Police charge Laconia man punched girlfriend in face & later returned to kick in her door

LACONIA — A Gilford Avenue man was ordered held on $5,000 cash-only bail yesterday morning after allegedly punching his girlfriend in the face with his fist earlier that morning and then returning to the home and kicking in the door.

City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer told the court that John M. Stebbins, 39, was arrested by police at 12:30 a.m. when neighbors called the police. He was charged with two counts of simple assault.

The on-call circuit court judge had granted an emergency temporary restraining order against Stebbins, who was originally released on personal recognizance bail. After leaving the police department, Stebbins allegedly violated that order by returning to the apartment and kicking in the door at 7:30 a.m.

Stebbins faces additional counts of criminal vandalism, breach of bail and violation of a restraining order. He appeared yesterday in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division.

Sawyer initially asked for $15,000 cash bail and said police were still investigating the initial assault and that additional charges could be forthcoming. Sawyer also noted that Stebbins has four previous convictions for simple assault, including one from 2012 and one from April of this year.

In two of those instances, Sawyer said he was also convicted of breach of bail.

Sawyer also noted that when Stebbins allegedly returned to the apartment, he also removed either the starter or the alternator from his victim's car. He said police continue to investigate that aspect of the early-morning events.

Public Defender Kate Geraci argued that $15,000 was an impossible amount of bail for Stebbins, who she said had just started a new job and hadn't yet gotten his first paycheck.

She said he had been employed for eight years by a different employer and had left that job to take the new one. Geraci said $250 comes from every one of Stebbins's paycheck to support his three children and if he lost his job, as he likely would if he were held on $15,000 cash bail, then his children would be the ones that would suffer.

Judge Jim Carroll deliberated for about five minutes before setting cash bail at $5,000. He said he didn't take setting cash bail on a working father lightly but that the risk Stebbins potentially poses to the community and his victim outweighs the importance of him keeping his job. Carroll said his decision on cash bail was largely swayed by Stebbins most recent assault convictions as well as his charges of breach of bail.

"(This bail) requires a significant investment by you to ensure your good behavior," Carroll said to him. Stebbins is also ordered to stay off Gilford Avenue and to stay away from the victims and the various neighbors assisted her.