EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 30, 2012

N.H. Year in Review


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Abuse of toddler

shocks region

The brutal abuse of a little blond-haired boy and a two-week manhunt that led to the arrest of Plaistow couple received national attention in 2012.

Three-year-old James Nicholson was badly beaten and burned, suffering head injuries that led to seizures and spending three weeks in the hospital. The abuse was allegedly inflicted by his mother’s boyfriend, Roland Dow.

Dow, 27, and James’ mother, Jessica Linscott, 23, face charges after they abandoned the injured boy at Exeter Hospital on Nov. 16 and fled to Florida.

Dow faces up to 30 years in prison on each of three assault charges, in addition to up to a year in jail on each of five counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Linscott was charged with six counts of endangerment for failing to protect her son from Dow.

Dow is being held at the county jail on $500,000 cash bail; Linscott is incarcerated on $100,000 cash bail.

The couple eluded capture until authorities finally apprehended them at Universal Studios theme park in Orlando. They had hid out in Haverhill before traveling to Boston.

From there, they took a bus to New York and then a train to Florida. From there, they took a bus to New York and then a train to Florida.

A widely distributed photo of the young boy captured the hearts of many across the country, wondering how anyone could harm an innocent child. The Plaistow Police Department was flooded with toys and donations for the child.

— Doug Ireland

Elections mean big changes in N.H.

New Hampshire voters returned Democrats to power after a controversial two-year reign by Tea Party minded Republicans in Concord.

The Democrats retained the governor’s office behind Gov.-elect Maggie Hassan and reclaimed the Legislature, Executive Council and both House seats in Congress.

Women led the way. Besides Hassan, victories by Anne McLane Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter in races for Congress gave the Granite State the first all-female delegation in Washington. That includes Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat, and Kelly Ayotte, a Republican. The state’s Supreme Court chief justice also is a woman, Linda Stewart Dalianis.

Politics dominated the New Hampshire conversation from the outset, with summer resident Mitt Romney winning the Republican presidential primary in January, and eventually the GOP nomination, before losing to President Obama in November.

Obama visited Windham in August. Selectmen briefly considered billing him for public safety costs, because the visit came during the campaign, but decided against doing so.

The state had its first election with the new Voter ID Law in November. Few problems were reported.

At year’s end, popular four-term Gov. John Lynch prepared to leave office after eight years as the state’s chief executive.

— John Toole

Public officials get into legal trouble

Some high-profile local public officials found themselves in a lot of trouble in 2012.

They include former House Speaker D.J. Bettencourt of Salem, Windham Selectman Ross McLeod, Rockingham Community Action head Thomas Nelson and three Salem officials — Jeffrey Gray, Patrick McDougall and Ronald “Tony” Giordano.

Bettencourt resigned from his House seat earlier this year amid scandal after he was accused of lying about the work he did at a fellow lawmaker’s legal practice while pursing a law degree.

McLeod, an assistant county prosecutor, was investigated by the state’s attorney general’s office following allegations of illegal gambling, electioneering and tampering with witnesses and informants. Although McLeod resigned, he was later cleared by the attorney general’s office.

Nelson, who led Community Action programs in Salem and Derry, pleaded guilty this summer to charges he embezzled about $900,000 over a six-year period while working for a similar organization in Maine. The money was used to pay personal expenses, including gambling debts.

Gray, a former Salem Planning Board member, was sentenced to seven to 14 years for raping a woman he took in as a roommate.

McDougall, a member of Salem’s Budget Committee and Zoning Board of Adjustment, stepped down from both jobs earlier this month after he was convicted of obstructing government administration. McDougall refused to allow paramedics to take his wife to the hospital after she reported having a bad headache. Other charges are still pending.

Giordano, Salem’s zoning board chairman at the time, resigned after his arrest on felony drug charges. Police seized more than 100 Oxycodone pills from his home after a monthlong investigation. His trial is scheduled for Jan. 7

— Doug Ireland

Fireworks explosion prompts debate

What officials described as the worst fireworks accident in New Hampshire history injured 13 people in Pelham before the Fourth of July holiday.

A traditional neighborhood celebration at the Pappathan residence on Dodge Road went awry the night of July 3.

The resulting explosion injured eight adults and five children. Some suffered severe burns.

Investigators seized 90 boxes of fireworks afterward and the State Fire Marshal’s Office, in cooperation with the Hillsborough County Attorney, launched a probe the county attorney said was still unfolding in December.

Officials said their review was complex and involved interviews with many witnesses.

Pelham selectmen, meanwhile, debated whether to strictly regulate fireworks in the aftermath.

They debated restrictions after some residents urged them to do so because of the accident.

A public hearing in October turned up no support for a fireworks ban, though fireworks buffs said they could live with a permit system if town officials resorted to one.

Selectmen took no formal vote, but split 3-2 against putting restrictions on fireworks, expressing concerns about whether they could effectively be enforced or might burden police and firefighters.

Town officials instead are expected to embark on an educational program in 2013, possibly with the help of fireworks manufacturers, to head off future problems.

— John Toole

More police-involved shootings

After a record number of shootings involving New Hampshire police officers a year ago, the trend continued in 2012 with the murder of Greenland’s police chief in April and the shooting of a Pelham man in October.

They were among five shooting incidents in the state this year after seven police-involved shootings in 2011.

The killing of Greenland police Chief Michael Maloney and wounding of four other law officers during a shootout with a suspect shook the entire nation. Maloney, only days from retirement, was shot while officers were executing a search warrant during a drug raid at a Greenland home.

New Hampshire Attorney General Michael Delaney announced earlier this month that Windham and Pelham police officers were justified when they shot and wounded Grant Hebert, 21, of Pelham on Oct. 28.

The incident started in Pelham just after 1:30 a.m. and ended in Windham field about five minutes later after a chase that reached speeds of more than 90 mph. Hebert allegedly drove his car toward officers, putting them in fear for their lives, according to Delaney.

Hebert, who is free on bail, had been drinking and smoking marijuana before he tried to outrun police, who initially tried to stop him for traveling 40 mph in a 30-mph zone, Delaney said. He faces numerous felony charges.

The three other police-involved shootings in New Hampshire this year were in Litchfield, Keene and Lee.

— Doug Ireland