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Baby sitter Lamprey, jailed in 2000 fatal crash, granted parole

Nancy Lamprey is sworn in at er hearing at Rockingham County Superior Court. 8/22/06.

(Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams)

Nancy Lamprey is sworn in at er hearing at Rockingham County Superior Court. 8/22/06. (Concord Monitor photo/Ken Williams) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

The Loudon baby sitter who killed a child and injured several others while driving recklessly in 2000 was granted parole yesterday, but not before being asked to make a quiet re-entry to society. The state parole board’s directive stands in stark contrast to the judge’s original sentence, which called for Nancy Lamprey to tell her story as part of a community service plan promoting seat-belt use.

But Lamprey – who said at trial that an animal caused the crash and not her dangerous game of “swervies” as children testified – never was successful in developing that safe driving campaign, even after admitting in 2004 that she was at fault.

Yesterday, the parole board was told the victims and their families don’t want to see Lamprey’s story stripped across newspapers anymore.

They don’t want her using their names.

“If today goes in your favor, as I expect it will, I hope I never hear your name or see your face ever again,” said Carol Silva, whose 10-year-old daughter Katie died when traveling in the back of Lamprey’s truck.

Lamprey turned toward the mother as she spoke.

A decade of wrangling

The parole board’s decision puts to rest more than a decade of complex legal proceedings, as the courts grappled with how to handle the nontraditional sentence imposed on Lamprey.

Lamprey, who is now 50, was convicted in 2001 after prosecutors showed she put six children in the back of her pickup truck when driving them home from a Loudon bus stop. While purposefully fishtailing her truck, Lamprey lost control and hit a tree.

At sentencing, prosecutors asked for 10 years in prison. Judge Edward Fitzgerald, though, gave her to 15 to 30 years, saying he would shave time off her sentence if she developed a community service campaign on safe driving.

In 2002 Lamprey made her first attempt while free on bail and awaiting a state Supreme Court decision on her appeal. In a homemade flier, Lamprey wrote that she didn’t know what caused the crash.

“In three and a half seconds we went from being a happy crew . . . to being accident victims,” she wrote. “How did such a thing happen? I do not know how the accident happened, but I do know that had I buckled the children into seat belts I would have been within the law today, and as I write this, I would not be sitting in prison.”

Lamprey was not incarcerated when the letter was written.

Parents of the victims called it offensive.

After the Supreme Court denied her appeal, Lamprey began serving her sentence in 2003.

Then in May 2007, after Lamprey had served five years in prison, Fitzgerald agreed to free her later that year, saying that she had finally accepted responsibility for the crash and seemed ready to begin her community service.

Prosecutors objected, but the point became moot when the parole board denied her parole request in October 2007 and told her to wait another five years before asking again to be released.

A month after that parole hearing Lamprey’s lawyer went to Fitzgerald again, this time asking that the judge suspend all of her remaining sentence, effectively overruling the parole board. The state objected. And in 2008 Fitzgerald ruled instead to cut a decade from Lamprey’s sentence, suspending the time from her minimum sentence, not the maximum, so she would have to petition the parole board before being released.

Lamprey did that yesterday, just over five years after the parole board denied her last request.

At the hearing, which lasted about 20 minutes, Lamprey said very little, answering direct questions from the board members but deferring mostly to her lawyer, Peter Callaghan.

“She’s been a model prisoner,” Callaghan said of Lamprey, who has been living in a halfway house for about two years. “She’s been working out in the community. And my understanding is she has a place to live. She has a job. She is not a risk to the community. And she would very much appreciate if the parole board approved her request.”

Not so fast

Lamprey, who Callaghan said is just days shy of serving the 10 years prosecutors originally asked for, will not immediately be released.

Jeff Lyons, spokesman for the Department of Corrections, said it will take a few months for her parole plan to be developed and details, like where she will live, to be finalized.

As she left the hearing, Lamprey declined to comment.

Assistant Merrimack County Attorney David Rotman did not object to Lamprey’s request yesterday, noting that she has served what the state originally wanted.

He did tell the parole board that victims not present at yesterday’s hearing requested Lamprey not be allowed to enter Loudon, saying that one of them accidentally came into contact with her earlier this year. He called the experience “extremely difficult” for the victim.

Lamprey agreed to the condition yesterday, despite having family in Loudon.

The board briefly discussed if Lamprey would be able to go from Barnstead, where she intends to live, to her job at a Concord Dunkin’ Donuts without passing through the town.

“We go through Chichester and Epsom. We don’t go through Loudon,” Lamprey said.

She is not allowed to operate a vehicle, according to the board, and will also have to pay restitution to the victims, though an amount was not specified yesterday.

The board spent much of the hearing discussing how to handle Lamprey’s community service requirement.

When the judge cut 10 years from her sentence in 2008, he stipulated that upon release she would need to complete 300 hours of community service in each of the first two years and 200 hours in each of the following three years.

That time was meant to be spent on the safe driving campaign. But parole board member Jeff Brown said yesterday that those kinds of community service requirements are normally effective when the victim’s family approves and takes part as a way of preserving their loved one’s memory.

“This is a raw, open wound still. . . . I think this community service is better off done without any notoriety, whether it be painting, cleaning, helping homeless people, something that is not going to be, you know, thrown in front of kids and run all over the newspapers,” Brown said. “In this instance I think it would be better if the community service is done as quietly as possible.”

Board member Kathryn McCarroll noted, though, that the judge’s order was specific in being geared toward driver safety.

But Silva said she didn’t want Lamprey speaking about the crash in public.

“I don’t think she is capable of doing that effectively,” she said. “That’s just my feeling. It’s almost like a punch in the face for me.”

In turn, the board made it a stipulation of Lamprey’s parole that within 30 days of her release a judge amend the original community service order.

“Soup kitchens always need people. It’s obscure. It’s really, it’s not in the spotlight,” board member Leslie Mendenhall said as Lamprey gently nodded. “As much as it’s great to do something (regarding) your crime, if it’s going to do more harm than good it’s not worth it.”

‘Glad it’s over’

Katie Silva would be 22 if she hadn’t been killed, her mother told the board yesterday, “22 years, seven months and 23 days old,” to be exact.

As she stood outside of the state prison after the hearing, Silva said she wished Lamprey served her full sentence. But the board’s decision gave her the small relief of not having to attend any more court or parole hearings, of being done with that part of the process.

“I’m glad it’s over. I really am,” the mother, who lost her only child in the crash, said. “I just, I don’t want to do it anymore. So even though I would have liked to have seen her in another five years, I know I eventually would have to come back (here.)”

Today, she keeps Katie’s memory alive not through scholarship funds or memorials but through a Loudon garden she and her husband tend to, a relationship with her daughter’s best friend who now is like her own child and a tattoo of angel wings on her calf.

And while yesterday provided the slightest comfort, she said she will never forgive Lamprey for the decision she made.

“Lamprey is fortunate that she will get out of prison someday and resume her life with her family,” the mother told the board. “But Katie will never get out of her grave. And I will never stop grieving for her.”

(Tricia L. Nadolny can be reached at 369-3306 or tnadolny@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @tricia_nadolny.)

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