Driver who killed cyclist gets prison

  • Albon M. Chapman Jr. (Newport Police photograph)

  • Dan Thurston, 40, of Claremont, was struck by a pickup truck and killed when riding his bicycle on John Stark Highway on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of Thurston Family James M. Patterson

Valley News
Published: 9/28/2022 8:13:46 PM

NEWPORT — A 32-year-old Claremont man who had multiple convictions for using a mobile device while driving and who tried to prevent police from examining his mobile phone after he struck and killed a cyclist earlier this year in Newport, will serve at least 3½ years in prison but could face a lot longer time behind bars if he fails to abide by the conditions of his sentence.

Albon M. Chapman Jr., who was out on bail on a charge of driving with a suspended license at the time of the incident, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in Sullivan Superior Court on Monday and was sentenced from 3½ years to 7 years in state prison in a distracted driving case where both the perpetrator and victim knew each other.

Because Chapman was “on release” for another offense at the time he committed the negligent homicide, Chapman got an extra 1½ years to 3 years added to his sentence, all suspended for 10 years providing he remains on good behavior and completes the prison’s substance abuse program.

Chapman also pleaded guilty to charges of falsifying physical evidence, for which he received a 1½ years to 7 years in prison, suspended for 10 years, which will be tacked onto his negligent homicide sentence if he violates his conditions.

As part of the negotiated plea deal, prosecutors dropped charges of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon and negligent homicide while driving under the influence.

“I apologize to the family. This has been extremely hard and I can’t imagine how they’re feeling, but every day I have to wake up and know that I took an innocent life, and I’m extremely sorry for that,” Chapman told the court, his voice cracking.

Chapman was driving east on John Stark Highway, also known as Route 103, on the morning of Jan. 3 and approaching downtown Newport when the GMC 1500 pickup truck he was driving struck and killed Daniel Thurston, of Claremont, who was pedaling his bicycle in the eastbound breakdown lane.

Thurston, 40, who was also a longtime acquaintance of Chapman’s and lived in the apartment below Chapman’s mother-in-law in Claremont, was on the way to a meeting with his probation officer at the time.

“My brother did not deserve what happened to him,” said Thurston’s sister, Amanda Thurston Lord, in her victim impact statement read into the record during Monday’s hearing by Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway. “Our family has been torn apart the past nine months.”

Her brother, a self-taught ink drawing artist who worked in the building trade and himself had brushes with the law, was making great strides in tuning his life around, Lord told the Valley News earlier this year,

Although Chapman initially claimed to police at the scene that Thurston had swerved in front him, that account was contradicted by witnesses who said that they had to put space between their own vehicles and Chapman’s because they could see his truck “all over the road” and crossing both the center line and the fog line, police said.

Moreover, police said that Chapman had attempted to retrieve his phone at the scene of the accident and begun to unlock it when he was ordered to stop because he was tampering with evidence. When he finally relinquished the phone after a brief tussle with the police officer, the screen was found to be open to a fantasy sports league page, according to the police affidavit.

The deep pain in how one person’s derelict actions can affect survivors was laid out in the Newport courtroom on Monday.

Lord, in her statement read into the court record by Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway, said her brother’s “avoidable death has devastated me and my family,” relating that she had to take five months off from work because of trauma and “was on the verge of losing my job due to being unable to focus and complete tasks.”

She has had to go on medication and see a counselor, Lord explained, to seek relief from anxiety, and her son, who was close with his uncle, is battling “severe depression every single day” as are her brother’s own children as a result of Thurston’s death.

They “want to be with their dad,” Lord said, adding, “it is not fair they had to lose their dad to negligence and carelessness” by Chapman.

The year has been an especially painful one for the Thurston family.

Seven days after Daniel Thurston was killed, his grandmother, Grace Edith Thurston, died on Jan. 10 at her home in Claremont from cancer.

She was 81 years old.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.


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