Man who removed victim from house trailer testifies at homicide trial

  • Published in Local News

LACONIA — The fourth person who was in the South Main Street house trailer where a local man was allegedly beaten and kicked to death last May told the jury yesterday he heard two thumps come from the kitchen shortly after the accused yelled at the victim.

Gary Fields said he was in the bathroom to the left of the kitchen cleaning up a mess when he heard Durgin yell at LaPierre and then heard the noise.

“A couple of thumps. Like someone falling on the floor,” ...

LACONIA — The fourth person who was in the South Main Street house trailer where a local man was allegedly beaten and kicked to death last May told the jury yesterday he heard two thumps come from the kitchen shortly after the accused yelled at the victim.

Gary Fields said he was in the bathroom to the left of the kitchen cleaning up a mess when he heard Durgin yell at LaPierre and then heard the noise.

“A couple of thumps. Like someone falling on the floor,” Fields said responding to prosecutors questions about what he heard, whacking the witness stand twice with his open hand to replicate the sound for the jury.

“Did you recall describing those thumps differently to police?” asked N.H. prosecutor Michael Lewis.

“They sounded like somebody being thumped on the floor. Like maybe a head hitting the floor,” he added, bringing Durgin's defense attorney Wade Harwood to his feet with an objection and an order to the jury from Judge James O’Neill to disregard the statements and hold a lengthy discussion with the lawyers out of the jury’s earshot.

Yesterday was the third day of testimony in the manslaughter and negligent homicide trial of Durgin, who is accused of punching LaPierre and kicking him in the head while he was down. His unconscious body was discovered lying against a fence near the trailer the next morning. He died a week later.

Durgin is also charged with witness tampering, unlawful detention and simple assault for allegedly preventing Hebert from answering the door when police came to the trailer.

The jury has heard from Tracy Hebert, another person who was staying in the trailer at 399 South Main St. with Durgin, Fields, and sometimes LaPierre, the paramedic who treated LaPierre when his dying body was found, and four Laconia Police officers, two of whom testified yesterday.

The trial has been fraught with delays caused by lengthy “sidebar” or private discussions between the judge and the four attorneys trying the case.

In her earlier testimony, Hebert told the jury she saw Durgin punch LaPierre in the face and kick him in the head after he fell in the kitchen. She is the only eyewitness the prosecution has to the alleged crime and under cross-examination she said she lied repeatedly to police when they first took her statement.

Hebert also said she is a alcoholic who at the time of LaPierre’s beating was drinking up to a half-gallon of vodka nightly and using a host of ill-gotten drugs like Xanax, Percocet, and Suboxine — none of which were prescribed to her.

Fields said yesterday that LaPierre had been staying with the three of them for about 10 days before the night he was allegedly beaten.

He said he had been there about a month while he was making arrangements to move to the Concord area to be closer to his children. Fields also said he didn’t know Durgin well and stayed in Durgin’s trailer after Hebert arranged it.

His version of the night of May 2, 2011 was that he was in the bathroom next to Durgin's bedroom — on the other side of the trailer from his own bedroom — cleaning up some water spilled after LaPierre damaged the hot water heater.

He testified he heard the Durgin yell at LaPierre — although according to prosecutors his account yesterday was a muted version of his initial account to police on Sept. 30, 2011 — and then heard the two thumps.

He said he continued cleaning for about 10 minutes after he heard the two thumps. He said he saw LaPierre lying on the kitchen floor when he began walking through the trailer to return to his bedroom on the opposite side.

He said Durgin asked him to get LaPierre up and get him outside because he was ruining the place.

He described LaPierre as “drunk” but said he “coherent” and was not bleeding.

“I sat him on the steps,” Fields said, adding that he looked out the window a little later and “made sure he was still on the steps.”

He said he went to bed and rose at 6 a.m. on May 3 because he was meeting his daughter. He said he was in a hurry and rushed out the front door and never looked toward the spot where LaPierre was found at 11 a.m.

Fields said he never returned to the trailer although he left some of his belongings there and the first time detectives interviewed him was on Sept. 30, 2011.

He also said that when Bob Polito, the friend of Hebert's who found LaPierre in the yard, called him on his cell phone and told him something had happened at the trailer, he never called the police.

The jury also heard yesterday from Laconia Police Detective Bob Cameron and Patrol Officer Ben Black.

Cameron said his orders were to go to the scene and he was the one who initially interviewed Hebert — an interview he described a ‘vague” and “not going well.”

Under direct examination, he said she was sober and looking past him toward the direction where Durgin was standing — outside the trailer but across the parking lot from where he and Hebert were standing.

When asked if he thought she was looking at Durgin he said she “glanced once or twice, I really don’t remember.” He said it was distracting enough at the time for him to shift where he was standing so she could focus on him and his questions.

He said he really didn’t pay much attention to Durgin and “didn’t know he had left.”

Under cross-examination he said he didn’t note in his report that Hebert was afraid of Durgin and only added it after he spoke with prosecutors on March of 2012.

When defense attorney Tim Landry ask him if he typically wrote incomplete reports, Cameron replied that if he remembers something he adds it.

“So it was an unintentional oversight,” asked Landry to which Cameron answered that during his interview with Hebert, Durgin and Hebert “were looking at leach other and I wanted to draw her attention from him to me.”

Black said his assignment was to “knock and talk”, meaning he was to go around to all the neighbors and take statements. His first stop was to go into nearby Quik Laundry & Cleaners to get some paper.

Under direct examination, he said he walked out of the laundry and was summoned over by two of Hebert’s friends — Brad Swinton who is the father of her two sons and his brother Daniel Lewis.

He said Swinton spoke to him about a conversation he, Lewis and Hebert has just had and said he should talk to Hebert. He described her as emotional, but sober and frightened.

“Of who,” asked Lewis to which Black replied “Jason Durgin.”

Balck said he didn’t notice if Durgin was looking at Hebert but said Hebert gave him information which he relayed to his superior officers, Capt. Steven Clarke and Lt. Chris Adams.

He said he was asked to give Hebert a ride to her mother’s house to get a few things and then to bring her to the police station for further questioning.

Under cross-examination, Black said there were a number of uniformed and plain-clothed officers there that day and that he didn’t see Durgin staring at Hebert.

If you had seen it would you have stopped it?” asked Harwood and Black said he would have.

He said again that Swinton initiated the conversation with him, not Hebert and told him that Swinton told him Hebert said she saw Durgin punch LaPierre — a statement that led to a 10-minute sidebar with the judge and after which O’Neill excluded the statement as hearsay because Black didn’t not hear the conversation between Hebert, Lewis and Swinton.

Black also said he didn’t request anyone interview Swinton or Lewis and that he saw no red marks on Hebert’s neck. He said she told him about taking Tylenol P.M. but no other drugs the night of the alleged attack.

The trial resumes at 10 a.m. Monday with the continued examination of Fields by the prosecution.