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Driver charged in Walpole triple fatal

Records show lengthy record

Judge Emogene Johnson Smith (second from left) presided during the bedside arraignment of Jason Spurlin at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center yesterday on charges stemming from Saturday’s deadly wreck. Spurlin was represented by Donandrea Costello (standing, right). Judge Emogene Johnson Smith (second from left) presided during the bedside arraignment of Jason Spurlin at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center yesterday on charges stemming from Saturday’s deadly wreck. Spurlin was represented by Donandrea Costello (standing, right). (Will Nunnally/ Pool)
By Matt Collette
Globe Correspondent / July 7, 2009
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The driver in a July 4 crash that killed three people, including his fiancée, did not have a valid driver’s license and had a lengthy criminal record, including a drunken driving conviction in Florida two years ago, public records show.

A tearful, bedridden Jason Wayne Spurlin, 31, pleaded not guilty in an arraignment yesterday in his hospital room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, where a hospital spokesman said he was in fair condition.

Spurlin, who prosecutors said had empty alcohol containers and a bottle of vodka in the Jeep Cherokee he crashed, cried and moaned but did not speak during the brief afternoon hearing.

Spurlin was charged with three counts of motor vehicle homicide due to negligent operation, three counts of motor vehicle homicide due to operating under the influence, one count of driving without a license, and one count of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. He also was charged with a marked lane violation and with speeding in allegedly traveling at more than 70 miles per hour in a 25-to-30-mile-per-hour zone.

George Papachristos, a prosecutor for the Norfolk district attorney’s office, argued that Spurlin posed a flight risk and asked he be held on $75,000 bail. Judge Emogene Johnson Smith granted his request, despite objections from lawyer Donandrea Costello, who represented Spurlin yesterday.

The arraignment was scheduled to be held in Wrentham, but was moved because Spurlin was still hospitalized.

Spurlin had been staying with his fiancee, Amanda Murray, 23, in Melrose since the birth of their month-old son. Until recently, he lived in Florida.

During the hospital arraignment, Costello called the bail excessive and said she plans to appeal.

“The child lives in Massachusetts, and that is the reason he was in Massachusetts,’’ she said. “It is his focus and his interest at this time, and therefore he does not constitute a flight risk.’’

Spurlin and Murray’s son, Jason W. Spurlin II, is in state custody, but has been placed in a relative’s home, said Alison Goodwin, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families.

Early Saturday, Spurlin picked up his fiancée and two of her friends, Anna DuBois and Nicholas Kelly, both 20-year-olds from Walpole, from a fireworks display in Walpole. They were headed to Taco Bell for a late-night meal about 1 a.m. when Spurlin lost control of the Jeep, which belonged to one of Murray’s relatives, and smashed into a tree on East Street, just beyond High Plain Street in Walpole, police said.

When police arrived, said Papachristos, Spurlin told them he was under the influence of alcohol but did not say there were passengers in the crash. Two of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene, and the third at Beth Israel.

None of Spurlin’s passengers were wearing seat belts. In total, eight people died Saturday in crashes in Quincy, Walpole, Attleboro, and Sudbury. One state trooper called the holiday weekend one of the worst in his memory.

Some of Murray’s relatives were at Wrentham District Court yesterday, but declined to speak with reporters. They did not attend the arraignment in Boston.

Spurlin’s Florida driving record, obtained yesterday under a public records request, documents numerous driving violations. Spurlin continued to drive after his license was suspended indefinitely in March 1999, over failure to pay a traffic fine. He accumulated numerous traffic violations and was repeatedly cited for driving without a license.

In August, 2007, Spurlin was arrested in West Palm Beach and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He pleaded guilty in May 2008 and was sentenced to 10 days incarceration. In July 2001, he was arrested in Lake Worth, after a hit-and-run crash, a misdemeanor offense.

Spurlin spent more than 18 months in medium-security Florida prisons on charges including trafficking in stolen property, possession of cocaine, grand theft, and attempting to escape from police custody, from July 1999 to August 2000 and from April 2002 to October 2002.