EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 27, 2013

Questions arise over drug use in fatal crash

By Dave Rogers
Staff Writer

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SEABROOK -- A Hampton woman accused of selling the powerful narcotic fentanyl to 19-year-old Darriean Hess hours before the local teen slammed into bicyclists on a Route 1A bridge last weekend killing two and injuring two others, was ordered held on $10,000 cash or bond by a judge yesterday.

The arraignment of Cindy Sheppard, 48, who faced numerous drug-related charges, has led to a number of questions regarding her connection with the teen. And still unanswered is whether Hess was under the influence of fentanyl, a potent drug medically used for anesthesia or management of extreme pain, when she struck the bicyclists.

Hess was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts each of negligent homicide and second degree assault. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of seven years in jail and fines up to $4,000, per charge. Bail was set at $50,000 cash or surety. Hess was not charged with driving under the influence of drugs but police obtained a blood sample from her following the crash.

Yesterday, prosecutors revealed that Hess was staying overnight at Sheppard's Hampton Beach apartment, located close to the bridge. At some point during the night, Hess purchased the fentanyl -- an addictive drug sometimes sold illegally for recreational use. It has affects similar to heroin.

At about 12:45 a.m. Saturday, Sheppard allegedly gave Hess the keys to a 2002 Honda Civic and allowed her to drive knowing she didn't have a license. Hess was pulled over for going 59 mph in a 30 mph zone a few minutes later and told police she didn’t have a license.

The officer who stopped Hess gave her a summons, and told her that she had to have someone come and pick up the car. It was Sheppard -- a double amputee whose legs are amputated below the knees -- who came.

Asked how Sheppard was able to drive the car, County Attorney Jim Reams said the traffic stop happened yards away from her home.

About eight hours later, Hess got behind the wheel of the same car and drove over the bridge, where police say she struck the bicyclists.

Flanked by public attorney Neil Reardon at her arraignment yesterday, Sheppard kept her eyes firmly on the camera as police prosecutor Steve Champey asked Judge Mark Weaver for $10,000 cash bail. Reardon called Champey's request excessive saying that Sheppard was a double amputee having lost both legs below the knee and was not a flight risk.

“It certainly would be difficult for her to physically run away, that’s for sure,” Reardon stated.

Champey didn't dispute Reardon's claim that Sheppard wasn't a flight risk. But Champey pointed out that Sheppard was already out on bail for a Sept. 5th charge of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute. Sheppard, seated in a wheelchair, remained silent for most of the arraignment but thanked Weaver shortly before she was wheeled off camera. A probable cause hearing has been scheduled for Oct. 9, at 11 a.m.

After Sheppard's arraignment, Champey told a group of reporters he couldn't comment on the case but did say that investigators are still determining whether Hess had been under the influence of Fentanyl at the time of the crash.

Hours after her arraignment at Seabrook Circuit Court, Sheppard was arraigned at Rockingham County Superior Court on seven drug related charges related to her early September arrest. According to Reams, the charges were all drug-related and involved three counts of possession and four counts of intent to distribute. The drugs involved include heroin, cocaine, marijuana and prescription drugs. She is being held on $25,000 cash or bond for those charges, according to Reams.

In a related development yesterday, police issued a summons to Scott Martin, 19, of Lafayette Road, Seabrook, the fiance of Hess, for allowing an improper person to operate a motor vehicle, a violation-level offense. He is due to appear at Seabrook Circuit Court on Oct. 23.

According to police, the 2002 Honda Civic operated by Hess at the time of the crash is registered to Martin.

Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, were killed in the accident which took place on the Underwood Memorial Bridge around 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, were both injured and transported to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries. The four riders were taking part in an annual bicycle race which this year featured almost 1,200 bikers.