MANCHESTER, NH – A former Londonderry police officer was handcuffed and led out of a courtroom Friday afternoon to begin serving a 7 ½ to 20-year sentence for driving drunk in April 2019 and killing a 21-year-old Manchester woman.
Tyler Berry, 30, of Amherst, who was off-duty at the time of the crash, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and falsifying physical evidence. He is accused of driving drunk on April 5, 2019, on Route 101A in Amherst and colliding head-on with a car operated by Sierra Croteau, 21, a licensed practical nurse who was returning home after a shift at a local nursing home. She died instantly, prosecutors said.
Berry, who was injured in the crash, was taken to Catholic Medical Center for treatment. Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Nicole Thorspecken said his blood alcohol level at 12:21 a.m. was .210, nearly 2 ½ times the legal limit. He later refused to have his blood drawn for another determination of his alcohol level, despite state police obtaining a search warrant for it.
Judge Tina Nadeau, presiding in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District, sentenced him to what prosecutors requested. He was given a 10 to 20-year sentence on the manslaughter charge, with 2 ½ years suspended.
She also sentenced him to 2 ½ to seven years, all suspended and consecutive to the manslaughter charge, on the falsifying evidence charge. That charge alleged Berry “purposely concealed from the investigation his blood” by refusing to submit to a blood test authorized by a search warrant.
The sentencing followed emotional statements made by Croteau’s parents, grandmother and friends. Nadeau told the family that she usually makes a statement at sentencings such as Berry’s, but she said anything she would say after listening to the emotional and painful statements would “ring hollow.”
She told family members if she could impose a sentence that would bring back Sierra she would.
After the family’s statements were made Berry faced them, apologized, and said there was nothing he could do to bring Sierra back, which he regretted.
Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Nicole Thorspecken said had the case gone to trial, prosecutors would have proved Berry, the night of the April 5, 2019 crash, had consumed a total of 13 beers at the Gold Club, a strip club in Bedford now known as the Millennium Cabaret, and Pipe Dream Brewing in Londonderry, before getting into his GMC Sierra 2500 pickup truck.
A witness reported seeing Berry weaving in and out of traffic before the crash. Another witness, Thorspecken said, told police he was driving west on Route 101A when a white truck with a veteran’s license plate passed his car and two other vehicles by crossing a double-yellow line to drive into oncoming traffic.
Berry, who was injured in the 11:02 p.m. crash, was rushed to Catholic Medical Center for treatment. At 12:21 a.m., his blood alcohol content measured .210, more than 2 ½ times the legal limit, Thorspecken said.
Judy DeMond, Croteau’s grandmother, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, described her granddaughter as the “sweetest young woman. She just wanted to make everyone happy.” She said at the time of her death, she and her boyfriend were getting an apartment to begin a new life. “She would have made an awesome mother,” she said.
Sierra, she said, was her only granddaughter. She told Berry, who was out on bail until Friday, that he was able to go home to his pregnant wife and his new home while her granddaughter would never return home. She said she prayed he would never have to face something like this.
“Just imagine a large pickup truck coming at your child, over the speed limit and hitting and killing them,” she said. “You have dragged this family through so much pain and heartache that it will never, never leave us.”
The judge thanked DeMond for her statement, saying she knew it took a lot of strength and pain to tell her how she felt.
Joseph Houle said he and his wife Amy, both of Milford, were Sierra’s parents from the time she was 4 years old. He said had he known what would happen, they would never have let her leave the house that night.
“It’s been three years since the last time we held our daughter,” he said. It was 4 a.m. on April 6 when they heard loud banging on their door. Initially, they thought there was an intruder, but they opened the door to find two state troopers standing in the doorway.
“It’s the ultimate nightmare no parent wants to hear,” he said, adding that there are no words to express the intense shock to the body, the disbelief at the words “killed instantly.”
“This can’t be true. Sierra can’t be dead. She just left here,” he recalled saying.
He said there are no more beautiful smiles from Sierra who died at the age of 21 because “one man’s selfish actions took her away from us.”
Houle said they had spent weekends together going to flea markets and yard sales. “She would make silly faces to make us laugh,” he said.
Christmas, he said, will never be the same because it was her favorite holiday because she loved giving gifts, not receiving them.
He said his daughter is dead because of an off-duty police officer who swore an oath to protect, serve and obey the law and he didn’t.