Felony charge filed against driver in crash that killed Concord corrections officer

  • Warren

  • A memorial sign for Patrick Bettens sits at the roundabout in downtown Penacook. Bettens, a corrections officer at the state prison in Concord, was killed in a bike-vehicle crash in September 2018. Caitlin Andrews

  • Patrick Bettens

Monitor staff
Published: 1/3/2020 5:47:46 PM
Modified: 1/3/2020 5:47:22 PM

More than a year after a state corrections officer was struck and killed while riding his bike in Concord, prosecutors have filed a felony charge against the driver whose license was suspended at the time.

Jessica Warren, 42, of Penacook was recently indicted on one count of driving after suspension in connection with the Sept. 5, 2018, crash that killed Sgt. Patrick Bettens.

The charge comes after months of questions from the victim’s family members and friends about why Concord police did not file a felony against Warren at the time of her arrest.

Warren was previously convicted in January 2018 of a misdemeanor count of operating after suspension. Nonetheless, she drove approximately nine months later, on Sept. 5, 2018, the day of the crash on North State Street that killed Bettens, 41, of Concord.

Under state law, a motorist operating after suspension can be charged with a Class B felony – punishable by up to seven years in state prison – if the driver is involved in a serious collision. 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.

The indictment handed up against Warren in late December accuses her of unlawfully operating a motor vehicle on Sept. 5, 2018, resulting in Bettens’s death.

At the time of her arrest in February 2019, police charged Warren with misdemeanor counts of vehicular assault and operating after suspension, in addition to two violations for traveling over a solid line and following a vehicle too closely. The Concord Police Department initially stood by its decision to file the lower-level charges, after consulting with New Hampshire State Police, city and county prosecutors.

However, within a few months, the case was back before the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office for further review.

Retired Concord police Lt. Sean Ford said a closer look at state laws made the department rethink its course of action.

“If someone is driving after suspension and they cause a crash that results in a fatality, the crime is elevated to a felony,” he said in an interview this past fall.

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.

Bettens, who previously served in the U.S. Army, was employed by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections and worked in the men’s state prison in Concord. An athlete who loved to bike, run and swim, he was training for a triathlon when he was killed. He was the father of two young boys.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 603-369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)

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