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N.H. woman in deadly bike crash to plead guilty

Darriean Hess
Darriean HessAP File

Darriean Hess, a 20-year-old New Hampshire woman accused of killing two cyclists and seriously injuring two others when she crashed her car into them last year, intends to plead guilty to charges including manslaughter, officials said.

Hess filed a notice of intent to plead guilty on Friday, said Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway. Previously, the court had set a deadline of 12 p.m. Friday for Hess to file the notice, if she chose to do so.

Hess was under the influence of the drugs fentanyl, Klonopin, and Percocet on Sept. 21, 2013 when she drove over the Neil R. Underwood Memorial Bridge in New Hampshire, crossed a double yellow line, and struck a group of cyclists, prosecutors allege.

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Sentencing for Hess is scheduled for January, when she will formally enter her plea. Details of the sentence were not clear on Friday, however Conway said Hess will face a lengthy prison term.

Hess is facing nine criminal charges, including manslaughter, negligent homicide, second-degree assault, negligent homicide driving under the influence, and second-degree assault with serious bodily injury.

Anthony Naro, a lawyer for Hess, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Tom Rogers, whose wife, Pam Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, was killed in the crash, said he is glad Hess has chosen to plead guilty.

“I never really wanted it to go to trial,” he said. “I’m glad that she’s decided to enter the guilty plea and look forward to the sentencing and to being done.”

Rogers said he went through a trial years ago when his brother’s wife was killed by a drunk driver. It “was just awful,” he said.

Wells was participating in the noncompetitive Tri-State Seacoast Century bike ride with friends on Route 1A on the Seabrook/Hampton line in New Hampshire at about 8:30 a.m. when Hess allegedly crashed into them. Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, was also killed.

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Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, and Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, were injured. Heigh suffered broken bones and Uhmeyer suffered a fractured neck vertebrae, a concussion, and bleeding behind the eye, among other injuries, according to court records.

Hess had been stopped by police in nearly the same spot just a few hours earlier, at 12:45 a.m., for speeding and driving without a license. She then called Cindy Sheppard, 48, of Hampton, who took Hess to her home and allegedly gave her fentanyl, a pain killer stronger than morphine.

Prosecutors said Sheppard then allowed Hess to drive, knowing the younger woman did not have a license. Sheppard was sentenced in January to three-to-six years in prison for dealing drugs; she is awaiting trial on charges of supplying Hess with drugs and allowing her to drive.

Rogers said he plans to deliver an impact statement at Hess’ sentencing, but he has not begun to think about what he will say.

“She’s the kind of girl who didn’t care about anybody, didn’t care about the law,” Rogers said of Hess. “She’s a troubled child, and she wasn’t really thinking about anybody but herself that day and she knew full well that there was a charity [bike] ride going on and didn’t really have it together to think about how her actions would impact anybody else.”

Rogers said his family is “really looking forward to being able to move on and put this behind us, and get on with healing.”

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The maximum sentence for manslaughter in New Hampshire is 30 years.


Kiera Blessing can be reached at kiera.blessing@globe.com.