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010319-adh-nws-Mayfield Arraignment-my

Robert Gene Mayfield stands next to his attorney Laura Fine while listening to Judge Thomas McHill arraign him on manslaughter charges in the death of Neil Nightingale, who was killed in a head-on collision on Highway 20 east of Lebanon in January 2016.

A truck driver involved in a 2016 fatal crash outside Lebanon was accused of manslaughter and other crimes on Wednesday afternoon in Linn County Circuit Court.

Robert Gene Mayfield, formerly of Sweet Home, was charged with first-degree manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, third-degree assault and fourth-degree assault based on an indictment filed in mid-December.

The crash happened near the Bauman Mill on Highway 20 on the morning of Jan. 21, 2016.

Neil Allen Nightingale, 39, died from his injuries at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Corvallis eight days later.

Mayfield, then 54-years-old, also was seriously injured in the wreck and endured multiple surgeries.

Oregon State Police reports from 2016 indicate that Mayfield, traveling westbound in a semi-truck, had crossed the center turn lane and entered Nightingale’s eastbound lane, colliding head-on with Nightingale’s 2011 Kenworth log truck.

The assault charges stem from injuries to David Briggs, who was driving a 2003 Subaru Legacy that also was involved in the wreck.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Mayfield’s security was set at $120,000, and his retained attorney, Laura Fine, said that her client would be able to post the required 10 percent bail to be released from jail thanks to a family member. Mayfield currently lives in Prineville, according to court paperwork.

“This case is going to be complex,” prosecutor Richard Wijers said.

The next hearing in the case was scheduled for Feb. 5. 

A grand jury had previously declined to press charges in the summer of 2016.

After the hearing, when asked why the matter had been taken to a grand jury again, Wijers declined to answer much, citing the ongoing criminal case. He stated that the statute of limitations had not expired.

The criminal case comes on the heels of a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit, a filing that sought more than $114 million, against Mayfield and his employer, Pape Machinery, for the death of Nightingale.

The settlement was made official on Oct. 15, and though it was approved as necessary by Judge Fay Stetz-Waters, no significant details about the terms were made public.

The wrongful death lawsuit had been scheduled for a 14-day jury trial starting New Year’s Eve, but that was cancelled with the agreement between the parties.

Tamara Lea Nightingale, Neil Nightingale’s widow, filed the lawsuit in February 2017. She claimed that Mayfield was piloting a Pape Machinery utility rig and speeding and scrolling through Facebook on a smartphone when the wreck occurred.

Court paperwork filed by the Nightingale estate’s attorneys in May states that Mayfield was on his way to work in Tangent when he was scrolling through the Facebook Messenger application on his Pape Machinery cellular phone to find a phone number. He was planning to pick up a friend’s son and give him a ride to Tangent.

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Kyle Odegard can be reached at kyle.odegard@lee.net, 541-812-6077 or via Twitter @KyleOdegard.

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Business Reporter