Family of victim, suspect in fatal crash ponders possible methadone involvement

OLD TOWN, Maine (NEWS CENTER) – The family of 63-year-old Robin Gardner is picking up the pieces after she was killed in a crash that was reportedly tied to a methadone clinic in Alton last Friday.

Gardner’s family said she was a woman dedicated to her community and would do anything for those in need. “It was my mom,” an emotional Brooke Gardner said. “It affects a lot of people.”

Robin Gardner was on her way to her daughter’s café in Old Town. The New Life Café and Church, where Brooke Gardner serves as a minister, has become a place of refuge for those in need and kids in the area.

Gardner was killed when 25-year-old Tyler Creighton’s car crossed the center line. Creighton was charged with manslaughter in Penobscot County Court this week.

He admitted to police that he was under the influence, texting and had been at a methadone clinic. Court documents show Creighton had a history of OUI.

"It's tough, and it's something that will never go away,” Alex Creighton said.

Tyler Creighton is the half-brother of Gardner’s son-in-law, Alex. He spoke to NEWS CENTER for the first time Wednesday alongside his wife, Celeste and her sister, Brooke.

Creighton said the tragedy shows the unintended consequences of the drug crisis, and that his half-brother needed to be held accountable.

"The justice system needs to be enforced to help these lost souls,” he said.

Penobscot County District Attorney Chris Almy, whose office brought the manslaughter charges against Tyler Creighton, said it is something his office sees often.

"People using these so called treatment drugs feel as if they're all set to go, no problems, that's just not true,” Almy said.

Almy would not comment on where he believes the responsibility of enforcement lies, but said his office will continue to work to ensure justice is served.

"Early evidence actually showed that methadone did not impact driving to a significant degree,” Dr. Stephanie Nichols with the Husson University School of Pharmacology said. “Recent studies have shown that it might, but since there are so many compounding factors, I think it's very fair to say the evidence is very inconclusive."

Dr. Nichols said factors such as dosage and whether or not the drug is combined with others already in the system also play a significant role.

"Yes, the systems stinks. He could have gotten different help. I don't think the methadone clinic is the answer,” Gardner’s daughter, Celeste Creighton, said.

The family hopes the tragedy sends a message to warn people of the possible impact. They said that more needs to be done to regulate the drug and hold people accountable.

"I don't want to see another family have to go through this again,” Alex Creighton said. Still, they said they are moving forward and have forgiven Tyler Creighton like their mother would have wanted.

"I think my love for my mom overcomes my anger for Tyler,” Brooke Gardner said.

A spokesperson for the Maine Department of Public Safety said they do not track accidents tied to methadone clinics, unlike several other states in the country, including New Hampshire.

NEWS CENTER has reached out to clinics in the Bangor area about their own statistics. Creighton’s newly-appointed lawyer, David Bate, was not yet able to comment on the future of the case.

Services for Gardner will be held in Old Town this weekend.