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Man dies after woman allegedly drove truck into N.H. couple walking dog

Stephen VanDalinda and his wife, Erin, were on Pine Street with their dog when Catrina Costello allegedly deliberately drove into them.David L Ryan/Globe Staff

SEABROOK, N.H. — Finally, the VanDalindas were going to find peace, after nearly two years of toxic encounters with next-door neighbor Catrina Costello, who, court records show, had threatened and sworn at the couple, and whose pit bulls had once attacked the family dog.

Stephen and Erin VanDalinda had recently found a buyer for their home of nearly two decades on Greenleaf Drive and had stationed a portable storage container in the driveway to get them ready to move north to Raymond, N.H.

But as the couple walked their German shepherd, Lucy, Wednesday at about 6:20 p.m. on a nearby street, authorities allege, an intoxicated Costello, 38, mowed them down with her silver pickup truck, killing Stephen VanDalinda, 64, and seriously injuring his 61-year-old wife. Their dog was also killed, prosecutors said.


“They didn’t have a chance,” said Brian Henderson, who also lives on Greenleaf Drive. “They didn’t see it coming at all.”

Catrina Costello.New Hampshire Attorney General's Office via AP

The New Hampshire attorney general’s office announced Thursday evening that Costello had been charged with second-degree murder after an autopsy found Stephen VanDalinda died of blunt trauma to his head and body. His death was ruled a homicide.

Earlier Thursday, Costello waived her arraignment in Rockingham Superior Court.

She is being held without bail on several other charges, including second-degree assault, drunken driving, and violating a protective order that required her to stay away from Erin VanDalinda and her family, court records show. She pleaded not guilty.

The crash occurred on Pine Street, where the couple normally walked their dog, residents said.

At the site of the collision, a mailbox was knocked several feet across a lawn and a green newspaper box was at a tilt. Several shrubs were flattened.

After striking the couple, neighbors said, Costello fled the crash site, driving her truck home and parking the damaged vehicle in the driveway. Prosecutors charged her with leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious bodily injury.


One neighbor, Colby Johnston, said he recently had dinner with the couple, who had lived in their home for about two decades and raised three children there. Stephen VanDalinda, a nurse who worked at Exeter Hospital, excitedly showed him photographs of his new home in Raymond.

He had retired from the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod before taking the job at the hospital, a spokeswoman said.

“They were so happy about it. Just relieved that things had fallen into place, that they were getting away from all of this,” Johnston said. “I don’t think they wanted to leave the neighborhood. But they had to, for their own safety.”

The couple had been at odds with Costello since at least September 2016 when her pit bulls mauled the VanDalindas’ family dog, according to the protective order. One of the dogs also bit Stephen VanDalinda, according to an account by Erin VanDalinda, and there was a monetary settlement for medical fees.

After the attack, Seabrook police ordered Costello not to trespass on the VanDalindas’ property, but a judge found she confronted Erin VanDalinda four more times.

During one encounter, on Sept. 4, 2017, according to court records, Erin VanDalinda said Costello made an obscene gesture, shouted expletives at her, and warned she needed to watch her back.

In another incident, in May 2017, Costello yelled obscenities at the couple and later confronted them while they were walking their dog, records show.


Kay Henderson said Erin VanDalinda told her about the disturbing encounters with Costello, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2012.

“It just became this violent, raging hatred towards them,” Henderson said. “She was so overtaken by it.”

The homes belonging to Costello and the VanDalindas were separated by fences, one on each property.

On Thursday morning, neighbors hugged and shared what they knew about the crash. They described Costello and her partner as outliers in the neighborhood where most residents wave to each other and socialize at block parties.

“It doesn’t make any sense how the tragedy happened this way,” said Aboul Khan, a neighbor who also serves as a selectman and state representative. “We are praying that Erin gets better and hopefully she’ll make it, but everybody’s devastated.”

Erin VanDalinda suffered a broken femur, fractured tibia, collapsed lung, and broken ribs.

Khan said Stephen VanDalinda once gave him some of his long, woolly military jackets with badges on the shoulder. Another neighbor, Marilyn Johnston, said he loved to brew his own beer and search for trinkets on the beach with a metal detector.

“They were not self-centered,” she said. “Generous people . . . the nicest couple.”

Henderson recalled talking with the couple while she gardened.

“The VanDalindas were the most beautiful people I knew,” she said, fighting back tears. “If you needed help, they were there in a dime and will do it for you.”


J.D. Capelouto can be reached at jd.capelouto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jdcapelouto. Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.