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Exeter man admits killing friend in DWI crash hours after celebrating life of another who overdosed

Union Leader Correspondent

September 11. 2018 4:20PM
Seth Winkley pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and reckless conduct charges Friday in Rockingham County Superior Court. (Jason Schreiber)

BRENTWOOD — An Exeter man pleaded guilty Friday to charges he was speeding and driving drunk when he crashed into a tree and killed his front seat passenger just hours after they attended a party to celebrate the life of another friend who had died from an overdose.

Seth Winkley, 21, could spend at least four years in prison for the June 17, 2017 crash on Middle Road in Brentwood that claimed the life of Jasmine Marston, 22, of Newmarket.

At a hearing in Rockingham County Superior Court, Winkley pleaded guilty to charges of negligent homicide and reckless conduct.

Deputy Rockingham County Attorney Jennifer Haggar is seeking seven to 15 years in prison for Winkley, but he could receive suspended time that would shave three years off the minimum sentence.

Winkley will remain free on bail until his sentencing on Oct. 17.

According to Haggar, Winkley was driving an Audi A4 east on Middle Road at a high rate of speed when he lost control and crashed into a pine tree.

Marston died at the scene while Winkley and another passenger, Austin Look, of Exeter, were injured.

Haggar said Look later told authorities that they had attended a party earlier to celebrate the birthday of a friend who had suffered a fatal overdose a few weeks earlier.

Haggar said a witness at the party reported seeing Winkley drinking two beers and a shot. She said he had a blood alcohol concentration of .14 — nearly twice the legal limit for driving — and marijuana in his system after the crash.

Haggar said Winkley admitted that he had two beers, but had not used marijuana.

Just before the crash, Haggar said, Look told authorities that the car was traveling at about 82 mph. When he was told to slow down, Haggar said Winkley told his passengers that “he could handle it.”

After the crash, Haggar said open beer cans were found in the car and a backpack with vodka and marijuana was found in the trunk.

At Friday’s hearing, Winkley revealed that he now has a medical marijuana card. Justin Nadeau, his defense lawyer, said he’s using the medical marijuana to treat post traumatic stress disorder and a cervical fracture suffered in the crash.

Several family members attended the hearing, including Marston’s sister, Zayna Marston, who recalled the pain she and her family have endured.

“Never in a million years did I ever think I would be here now, reading this victim impact statement, explaining to the court how the reckless actions of Mr. Seth Winkley that night have changed my life. Growing up, Jasmine was my best friend, and sometimes my only friend. I would bring Jasmine everywhere with me,” she told Judge David Anderson.

She also explained how her sister was passionate about driving safety. She said Jasmine Marston had lost many friends in vehicle crashes and had created a documentary to raise awareness of the importance of wearing seatbelts.

Zayna Marston said she thinks her sister didn’t realize how drunk Winkley was that night.

“Knowing that Jasmine is now a part of a statistic that she was passionate about reducing, that she was killed in a motor vehicle crash when she cared so much about the topic of driving safety, I still cannot wrap my head around,” she said.

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