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A Patriot Ledger series: Summary | PART 1 | PART 2 | PART 3 | UPDATES

Melanie's Story

A first-hand story from the grandfather of 13-year-old victim Melanie Powell
Memories of Melanie: A photo slideshow


State ranked among the worst in nation
Quincy judge was among first to take a hard line


TIMELINE: How Massachusetts drunken driving law has changed
Alcohol's causes and effects
How local and state courts treat repeat drunken drivers
Busiest courts in state for drunken driving arraignments

The cost of drunken driving

Massachusetts fails compared with other states
Death toll from drunken driving

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COPS: HE WAS TOO DRUNK TO notice lights, sirens

GREG DERR photos/The Patriot Ledger
Marshfield resident Robert Scheller, 56, pleaded innocent to drunken driving yesterday in Plymouth District Court. He is facing his eighth drunken driving charge in Massachusetts and has been charged with drunken driving six other times out of state.

Police say they had to yell
to get Marshfield man’s attention

By TAMARA RACE ~ The Patriot Ledger


Robert Scheller was so drunk he did not see the three cruisers following him with lights and sirens, police said.

When he finally pulled over he did not respond to the officer’s questions and appeared startled when the officer finally yelled to get his attention, prosecutors said yesterday during Scheller’s arraignment for his 14th drunken driving offense.
Judge Thomas Brownell

Judge Thomas Brownell ordered Scheller held without bail pending a hearing Monday to determine if he is a danger to the community or himself.

Scheller’s license was automatically suspended for life following his arrest.

The van he was driving, which was registered in his name, was impounded by Marshfield police. The district attorney will now decide whether to seize it permanently.

Plymouth County prosecutors say existing sentences are inadequate to control the worst repeat drunken drivers.

“The maximum penalty of five years is insufficient,” First Assistant District Attorney Frank Middleton said today. “These guys are just going to keep driving until they kill somebody. We don’t want to be in that position.”

Prosecutors want the penalty increased to 10 or 15 years in prison, Middleton said.

Scheller’s driving record includes seven drunken driving offenses in Massachusetts and six others in Florida, West Virginia, Virginia, and Colorado, according to police. It was originally reported that he had been arrested seven times in other states.

His record in Massachusetts goes back to 1982 and includes a history of license revocations and suspensions for drunken driving and being an habitual traffic offender.

Scheller’s license was last revoked after a Brockton incident in December, 2003, but was reinstated a few months later.

In addition to the 14th drunken driving offense, he pleaded innocent to lane violations, reckless driving, speeding and failure to stop for police.

His attorney Daniel Walsh, said his client was not likely to flee and could safely be released without bail pending the danger hearing.

Walsh said Scheller, who is 56, gave police a Norwell address but actually lives on Webster Street in Marshfield Center. His family is from Norwell, Walsh said.

Walsh said Scheller is a cabinet maker and installs high-end cabinets.

He said his client’s last drunken driving offense was more than six years ago in March 2000.

Marshfield police said they followed Scheller after receiving a tip from the owner of Marshfield Liquors who had refused to sell alcohol to him because he was drunk.

Marshfield police said they spotted Scheller’s van pulling out of the parking lot of Rexhame General Store, which also sells alcohol, and followed him west on Ocean Street through a school zone.

Scheller occasionally looked back at the cruiser following him with lights and sirens, but did not stop, police said.

He drove up to 55 mph in a 40 mph zone, police said.

Two more cruisers joined the pursuit until Scheller finally pulled over.

Police said he was able to recite the alphabet, but failed subsequent field sobriety tests.

Scheller smelled strongly of alcohol, was incoherent much of the time, and needed constant prompting before he would respond to simple requests, police said.

Tuesday’s arrest was Scheller’s first since Melanie’s Law, which imposed tougher penalties for drunken drivers, took effect last year.

The law was named for 13-year-old Melanie Powell of Marshfield. She was killed while walking on by a repeat drunken driver in Marshfield three years ago.

Tamara Race can be reached at


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