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December 09. 2013 7:41PM

UPDATE: Sunapee driver charged in Vermont couple's deaths

A Sunapee man is charged with two counts of manslaughter for allegedly killing a Vermont couple when his Chevrolet pickup truck crossed the Interstate 89 median strip in Lebanon Saturday and struck their vehicle.

Robert Dellinger, 53, of 28 Birchpoint Lane, Sunapee, will be arraigned Wednesday in 2nd Circuit Court, Lebanon District Division, on charges of recklessly causing the deaths of Amanda Murphy and Jason Timmons. The couple were engaged, and Murphy, 24, was eight months pregnant with their child.
Dellinger was arrested Tuesday afternoon when he was discharged from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon.


Previous story follows:
LEBANON — The Vermont couple killed in a crossover highway accident Saturday were expecting their first child in about a month, the woman's boss said Monday.

Amanda Murphy, 24, was eight months pregnant and engaged to Jason Timmons, 29. All three died when their SUV was struck by a pickup truck that crossed the median of Interstate 89.

Murphy and Timmons had met at Valley Terrace Assisted Living Facility in nearby Wilder, Vt., where Murphy was a lead caregiver, said Catherine Amarante, executive director at the facility.

"Last Wednesday she was here having a baby shower, glowing. So it's shocking. We're still in shock," Amarante said. "We deal with death in elders, and that's hard in and of itself, but this is totally different."

In other developments:

• The New Hampshire Attorney General's Office has been brought in to oversee the investigation. Homicide prosecutor Susan Morrell said her office's involvement will determine whether any criminal charges are leveled in the crash.

• Morrell said the driver of the pickup truck involved in the crash, Sunapee resident Robert Dellinger, 53, has not been cleared medically to leave Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, although he was initially admitted to the hospital for minor injuries.

• The section of Interstate 89 where the crash took place is slated for a barrier designed to prevent crossover crashes. However, work isn't expected to begin until 2020.

Morrell said part of the investigation will concentrate on what caused Dellinger's southbound 2005 Chevrolet pickup to cross the median just north of Exit 18.

Morrell said it would be unethical to discuss whether the investigation has found alcohol use or speed to be a factor in the crash. Nor would she say whether traffic was heavy at the time.

The victims lived in Wilder, a village of Hartford, which is just north of Lebanon across the Connecticut River.

Amarante said Murphy had worked at Valley Terrace for five years. The couple met there, although Timmons no longer worked there.

They were excited and ready to be parents, Amarante said. This was Murphy's first child; Timmons was already a father to a young boy, Amarante said.

"He certainly was very, very loving, as was she," Amarante said. "She really wanted to have this baby."

Amarante said Murphy was trustworthy, intuitive, and worked well with dementia patients. Timmons did not have much experience, but caught on quickly.

"He was so good. Just a gentle giant, just a big tall guy and a really, really good caregiver and really loved by the patients and staff," she said.

Transportation officials said the area of I-89 where the accident occurred is slated for a barrier to prevent vehicles from crossing the highway median and colliding with vehicles traveling in the opposite direction.

The barrier is part of a roadway reconstruction and bridge deck replacement scheduled for 2020.

According to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, the median at the site is about 110 feet in width. The median has a slight incline from the southbound to northbound lanes.

DOT spokesman Bill Boynton said the DOT usually installs crossover barriers on narrower roadways — 50 feet or less. But a 2012 DOT study identified the area between exits 18 and 19 for the barriers.

This year, the DOT installed eight miles of median guardrails in the Bow-Hopkinton area, Boynton said. Median barriers have also been placed at Exit 20 and between exits 15 and 17 in Enfield and Lebanon.

If vehicular homicide charges are brought, Morrell said they would not involve the unborn child.

In its 2009 Lamy decision, the state Supreme Court ruled that an unborn child must show spontaneous signs of life for someone to be prosecuted for homicide in the child's death.

However, New Hampshire law allows for prosecution when an assault on the mother results in a miscarriage or stillborn death.

mhayward@unionleader.commpierce@newstote.com


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