Derry man charged in wrong-way crash that killed retired police sergeant and wife

Ryan Kittredge of Derry is led out of the Epping Police Department after his arrest in January on charges stemming from a Route 101 crash that killed a New Ipswich couple.

BRENTWOOD — Ryan Kittredge calls himself a “shell of a man” overwhelmed with deep pain.

In a letter to the family of the New Ipswich couple he killed in a wrong-way crash while driving drunk, the Derry man expressed the remorse, disappointment and regret that he’s felt for months.

“I carry more shame with me than one man can handle. I’m repulsed by the man looking back at me in the mirror,” he wrote in the letter filed this week in Rockingham County Superior Court.

Kittredge, 31, will be sentenced Friday at 1 p.m. in the deaths of John and Heidi Johnson.

The admitted alcoholic who had two prior drunk driving convictions pleaded guilty on Oct. 10 to one count of manslaughter and two counts of reckless conduct.

County prosecutors said Kittredge was driving westbound on Route 101 in Epping when he made a U-turn and began traveling eastbound in the westbound lane.

Kittredge’s pickup truck hit the Johnsons’ car head-on and they both died at the scene. The driver of another vehicle was also injured in the crash.

John Johnson, 58, had retired as a Townsend, Mass., police sergeant in July 2018. Heidi Johnson, 57, worked for many years at the Hannaford in Rindge.

Deputy County Attorney Jennifer Haggar said her office will be seeking 15 to 30 years in prison on the manslaughter charge as part of a plea agreement.

Defense lawyer Gerard LaFlamme Jr. indicated in court documents that he’ll request 10 to 20 years in prison for his client.

Both will also propose an additional 7- to 14-year suspended sentence on the reckless conduct charges and an indefinite loss of license.

According to Haggar, tests showed Kittredge’s blood-alcohol concentration was .209 — more than twice the legal limit for driving. THC, the psychoactive chemical in marijuana, was also found in his blood, she said.

In his letter to the Johnson family, Kittredge apologized for his actions that night, but said it seems “pointless to ask for your forgiveness when I can’t forgive myself.”

“All I can think of is this great husband and wife. The strong bond of love and family we all could only hope to realize,” he said.

Kittredge said he not only caused their deaths, but also “robbed” family and friends of the future memories they could have had with the Johnsons.

“I can’t even begin to fathom the how or the whys, but I am overwhelmed with sadness and despair,” he said.

In a separate letter to the judge, Kittredge detailed his struggle with alcoholism, addiction, and a “complicated relationship” with his girlfriend.

“A history of alcoholism and employment within the construction industry had normalized these addictive personality traits,” he said.

Alcohol became his coping mechanism, he said, and in his “distress” he allowed a bartender to “grossly over serve” him on the night of the crash.

Kittredge and his friends and family, who submitted character letters to the judge, pleaded for leniency.

A lengthy prison sentence “doesn’t correct or rectify this situation, it will not bring back the lives lost, it would only destroy another family,” Kittredge wrote.

“Nothing would be solved and it would create only more pain, anguish, and despair in a situation where there is already too much. Do I deserve to be punished? Yes, undoubtedly, but please spare my family.”

Kittredge explained how he wants to use his experience to help other addicts and that he’s been trying to honor the Johnsons by telling “this tragic tale of misfortune” at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and recovery groups. He said he started an AA group while in jail.

In his letter to the court, his father, John Kittredge of Derry, who is an attorney, asked for the 10-year sentence “so that God willing we will once again be a family.”

He said he is still “proud” of his son despite the deadly crash.

“This is a terrible tragedy, not only for the Johnson family that lost their lives and their loved ones, but also for Ryan, my wife, my son, Brendan, and myself,” he wrote, adding that the family is “frightened that we may never be together again.”

He described his son as a “good man” struggling from a breakup with his girlfriend.

“Ryan also was depressed that he was still living with his parents because he was saddled with student debt,” he said of his son, who graduated from Sierra Nevada College with degrees in entrepreneurship and business.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019
Monday, November 18, 2019