CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A Dover man with a lengthy criminal record was charged Friday in the hit-and-run death of a retired police sergeant who was training for a cycling event to honor fallen law enforcement officers.
Craig Sprowl, 45, of Dover, was arrested Friday morning at a hotel in Portsmouth and was charged with negligent homicide and conduct after an accident, state police said. He pleaded not guilty Friday afternoon, and a judge ordered him held without bail.
The arrest came three days after Donna Briggs, 59, of Derry, was found down an embankment off Route 125 in Kingston.
Briggs, who retired from the Hudson Police Department in 2013, was training for next month’s Police Unity Tour from New Jersey to Washington, D.C. The event raises money for the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the National Law Enforcement Museum.
Col. Nathan Noyes said video footage from nearby businesses, witness statements and other evidence led investigators to Sprowl.
“Our troopers, our local law enforcement officials and supporting agencies have worked around the clock for the last three days, so I can tell you there’s a sense of relief. I think there’s a sense of a small bit of accomplishment. But I think mostly our thoughts go out to the Briggs family in this tragic time,” he said.
According to a police affidavit, Sprowl initially denied driving the blue GMC Yukon on Tuesday but later said he had nodded off several times while driving it to work at a car dealership in Derry. He told an officer he drifted off the road and was woken up “by either the sound of the rumble strips or a bang.” Sprowl said he knew he had hit something, but didn’t answer when asked why he didn’t report the crash, police said.
“Sprowl stated he had seen on the news that a woman had been struck and killed … and asked if he had killed her,” police wrote. “Sprowl was remorseful and apologetic.”
Rockingham County Attorney Patricia Conway said Sprowl lied to police about his whereabouts and hid the car in the woods behind his workplace. Part of Briggs’ bicycle seat was attached to the vehicle, she said.
“He had to have known that he struck someone,” said Conway, who said Sprowl has past convictions for theft, simple assault, credit card fraud, drug possession and burglary, and that he has several cases pending. On Sept. 15, he crashed a different vehicle into a tree in Derry, but there were no charges in that incident.
Sprowl’s attorney, Deanna Campbell, said her client has suffered from long-term substance abuse and mental health disorders and significant health problems. He attended the hearing by phone from the hospital, where he was being treated for diabetes.
Despite his record, Sprowl had been doing well in the last year, having completed a drug court program and working many hours, she said.
“It’s very easy to just look at his criminal history and identify him as someone who should be locked up with the key throw away. I don’t mean to minimize the serious nature of these allegations but he is somebody who had been working very hard in the community to address his issues and this is simply a tragedy for all involved.”
Briggs spent 20 years with Hudson Police alongside Chief Bill Avery, who went to the police academy with her and started at the department the same day. He expressed relief at the arrest.
“It felt like the world was lifted off my shoulders when I received this information,” he said. “I can only imagine that the Briggs family feels the same, as well as other members of the law enforcement community in New Hampshire.”
Sprowl’s wife was charged with hindering apprehension. She is due in court Monday.