BAR HARBOR — The man who struck and killed McKenna Unobskey in a crosswalk near The Jackson Laboratory in December will not face criminal charges, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
Unobskey, a 27-year-old animal care supervisor at the lab, was in the crosswalk on Route 3 at about 5:47 a.m. when Russell Clark struck her with his Jeep. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
After an investigation by Bar Harbor Police, District Attorney Matt Foster decided to not go forward with charges against Clark because the evidence did not rise to the level of criminal culpability.
“I take traffic fatality cases very seriously and if the facts support prosecution my office responds accordingly,” Foster wrote in a statement, “but in this case, my conclusion is that this incident, while horrible and tragic, does not generate criminal liability.”
Lori Kogut, Unobskey’s mother, was disappointed in Foster’s decision.
“We just feel that there was enough information to move forward,” she said.
Police estimated that Clark was going 39 mph in a posted 35-mph speed limit zone, but a Department of Transportation engineer opined that the proper speed limit for the area should be 40 mph.
Kogut felt that driving over the posted speed limit and hitting someone in a crosswalk that Clark knew about should count as reckless driving.
“I have a hard time understanding how that was not reckless,” she said.
Clark also told investigators that he had a severe medical event at the time, forcing him to clutch his chest and possibly to hit the gas instead of the brake.
It was relatively dark at the time of the crash and recently installed flashing crosswalk lights, which are designed to indicate the presence of a person in the road, were not flashing at the time.
“Perhaps the crash could have been avoided under different circumstances, but the question is whether Mr. Clark has criminal culpability,” Foster wrote. “He was driving at approximately the posted speed limit, he knew of the warning lights indicating that a pedestrian was in the crosswalk, and those lights were not flashing, and he claims to have had an intervening medical event.”
One of the saddest pieces about the incident was that Unobskey normally didn’t go to work that day of the week but went in on her day off for a meeting, her mother said. She was planning to get married in October and was going to go wedding dress shopping that same week when she was hit by Clark.
“She just had her whole life ahead of her,” Kogut said.
Unobskey was an animal lover, a Dungeon and Dragons master and an activist who let the loved ones around her know how important they were to her.
The district attorney expressed heartfelt sympathies to Unobskey’s family and friends and hoped they understood his decision, even though he was sure it wasn’t what they wished to hear.
The months after Unobskey’s death have been tough on friends and family, and the news that Clark wouldn’t be prosecuted hit Kogut hard.
“When we learned nothing was going to happen, it really just brought us back to the first day,” she said.
She hoped there would be some future evaluation by officials on how that stretch of road should be handled.
The decision not to pursue criminal charges does not preclude Unobskey’s estate from going forward with a civil lawsuit.