Mekkelsen gets heroin death conviction overturned, pleads guilty to lesser charge

LACONIA — A Belknap County Superior Court Judge has overturned the conviction of a former city woman who had pleaded guilty in 2012 to selling heroin with a death resulting.

Instead, Karen Mekkelsen, 38, agreed yesterday to plead guilty to conspiracy to sell heroin and accepted a 3 1/2-to 7-year sentence.

She had been sentenced to serve 10 to 15 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for Women and has already served 917 days on the now-vacated charge. She was credited with the time she served, meaning she should be free in about one year.

With 10 members of her friends and family in court to support her, Mekkelsen tearfully told Judge James O'Neill that having her original conviction negated was a "miracle" and she knows it doesn't happen very often. She the past two and one-half years, including the accusation that she sold the heroin that killed 22-year-old Ashley Denty as "one of her darkest hours."

"I want to change. I don't want to sell drugs. I don't want to be that person," she said weeping openly.

Represented by attorney Matt Lahey, Mekkelsen and Asst. Belknap County Prosecutor Carley Ahern had initially agreed on a 3-year minimum sentence however O'Neill wanted her to serve the entire minimum sentence of three an one-half years.

He questioned both lawyers as to why she should get the half year consideration.

Ahern said Mekkelson has a criminal record dating back to 2002. She said the Laconia Police were in agreement with the new charge and sentence and allowed that after Mekkelson pleaded guilty, they continued to investigate Denty's death and learned a man who lives in Plymouth posted something on his Facebook page admitting he was the one who gave Denty the injection that killed her.

Lahey said that when she was initially confronted by Laconia Police about the circumstances surrounding Denty's death, she was "completely taken aback" and she cooperated completely with them. He said she continues to cooperate with police and was willing to serve the entire 3 1/2-year sentence.

"She knows she has been given a break," Lahey said.

In 2012, Mekkelsen also pleaded guilty to a separate and distinct count of possession of heroin with intent to sell and that conviction remains unchanged.