EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 3, 2012

High court upholds negligent homicide conviction

By Doug Ireland direland@eagletribune.com
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BRENTWOOD — The state Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a Manchester man convicted of causing an accident in Hampstead that killed a Sandown teenager.

Preston Thissell, 25, was sentenced in September 2011 to one and a half to five years in state prison for the death of 19-year-old Daniel Hendershot on Feb. 14, 2008.

Rockingham County Attorney James Reams announced that the high court recently upheld the conviction. But Thissell’s attorney, Nicholas Wright, said yesterday all avenues for his client haven’t been exhausted.

Wright said the conviction was appealed because two police officers allegedly discussed the case during the weeklong trial in Rockingham Superior Court in June 2011. The officers were prohibited from discussing the proceedings, he said.

“It is our position that tainted the fairness of the trial,” Wright said.

Thissell was convicted of negligent homicide, but found not guilty of manslaughter and reckless conduct, sparing him up to 30 years in prison on the manslaughter charge alone.

Thissell was jealous of Hendershot because the Sandown teen was dating a woman, 20-year-old Kaitlyn Sullivan, he also liked, according to prosecutors. Sullivan worked with Thissell at the Rockingham Nursing Home and also babysat his two younger siblings.

The couple were celebrating Valentine’s Day when Thissell began following them in his car after they left Hannaford’s supermarket in Hampstead. Thissell taunted Hendershot after pulling his Subaru alongside Hendershot’s Honda as they drove that night on an icy Route 121A in Hampstead.

Sullivan was sitting next to Hendershot when Thissell pulled up close behind the car and swerved back and forth, Assistant County Attorney Geoffrey Ward told jurors. Thissell then crossed the double yellow line, leaning out the window and taunting him even more, Ward said. Henderson sped up to avoid Thissell, but lost control of his car and crashed into an oncoming sedan occupied by three women. Henderson was killed, and Sullivan and the women were seriously injured.

The victim’s mother, Elizabeth Hendershot, said yesterday the loss of her son has been difficult to accept.

“We feel fortunate that justice prevailed in honor of Daniel’s memory,” she said.

“He was a sweet, gentle young man who simply fell in love with a beautiful girl and should still be here, living a wonderful life. We miss Daniel every minute of every day.”