ years, Mr. Main knew he was legally blind. He knew he should not be driving, yet, despite that knowledge, he continued driving with these telescopic, bioptic lenses, trying to get by.”

In their respective statements, both Gagne and defense attorney Ryan said state troopers and investigators determined Dejordy’s speed to be somewhere between 61 and 69 mph. The speed limit was 45 mph.

“There is an old saying that speed kills,” Ryan said. “The evidence in this case will show that speed is what caused the tragic accident that caused the death of Kenneth Dejordy.”

Ryan told the court that one state trooper had even written in his report that the cause of the crash was operator or human driving behavior and that Main engaged in “no improper driving.”

Ryan said Main has taken responsibility for driving without a license, but he was not found to be driving improperly.

“At the heart of the case is a terrible tragedy. Kenneth Dejordy was much too young to die,” Ryan said. “He (Main) feels awful about this accident but that doesn’t mean he caused it.”

Troopers testify

Trooper Mark Rogers, who has since retired, was the first police officer on scene the day of the crash. He said two emergency responders were already there tending to Dejordy.

“Before I even got close to them, they began instructing me to assist them,” Rogers said.

Rogers said he could see Dejordy was still wearing his helmet. Eyes open, he was motionless, his legs seriously injured and the coloration on his skin led the officer to believe Dejordy was already dead, Rogers recalled.

A Connecticut man, Stephen Palmer, who was in the area visiting his mother-in-law, was driving behind Main at the time of the crash. He was behind Main’s car for more than three miles before the crash.

Palmer testified that he saw Main, driving slowly, turn on his left turn signal before beginning to make his turn. Palmer said he waited until Main was well into his turn before attempting to pass him on the right.

“Before I did that, I saw the motorcyclist come toward where we were. It took one or two seconds to realize it was moving at a pretty good clip,” Palmer said. “Given the rate of speed of both the motorcyclist and the turn the driver was making, I knew we were going to have an accident in one form or another. Either he was going to hit the Yukon or try to avoid it and hit me head on.”

Within seconds the motorcycle collided with the backend of the SUV’s passenger side and Palmer recalled seeing the front end of the motorcycle disappear and its rider flip over the handlebars and land in the middle of the road.

Third to take the stand Monday was Trooper Alan Gamache, a detective assigned to Northwestern district attorney’s office. Gamache was called to the scene that Saturday and continued to investigate the case for months afterward. The day of the crash, Gamache interviewed Main in his cruiser. The 25-minute audio recording was played in court.

In the recording, Main told the officer he was going left and put on his directional and began turning when he saw a headlight and then was hit.

“It was instantaneous,” Main said.

Main also told Gamache that he never got around to renewing his license, saying “I absolutely should have.”

Recalling the crash, Main said “there was really nothing I could have done.”

“It was so goddamn instantaneous,” Main said in the interview.

About a one-minute clip of surveillance footage of the crash taken from the nearby Gateway Farm & Pet store was played in court. In it, people can be seen running out of the store toward the road and cars pulling over. The truck can be seen turning into the parking lot and parking briefly after it appears the motorcycle hit its rear end.

Over the course of the investigation, Gamache obtained Main’s medical records and eventually was granted a search warrant to take Main’s glasses. Gamache testified that Main denied knowing he was legally blind, but Ryan produced an email exchange that showed a contradictory narrative.

“On Jan. 10, 2017, you testified (before the grand jury) that he said he didn’t have vision issues,” Ryan said.

Ten months earlier, Gamache interviewed Main by phone and took notes. Showing him a copy of the notes, Ryan said Gamache had written that Main didn’t deny having vision issues.

“No, you are right,” Gamache said.

“In fact, he had a problem with an optic nerve in his eye,” Ryan wrote.

Gamache’s note did not say that he specifically asked Main about being legally blind, Ryan said. Referencing an email Gamache wrote to Gagne during the course of the investigation, Ryan said Gamache described Main as forthcoming with his optic nerve problem and didn’t address the topic of whether Main was legally blind.

The trial continues Tuesday morning.

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecu tts@gazettenet.com.