Fatal crash plea

Ashley Shunk of Dover, 20, left, and 27-year-old Christopher Wadleigh of Hampton are pictured in a photo posted to Shunk’s Facebook page on March 21, 2019.

A Hampton man will spend at least eight years in state prison for his role in a crash that killed his girlfriend in 2019.

Christopher Wadleigh, 29, pleaded guilty to a single reckless manslaughter charge Wednesday as part of a deal reached with Rockingham County prosecutors following the death of 20-year-old Ashley Shunk of Dover.

Under the plea agreement, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Martin Honigberg sentenced Wadleigh to 8 to 18 years in prison and ordered him to pay $6,424 in restitution to cover the cost of Shunk’s funeral.

At the hearing, Deputy County Attorney Melissa Fales said Wadleigh was driving approximately 117 mph on Route 101 eastbound in Candia while under the influence of alcohol and marijuana on May 1, 2019.

Wadleigh lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a tree head-on.

Shunk, who worked at Tucker’s restaurant in Dover, died at the scene.

Fales said Wadleigh’s blood alcohol level was .195 — nearly 2½ times over the legal limit for driving.

At Wednesday’s hearing, her father, Jason Shunk, shared memories of his daughter and her love of food, the ocean and keeping fit.

He described her as a frugal young woman who had worked hard, saved up enough money to put a down payment on a house, and was months away from getting her own place.

“Ashley was going to do incredible things with her life,” he said.

He told Wadleigh that he hoped he would one day find peace and that “someday” he would forgive him.

“For her short life, she had a pretty full life,” said her mother, Elaine Courtemanche.

Wadleigh chose not to address the court before he was sentenced, but his defense attorney, Charles Keefe, said he had “powerful conversations” with Shunk’s family during the negotiations on the plea agreement.

Keefe said Wadleigh is remorseful and wanted to ensure that he has taken responsibility for his actions that day.

“He knows that every second for the rest of his life that she’s not here because of him,” he said.

Judge Honigberg offered his condolences to the family as he accepted the plea deal.

“This is profoundly sad. I’m so sorry for the loss you have all suffered,” he said.

According to the agreement, Wadleigh won’t be able to get his driver’s license back until five years after he is released from prison.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021