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Tavern, state settle after crash deaths

Mystic - John's Mystic River Tavern will pay a $5,000 fine and have its license suspended for 10 days for serving two intoxicated patrons who were killed in a 2008 motorcycle crash after they left the bar.

John Suchy, director of the state Liquor Control Division, said Tuesday that his agency accepted the bar's offer of a compromise in lieu of a hearing that would have determined a penalty.

Lenn Eller, 33, of Ledyard, was driving a motorcycle and Morna "Paige" Marolda, 26, of Noank, was his passenger when it crashed on Hewitt Road during the early hours of May 7, 2008. The crash occurred just minutes after witnesses said they left the bar.

Stonington police said that Eller's blood-alcohol level was 0.14 and that Marolda's also exceeded the 0.08 limit for legal intoxication at the time of the crash. They have declined to release her blood-alcohol level, saying it was not a contributing factor in the crash. Police reported the bar to the Liquor Control Division for action.

The state originally said it would accept a $10,000 fine and a 30-day license suspension. The popular Cottrell Street bar responded with a counteroffer of a five-day license suspension and a $5,000 fine paid over one year.

The state rejected that offer and said it would proceed with a hearing.

The bar then made a new offer, which the state accepted earlier this month. It calls for a 15-day suspension, but five of those days will be held in abeyance. This means the bar will only have to close for 10 days.

Suchy said that if it comes to the attention of the Liquor Control Division that the bar has again served an intoxicated person, the additional five days would take effect.

Suchy said the dates of the license suspension have not yet been scheduled but are being negotiated. The bar will have to pay the $5,000 fine over the next six months.

He said there is no typical penalty or settlement for cases such as this.

"Nothing we do can bring back these two lives. It was a terrible, tragic incident," he said.

He added that the commission did what it considered to be fair and said the families of Eller and Marolda have other remedies such as a lawsuit.

Bar owner Tim Murray could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Eller was prohibited from driving in Connecticut at the time of the accident. Connecticut officials had suspended his Georgia driver's license on April 16 after he failed to appear for a hearing. He was also driving without insurance or license plates for the motorcycle, both of which are required by law.

j.wojtas@theday.com

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