2019 Stories of the Year: Impaired driving claims lives in N.H.

  • FILE - In this July 6, 2019, file photo, motorcyclists participate in a ride in Randolph, N.H., to remember seven bikers killed there in a collision with a pickup truck in June. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker says he expects administration officials to testify without limitations when lawmakers reconvene a hearing into lapses at the state motor vehicle department exposed by a crash that killed seven motorcyclists. (Paul Hayes/Caledonian-Record via AP, File) —AP file

  • Tyler Dempsey

  • This May 11, 2019 booking photo released by the East Windsor Police Department shows Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in East Windsor, Conn. Zhukovskyy is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 in Lancaster, N.H., on seven counts of negligent homicide after the pickup he was driving collided with a group of motorcycles, killing seven on a two-lane highway in Randolph, N.H. on Friday night. (East Windsor Police Department via AP)

  • CORRECTS TO SPRINGFIELD NOT HAMPTON DISTRICT COURT - Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, 23, of West Springfield, stands during his arraignment in Springfield District Court, Monday, June 24, 2019, in Springfield, Mass. Zhukovskyy, the driver of a truck in a fiery collision on a rural New Hampshire highway that killed seven motorcyclists, was charged Monday with seven counts of negligent homicide. (Don Treeger/The Republican via AP, Pool) Treeger

  • Chris Shaw (center in white) reacts with friends and family after learning the plea deal for Joseph Leonard Jr. to felony charges of negligent homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated in connection with Tyler Shaw’s death in 2018. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Beth Shaw speaks directly to Joseph Leonard, Jr. as she gives her victim impact statement with her husband, telling Leonard what it has been like since her son, Tyler was killed im 2017 and the impact it has on her and her family on Friday, October 4, 2019 at Merrimack County Superior Court. GEOFF FORESTER

  • Friends and family raise their hands when asked by Keith Hickey who would be willing to trade places with Tyler Shaw at the sentencing hearing of Joseph Leonard, Jr. at Merrimack County Superior Court on Friday, October 4, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER

  • New Hampshire Deputy Attorney General Jane Young speaks during a news briefing on the motorcycle crash, in Concord, N.H., Sunday, June 23, 2019. A long-planned Blessing of the Bikes ceremony for motorcycle enthusiasts became a scene of mourning and reflection Sunday as about 400 people paid tribute to several bikers killed in a devastating collision with a pickup truck. (Leah M. Willingham/The Concord Monitor via AP) Leah M. Willingham

  • A mourner kneels at a memorial to seven people whose lives were claimed in a fiery crash while riding with the Jarheads Motorcycle Club last month, Saturday, July 6, 2019, in Randolph, N.H. Thousands of motorcyclists converged at the crash site at the conclusion of the 90-mile Ride for the Fallen 7 in New Hampshire to remember the riders who were killed. (Paul Hayes/Caledonian-Record via AP) Paul Hayes

  • Fran Haasch inspects a memorial at the site where a crash claimed the lives of seven people riding with the Jarheads Motorcycle Club in Randolph, N.H. Thousands of motorcyclists converged at the crash site at the conclusion of the 90-mile Ride for the Fallen 7 to remember the riders who were killed. Caledonian-Record via AP

  • Tyler Shaw was killed last Monday by Exit 1 in Bow when his truck was hit by another vehicle that failed to stop at the end of the Interstate 89 off-ramp. A cross and remembrances adorn near the crash scene on Saturday, May 5, 2018 on Logging Hill Road with exit 1 of I-89 in the backround.

Published: 12/27/2019 6:36:09 PM

It often happens in an instant. Lives are lost, others changed forever.

As police investigate these fatal car crashes, they routinely find one driver was in the wrong – speeding, drunk or just reckless. Families wait for justice as the negligent homicide criminal cases wind through court.

This was the plight of Concord mother Beth Shaw, who in September rallied against a plea deal offered to Joesph Leonard, Jr., a Derry man charged with causing the crash that killed her 20-year-old son.

