Derry man arrested for crash that killed New Ipswich couple

  • Ryan Kittredge was arrested by New Hampshire Police Friday and charged with one count of negligent homicide and one count of felony reckless conduct for allegedly causing a double fatal by driving the wrong way on Route 101 in Epping on Jan. 10. Courtesy Photo

  • John Johnson, 58, of New Ipswich, who was a police sergeant for Townsend, Massachusetts for 40 years, and his wife Heidi Johnson, 57, were killed in a three-car crash on Route 101 in Epping on Jan. 10. Courtesy Photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/25/2019 12:22:52 PM

Using the handcuffs of deceased Townsend, Massachusetts, Sgt. John Johnson, New Hampshire state police arrested a Derry man Friday and charged him with the death of Johnson and his wife in a wrong-way crash that took place on Route 101 in Epping earlier this month.

John Johnson, 58, of New Ipswich, who was a police sergeant in Townsend for 40 years, was driving a 2008 Chevrolet Impala, with his wife Heidi Johnson, 57, as a passenger, when the fatal crash occurred.

Ryan Kittredge, 31, of Derry was arrested Friday morning in Epping and charged with one count of negligent homicide and one count of felony reckless conduct.

The charges allege Kittredge caused the double fatal crash by driving the wrong way on Route 101 in Epping on Jan. 10.

“We believe that impairment was a cause of the crash. We are still awaiting some toxicology reports,” State Police Capt. Christopher W. Vetter said Friday. “The investigation is still ongoing. Charges could be upgraded or changed. …There’s quite a bit of investigating still left to be done.”

Kitteridge was arrested by state police at about 8:30 a.m. Friday morning at the  Epping Police Department, Vetter said. State Police announced the arrest at the Epping police station about an hour later, with Sgt. Johnson’s former colleague, Townsend Deputy Police Chief James Sartell, in attendance. Vetter said it had been arranged ahead of time to use Sgt. Johnson’s handcuffs for the arrest.

Vetter said all fatal crashes are investigated thoroughly, but added that it did hit home that one of the crash victims had been a police officer.

“We treat all of our investigations in which anybody loses their life in a similar fashion and while there is a little bit more of a home factor in terms of ‘this was a police officer’ … these are two innocent people that were killed and our troopers gave this the same sort of effort they would give any investigation,” Vetter said.

Kittredge was arraigned on the two charges in the Rockingham Superior Court in Brentwood Friday afternoon. At the court hearing, he was detained so that he could be evaluated by medical personnel at the Rockingham County House of Corrections. According to court documents, “he appears to have serious medical needs resulting from the automobile crash.”

According to the arrest affidavit, the night of the crash Kittredge had told authorities he had not been driving the Dodge pickup truck. However, the affidavit said it appeared to state police he was the sole occupant of the pickup truck and the driver of it based on several factors, including that he was pinned in the driver’s seat when found after the crash. A state trooper at the scene also detected the smell of alcohol on Kittredge, according to the affidavit.  Kittredge also had slowed, mumbled speech, didn’t know what town he was in and had watery glassy eyes with constricted pupils, the state trooper observed, according to the affidavit. Also according to the affidavit, a paramedic on scene told a state trooper that Kittredge told her he had been at “Bernie’s Bar” in Hampton. 

The charges are the result of an investigation conducted by the New Hampshire Collision Analysis and Reconstruction or C.A.R. Unit, Vetter said.

New Hampshire State Police were notified Jan. 10 around 11:41 p.m. of a wrong-way driver on Route 101 westbound in the area of Exit 7.

According to state police, Kittredge, driving a 1998 Dodge 1500 pickup, reportedly made a U-turn on Route 101 westbound and was traveling east in the westbound lane when the Dodge struck the Impala Johnson was driving. State Police said Johnson was unable to avoid the collision with the Dodge. The crash disabled both vehicles, which were then blocking both lanes of Route 101.

A third driver, Andrew Neeper, 23, of Raymond, was traveling westbound in the right lane and was unable to see the vehicles blocking the roadway, according to state police. Neeper’s 2015 Ford Fusion collided with Kittredge’s truck.

Both John and Heidi Johnson were pronounced deceased on scene.

Kittredge was taken to Exeter Hospital with serious injuries and later taken by “Med-Flight” to Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was later released. Neeper was taken to Exeter Hospital for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Heidi and John Johnson were married in 2001 and moved to New Ipswich at that time.

Johnson joined the Townsend Police Department in 1978 and spent his entire career with the department eventually rising to the rank of sergeant. He retired in July of 2018 but had remained with the department as one of their reserve officers.

Heidi Johnson worked at the Hannaford Supermarket in Rindge. She had four children, three grandchildren and was a guardian for her sister, Linda Roberts.


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