House mate tells jury that LaPierre was drunk but otherwise seemed okay when forced to leave trailer

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — Leo LaPierre, the 55-year-old transient who prosecutors allege suffered fatal injuries at the hands of the man who had given him a place to stay, was drunk at the time he was shown out of a house trailer at 399 South Main St., roughly 12 hours before police found him badly injured outside the residence.

LaPierre “was drinking that night,” prosecution witness Gary Fields testified Monday as the trial of Jason Durgin, 37, entered its second week in Belknap ...

LACONIA — Leo LaPierre, the 55-year-old transient who prosecutors allege suffered fatal injuries at the hands of the man who had given him a place to stay, was drunk at the time he was shown out of a house trailer at 399 South Main St., roughly 12 hours before police found him badly injured outside the residence.

LaPierre “was drinking that night,” prosecution witness Gary Fields testified Monday as the trial of Jason Durgin, 37, entered its second week in Belknap County Superior Court.

Fields, who initially took the witness stand on Friday, said he was one of four people living in the trailer on May 2, 2011.

In the fourth day of testimony Fields said that LaPierre was frequently drunk. “He was always in or out of consciousness,” he said under cross examination by defense attorney Wade Harwood. Fields recalled that about a week before the LaPierre sustained the alleged fatal injuries he saw LaPierre wielding a knife while drunk. “It made me a little nervous,” Fields said of the incident.

Durgin is charged with manslaughter and negligent homicide in connection with LaPierre’s death, as well as misdemeanor counts of witnesses tampering, simple assault and false imprisonment.

The prosecution is alleging that Durgin kicked LaPierre in the head the night of May 2, 2011, and that those injuries led to his death on May 10, 2011, at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. But the defense says that LaPierre suffered his life-threatening injuries when he accidentally fell while in a drunken stupor.

In Monday’s testimony Fields said he helped LaPierre out of the trailer and sat him on the front steps. He said that LaPierre was conscious and sitting up and he exhibited no signs of injuries – no cuts, no bruises, no bleeding.

Laconia Police Detective Kevin Butler, who testified later in Monday’s proceedings, said that Durgin told him he again saw LaPierre sitting on the steps to the trailer at 2 a.m. on May 3, about nine hours before Tracy Hebert – another of the trailer’s occupants – called 9-1-1, summoning EMTs who found LaPierre lying against a fence at the edge of the small yard.

Under questioning by Assistant Attorney General Michael Lewis, Fields said he was in a small half-bath when he heard two thumps coming from the main bathroom and Durgin yelling at LaPierre that he had to leave the trailer immediately, apparently after damaging a water heater, causing water to pour onto the bathroom floor. But Fields said that he did not at any time see Durgin physically harm LaPierre.

Butler said he spoke to Durgin outside the trailer shortly after arriving at the scene at 11:35 a.m. the next morning. He said Durgin was “not overly cooperative” when the detective pressed him to explain why the badly hurt LaPierre was in the yard in front of the trailer. The detective further testified that Durgin, however, did give police verbal and written permission to search the trailer.

A few hours later, police obtained a court-issued search warrant, and a warrant was issued for Durgin’s arrest. He was taken into custody at 8:37 p.m. behind the Meredith Village Savings Bank building at 379 South Main St. Police had received a tip a short time before that Durgin might be in the area, Laconia Police Sgt. Richard Simmons, testified, and the suspect was located after they heard a Baldwin Street resident screaming at Durgin to get off her property.

Butler’s testimony continued all afternoon, with the detective identifying various pieces of clothing belonging to Durgin or LaPierre which investigators took from the scene. With Superior Court Justice James O’Neill and the jury looking at police photographs as they were projected onto the wall at the front of the courtroom, Butler described the trailer’s messy and derelict interior, including large holes in the floor and door of the main bathroom and small holes in the wall next to the bathroom sink that the detective said were caused by a pellet or BB gun.

Butler said that several suspected traces of blood were collected for analysis. But at the conclusion of Monday’s testimony Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati read a statement to the jury of eight women and five men that both the prosecution and the defense agreed that only two tested positive for blood – Durgin’s blood on LaPierre’s T-shirt and blood taken from dirt in the front yard which matched LaPierre’s.

Butler told the court that Durgin appeared hung-over when he spoke to him the morning of May 3. While he did not appear intoxicated at that time, he “smelled of stale alcohol.” When he was taken into custody nine hours later he was carrying a 12-pack of beer, and Butler said Durgin was highly intoxicated when the detective saw him at Laconia Police headquarters around 11 o’clock that night.

Testimony in the case is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. today.