Police: Drugs given to driver in fatal Hampton crash
SEABROOK - Hours before a Seabrook woman struck and killed two bicyclists, police say a Hampton woman provided the pain killer fentanyl to the 19-year-old driver, then allowed her to drive a car last Saturday.
Cindy Sheppard, 48, of 51 Ocean Blvd., was charged Wednesday night with a felony count of selling drugs and of allowing an improper person to operate a car.
Darriean Hess, who had no driver's license, had already been stopped for speeding in Hampton at 12:45 a.m. on Saturday — about eight hours before she allegedly caused the deadly accident during a bicycle charity ride, police said.
Sheppard is accused of giving Hess the fentanyl some time after 1:30 a.m., police said.
In a separate case, Sheppard was arrested June 4 for allegedly dealing drugs. Hampton police detectives raided her home on Ocean Boulevard, coming away with quantities of cocaine, heroin and other drugs. At the time of her arrest, police said Sheppard was a "significant source" of heroin in the region.
Sheppard was arraigned Thursday morning from the Rockingham County jail via video at the 10th Circuit Court, Seabrook District Division. Judge Mark Weaver set bail at $10,000 cash or surety at Sheppard's arraignment today.
Sheppard's defense lawyer, Neil Reardon, argued for lower bail, saying she's not a flight risk. He said she has spent her entire life in New Hampshire and all of her family is in the area. He also said Sheppard is a double amputee from the leg down and that it would be "difficult for her to physically run away."
Hess made her first court appearance Wednesday. She was arrested Tuesday on two counts each of negligent homicide and second-degree assault.
Judge Mark Weaver set bail at $50,000 cash or corporate surety, meaning she'll remain at Rockingham County jail unless she can make bail.
"She's been absolutely grief-stricken, judge," public defender Tony Naro said of Hess, adding, "This is beyond tragic for all parties involved."
The accident on Route 1A happened Saturday at 8:30 a.m. while bicyclists participating in the Granite State Wheelmen Seacoast Century Ride were at Underwood Bridge near the Seabrook town line.
Authorities say Hess was driving a friend's 2002 Honda Civic southbound on Route 1A at a high rate of speed when she suddenly drifted over the double yellow line and crashed into four bicyclists.
Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass., and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass., were killed. Two other bicyclists, Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, Mass., and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, Mass., were injured.
Hours earlier, Hampton police had stopped Hess in the same area after she was caught traveling 59 mph in the zone posted at 30 mph.
During the traffic stop, police discovered that Hess had no driver's license in New Hampshire or any other state, police said in a complaint. She was issued summonses and released to Sheppard, a licensed driver.
According to police, Sheppard was told that Hess couldn't drive because she didn't have a license. Sheppard then took control of the vehicle.
During an interview with police after her arrest Tuesday in connection with the accident, Hess told investigators that she spent the night at Sheppard's Hampton residence after she was released Saturday after the initial traffic stop. During that time, Hess told police that Sheppard provided her with the drug fentanyl, a police affidavit said.
"Ms. Hess stated that Ms. Sheppard took control of her vehicle and keys at the time of the initial traffic stop, but returned them to her with the knowledge that she would drive the vehicle in the morning," Hampton police Detective Christopher Gilroy wrote in the affidavit.
Witnesses have told police that the vehicle was operating erratically before the accident, but police have not said that Hess was under the influence of alcohol or any drugs at the time.
Saturday's accident was witnessed by David Kelley, a retired major with the state police, according to the police affidavit.
Kelley told police that he was approaching the bridge heading northbound on Route 1A and saw a Honda Civic crest the top of the bridge "at a speed that he believed was unreasonable for the conditions of the road," the affidavit said.
"I thought I would see cruisers following behind," Kelley told police, indicating that he thought the driver could be involved in a pursuit.
Hess later told Kelley she had "taken her eyes off of the road for a few seconds," according to a Hampton police affidavit.
Kelley then saw Hess cross the double-yellow centerline of the bridge as she was heading southbound. Kelley told police that the group of bicyclists were riding in a single-file line on the far right side of the northbound lane when the car hit them.
"Mr. Kelley stated that he observed multiple bicyclists tossed from their bicycles as a result of the collision," the affidavit said.
The car then continued traveling in the northbound lane and then crossed back into the southbound lane before crashing into roadway delineators in the breakdown lane and coming to rest on top of a sign at the Seabrook line, Kelley told police.
"Mr. Kelley stated that he observed the female operator of the vehicle and observed her with her eyes open and her head up," the affidavit said.
Hess was unable to enter pleas, as the charges are all felonies. She is due back in court for a probable cause hearing Oct. 8.
Sheppard was expected to appear in superior court Thursday morning in connection with her June arrest. She was being held on $10,000 bail Wednesday night on the latest charges.
Union Leader Correspondent Jim Kimble contributed to this report.