Driver in Newport crash that killed bicyclist has hands-free law convictions on his record

  • Albon M. Chapman Jr. (Newport Police photograph)

  • Dan Thurston, 40, of Claremont, was struck by a pickup truck and killed when riding his bicycle on John Stark Highway on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022. Photo courtesy of Thurston Family Photo courtesy of Thurston Family

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/5/2022 6:45:50 AM
Modified: 1/5/2022 6:45:08 AM

NEWPORT, N.H. — A 31-year-old Claremont man who police say struck and killed a bicyclist on John Stark Highway has two prior convictions for using a mobile device while driving and tried to prevent police from seeing his mobile phone after the Monday crash, according to a police affidavit released Tuesday.

Albon M. Chapman Jr. pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in Sullivan Superior Court on charges of negligent homicide, reckless conduct with a deadly weapon and falsifying physical evidence after police said the GMC 1500 pickup truck he was driving struck and killed Daniel S. Thurston around 10:50 a.m. Monday.

Thurston, a 40-year-old Claremont resident, was riding his bicycle in the eastbound breakdown lane of the highway, aka Route 103, near Endicott Road, en route to an appointment with his probation officer, according to a relative.

Chapman, who appeared on video from Sullivan County jail, was ordered held pending the outcome of an evidentiary hearing later this week.

“The evidence is clear and convincing that the defendant’s release would present a danger to others based on his driving record and erratic driving at the time of the incident,” Sullivan Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker said at the end of the approximately 17-minute hearing.

Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway said Chapman has had seven speeding convictions and two “hands-free convictions” for using a mobile device while driving — one in 2017 and a second in 2021.

“The defendant has a deeply concerning motor vehicle record,” Hathaway said.

In an affidavit filed in the case, Newport Detective Sgt. Stephen A. Lee said Chapman’s phone, which the defendant retrieved from the floor of his vehicle and was unlocking even after he was ordered to stop because it might be considered tampering with evidence, showed the screen “open to some kind of fantasy sports league webpage or application.”

A brief tussle over the phone ensued between Lee and Chapman before Chapman relinquished the device, the affidavit said.

The affidavit also includes two witness accounts from a couple traveling eastbound along the highway ahead of Chapman who said that they could see the pickup truck behind them “all over the road” and crossing both the double-yellow centerline and the white fog strip next to the narrow breakdown lane.

They said they purposefully pulled ahead for safety and also contradicted Chapman’s assertions to police that Thurston had swerved in front of him on his bicycle. Christopher Merchant, who was driving, said that the bicyclist was “not in the main road but well in the breakdown lane,” the affidavit said.

“Oh my God, he’s driving in the breakdown lane and he’s going to hit this guy on the bike,” the affidavit quotes Merchant as observing.

Relatives of Thurston told the Valley News that Thurston and Chapman knew each other.

“We were born and raised here. Everybody local we know,” said Amanda Thurston Lord, the deceased man’s sister. Chapman’s public list of Facebook friends also shows links to four separate profiles of Thurston.

She said Chapman also lived in an apartment below that of Thurston’s mother-in-law.

Mindi Thurston, of Claremont, who was separated from her husband, who went by Dan, confirmed that her mother lived in the same building as Chapman and that the two men had known each other “for years.”

She described the situation as “a mess.”

Lord said her brother was on probation for “violations” she declined to specify and was riding his bicycle along a familiar route he took to meet with his probation officer on Monday morning. She said her brother leaves behind two sons, ages 19 and 17, and a daughter, 15.

Lord said her brother relished fishing and going on hikes with his daughter and working on cars with his sons. A self-taught ink drawing artist, Dan Thurston dropped out of Stevens High School in the 10th grade but later earned his GED degree in his 20s and worked in the building and painting trade, she said.

Thurston was open in his Facebook profiles about his run-in with the law and other struggles but his sister said he had been making progress in bettering himself as he approached his fourth decade.

“Like many people around here he had a history,” she said. “But he was turning himself around.”

Lord said her brother was one of the most selfless people she knew.

“My brother was one of those people who didn’t care if he went without as long as someone else didn’t. If he came across somebody who needed money he’d give them his last $20 so they could do what they needed to do,” she said.

Contact John Lippman at jlippman@vnews.com.




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