Police said Leonard was driving under the influence when he crashed into the truck driven by 20-year-old Tyler Shaw in Bow on April, 30, 2018, killing him. It was the third time that police had arrested Leonard for drunken driving. Leonard was first arrested as a teenager. And just eight years ago, his impairment caused an accident in which he was injured.

Beth Shaw put up an electronic sign on Logging Hill Road off Interstate 89 at the site where her son was killed. It read: “3 DWI, 1 FATAL, 5 YR PLEA?”

“If the murder of my 20-year-old son by a man whose driving record is littered with drunk driving crimes does not deserve the maximum sentence lawmakers assign the charge of negligent homicide, who does?” Beth Shaw asked Judge Richard McNamara in Merrimack County Superior Court in October.

“Please do not let Mr. Leonard’s history be repeated,” Beth Shaw added. “Please do not let our history be repeated. Too many innocent people are dying at the hands of drunk drivers.”

McNamara ended up rejecting the plea and adding another year to Leonard’s sentence.

Shaw said it still wasn’t enough and wants the legislature to make the punishment for negligent homicide more severe. She isn’t the only one.

The state saw several high-profile negligent homicide cases this year – two of them in the Concord area. These cases have started a larger conversation about the need for more deterrents to driving under the influence.

One driver who is facing multiple counts of negligent homicide is Volodymyr Zhukovskyy, who police say caused one of the most deadly traffic collisions in state history.

Seven members of the Jarheads Motorcycle Club, a New England group of Marines and their spouses, were struck and killed when a pickup truck hauling a trailer crossed into traffic on Route 2 in Randolph, police said. One of those killed was Desma Oakes, 42, a Concord mother, who was riding with her boyfriend.

Police say Zhukovskyy, 23, was intoxicated at the time of the crash, and is fac ing seven counts of negligent homicide. The crash in Randolph received national attention, not only because of the severity of the crash, but because of government fai lures that allowed Zhukovskyy to keep his license after several prior violations for driving under the influence.

Zhukovskyy, who had a commercial driver’s license and worked for Westfield Transport at the time of the crash, has an extensive record that includes arrests in six states. He had been charged with drunk driving in Connecticut just weeks the motorcyclists were killed – something that should have triggered a termination of his commercial driver’s license from the Massachusetts Department of Motor Vehicles.

Massachusetts’ registrar of motor vehicles resigned from her post in the wake of the crash, which triggered an audit of license revocations in the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Within a week of the Randolph crash this past June, Tyler Dempsey, 23, of Loudon, a part-time EMT and firefighter for the Loudon Fire Department, was arrested after a crash that happened when he was driving home after spending the night at two bars in Concord. One of Dempsey’s two passengers, his life-long friend Ryan Christie, was killed in the crash.

A grand jury had indicted Dempsey on alternative counts of negligent homicide, one alleging speed and the other alleging intoxication. Dempsey ultimately pleaded guilty to the Class B felony charge for speeding, while prosecutors dismissed the alternative charge, a Class A felony that would have carried a stiffer prison sentence.

Dempsey was sentenced to two to six years at a New Hampshire correctional facility on Dec. 16. In court, Dempsey referred to Christie as a brother and said he is sorry that Christie had to pay for his mistakes.

“It is difficult to express and articulate the significance Ryan had in my life, and the great void that’s been left in his wake,” Dempsey said.

Within days of the crash that killed Christie, New Hampshire State Police returned to Loudon to investigate a second fatal that resulted in the death of Angelica Lane on June 23. The 22-year-old was stopped on Route 106 in anticipation of turning left into her driveway when her Lexus ES330 was rear-ended and pushed into oncoming traffic. Maggie Doorlag, 27, is charged with negligent homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated in connection with the crash.

A trooper arrested Doorlag that night for drunken driving after she failed a field sobriety test, according to court documents. Lane’s family awaits Doorlag’s trial.

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