Concord woman will be retried in negligent homicide case

Monitor staff
Monday, August 29, 2016

The Concord woman accused of negligent homicide in the death of retired teacher Michael Phelps is scheduled to stand trial for a second time on the same charge this fall.

The May trial of Jordan Heath, 24, ended in a hung jury. Jurors deliberated for several hours but were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the Class B felony charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 3½ to 7 years.

After the mistrial, Assistant Merrimack County Attorney George Waldron vowed to retry the case. He will do so in October.

Jury selection is scheduled to begin Oct. 17, nearly five months after the first trial concluded.

Heath remains free on personal recognizance bail. She’s accused of texting at the time of the crash that killed Phelps, a former teacher at Rundlett Middle School and Concord High.

Heath claims her brakes failed as she approached a busy intersection in Allenstown on June 30, 2014, leaving her helpless as her Ford Focus blew through a red light and broadsided Phelps, who was turning left onto Allenstown Road.

Phelps was traveling east on a Honda VTX motorcycle when the collision occurred at about 8 a.m. He suffered life-threatening injuries when he was thrown from the bike. He later died at Concord Hospital.

The defense maintains the Focus, which Heath had borrowed from her mother’s boyfriend, suffered a mechanical defect and that the rear brakes were leaking brake fluid. The car was seven years old and had more than 100,000 miles on it.

However, the prosecution disputed that finding. Waldron said Heath never tried to stop, and presented testimony from one witness who claimed she never saw Heath’s rear brake lights flash as she went through the intersection.

Phelps, who was 66 at the time, was a recent survivor of prostate cancer. He was married and had three children.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for Sept. 30 in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord.

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