5K planned for Patrick Bettens this weekend as prosecutors weigh felony charges against driver in fatal crash

  • A memorial sign for Sgt. Patrick Bettens of Concord sits at the roundabout in downtown Penacook. Bettens was killed in a traffic accident in September 2018. Monitor file

  • Sgt. Patrick Bettens

  • Rod Greenwood runs through the quad at NHTI on Thursday as he gets ready for the 5K Memorial Race scheduled for Saturday in memory of his good friend, Sgt. Patrick Bettens, a correctional officer at the state prison in Concord, who was killed in September 2018. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Rod Greenwood runs through the quad at NHTI on Thursday, October 24, 2019 as he gets ready for the 5k Memorial Race planned for Saturday in memory of of his good friend Sgt. Patrick Bettens. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rod Greenwood runs through the quad at NHTI on Thursday, October 24, 2019 as he gets ready for the 5k Memorial Race planned for Saturday in memory of of his good friend Sgt. Patrick Bettens. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rod Greenwood runs through the quad at NHTI on Thursday, October 24, 2019 as he gets ready for the 5k Memorial Race planned for Saturday in memory of of his good friend Sgt. Patrick Bettens. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Jessica Warren Concord Police Department

Monitor staff
Published: 10/24/2019 5:19:02 PM

Criminal charges against the driver who struck and killed a bicyclist in Concord in September 2018 are under review by the county’s top prosecutors.

Jessica Warren, 42, of Penacook currently faces misdemeanor charges of vehicular assault and operating after suspension but authorities say a felony indictment could be forthcoming. That is because Warren’s license was suspended at the time of the crash that killed corrections officer Sgt. Patrick Bettens, meaning she never should have been behind the wheel.

“If someone is driving after suspension and they cause a crash that results in a fatality, the crime is elevated to a felony,” Concord police Lt. Sean Ford said in an interview this week.

The city prosecutor’s office referred the case to the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office several months ago for a closer look.

While the case moves forward, this Saturday, family members, friends and co-workers will join together at New Hampshire Technical Institute in Concord for a 5K road race in memory of Bettens. The race kicks off at 9 a.m. with New Hampshire Department of Corrections Commissioner Helen Hanks at the lead. All proceeds will benefit a college fund for Bettens’s two children.

Bettens’s longtime friend and colleague, Rod Greenwood, will be one of more than 150 runners taking part in the event.

“It’s very important to remember the people in our lives that have passed on and to pay tribute to them. Patrick was one of the most respectful people I’ve ever known,” said Greenwood, a Concord resident. “Saturday, I will be filled with a lot of emotion. We were very close friends.”

Greenwood, a retired corrections captain, said Bettens introduced him to triathlons, and that he has fond memories training and competing with him over the years. Bettens, a dedicated athlete who loved to bike, run and swim, was training for a triathlon on the day he was killed. The race was just a few days away.

Greenwood said the circumstances of that day still weigh heavily on him more than a year later, especially the fact that Warren was driving after suspension.

The most recent review of the criminal case against Warren marks a change in course for Concord police who had stood firm in their decision to file misdemeanor and violation-level offenses. Ford told the Monitor in March that detectives had consulted with New Hampshire State Police, city and county prosecutors and other experts in accident reconstruction and that those conversations supported a charge of vehicular assault. He cited a lack of aggravating factors, such as driver impairment, to warrant a felony charge at that time.

However, New Hampshire law points to Warren’s criminal history as an aggravating factor. She was previously convicted in Concord’s district court on Jan. 29, 2018, of operating after suspension. Nonetheless, she drove nine months later, on Sept. 5, 2018, the day of the crash on North State Street that authorities say killed Bettens, 41, of Concord.

State law says that someone driving after suspension can be charged with a Class B felony – punishable by a maximum of seven years in prison – if the driver is involved in a serious accident. While prosecutors have to prove that the person’s “unlawful operation of the motor vehicle caused or materially contributed to the collision,” any violation of the rules of the road can be considered as evidence against the defendant.

Bicycles are treated as vehicles in New Hampshire, and riders must stick to the road or a bike lane regardless of traffic conditions. Some laws, like the far-right law and the three-foot law, are meant to protect cyclists by dictating how much space motorists need to give cyclists and where bikers should ride.

The months-long investigation by Concord police found that Warren “was responsible for the crash in that she did not exercise due care” by driving too closely behind Bettens. She also faces two violations for traveling over a solid line and following a vehicle too closely.

Bettens was riding north on Route 3 on Sept. 5, 2018, when Warren’s vehicle struck him from behind, police said. Bettens had moved into the road to avoid a UPS truck parked in the bike lane, according to witness statements.

The van hit Bettens’s back tire, which caused him to fall off the bike and into the path of Warren’s vehicle. Witnesses reported that Warren then jumped the curb and headed back across the road, striking another vehicle.

Warren appeared in Concord’s district court earlier this month for a trial management conference, which was continued for a third time to allow attorneys additional time to exchange and review evidence in the case. The next hearing is scheduled for Dec. 16.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)

Please support the Monitor's coverage

Help us fund local COVID-19 reporting in our community.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy