Witness balks & alleged heroin dealer walks

LACONIA — After two years of legal maneuvering and four separate Superior Court trials, the Belknap County Attorney's Office dropped the remaining charge of sales of narcotics against Alfredo Gonzalez yesterday. He is the Manchester man city police believed was responsible for supplying the heroin that killed a 22-year-old local mother in late March of 2011.

Gonzalez, 46, who had been incarcerated for two years in the Belknap County House of Corrections while awaiting trial, had maintained his innocence. He was represented by attorney Mark Sisti.

Earlier this week, and after the jury was picked for his trial for selling heroin — death resulting, Sisti learned that the Laconia Police were investigating a different person who had allegedly admitted on his Facebook page that he was the one who injected Denty with the heroin that killed her.

Sisti argued that the prosecution knew about the investigation seven weeks before Gonzalez's trial but never told him there was potentially exculpatory evidence or a different theory of her death.

The prosecution dropped the charge for sales of heroin — death resulting, and decided to continue prosecuting him for only for sales of heroin. When one of the key witnesses against him, Karen Mekkelson, asked to be immunized for her role in Denty's death, the prosecution's case apparently unraveled.

Yesterday, the state made a verbal motion to change the day of the sale from March 30, 2011 to May 11, 2011. Sisti argued that the change would indicate an entirely different crime and Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill agreed.

The prosecution dropped the final charge against Gonzalez and, as of yesterday afternoon, he was no longer in jail.

Gonzalez first became known to the public in 2011 when 22-year-old Denty was found dead of a heroin overdose by her neighbors on April 1. They said they heard Denty's two-year-old son crying inside their apartment and, when she didn't respond to their knocks, instructed him on how to unlock the door.

Laconia Police investigated her death and arrested Mekkelson, 29, Stephen Marando, 43 and Amanda Kelly, 31. All were charged with some role in supplying Denty with the heroin and all three pleaded guilty to drug-related charges. They are serving or have served sentences in the N.H. State Prison or the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Mekkelson has now filed a motion with the court asking that her conviction be set aside because she believes she was represented by "ineffective counsel" at the time she agreed to plead guilty.

The police said their investigation of the trio led them to a fourth person — Gonzalez — who was arrested by police in the parking lot at Vista Supermarket on September 1, 2011. He was charged with and later indicted on one count of sales of heroin — death resulting, and one count of sales of heroin. If he had been convicted, he faced the possibility of life in prison.

In a different case, Gonzales was indicted by a Belknap County grand jury for selling heroin on August 23, 2011 to a Laconia woman who was facing two counts of robbery in Gilford but who was working for Laconia Police in exchange for some consideration on the robbery charges.

Gonzalez's first trial for selling heroin to the confidential informant began in October of 2012 and ended in a mistrial three days later after the jury foreman spoke with Judge James O'Neill in his chambers.

The second trial for allegedly selling heroin to the confidential informant lasted two days and ended with a not-guilty finding after the jury deliberated for about an hour.

During the time he spent waiting in the Belknap County House of Corrections — he was being held in lieu of $100,000 cash-only bail — Gonzalez was involved in an altercation with two male prisoners. He agreed to plead guilty to assault on prisoners and was sentenced to time served.