Woman’s home burns hours after violent encounter with ex

NEW HAMPTON — Local police, New Hampton Fire Department officials and the N.H. Fire Marshal's Office are working to determine the cause of a fire that was reported at 2:27 a.m. Saturday that gutted the first floor of a home at 55 Main Street .

Police are also looking for a link between the New Hampton fire and a Hill assault that occurred about two hours before the blaze.

The blaze, which Fire Chief Mike Drake said nearly destroyed an old post-and beam home, was one of the strangest fire scenes the veteran chief said he ever worked.

"This is the first time I've turned the corner from (Route) 104 and found six state and local police cruisers on Main Street with officers running around with assault weapons," he said.

Drake said he first thought he was responding to a methamphetamine lab explosion but later learned that police had been alerted to check the home for Carl Grace, a resident of 55 Main Street who had allegedly assaulted the female homeowner a few hours earlier at a home in Hill.

Drake said firefighters were delayed by police in reaching the fire because he and the State Trooper in charge wanted to make sure there was no external danger to firefighters.

He said Bristol firefighters were the first to gain access to the property and by that time the fire had shattered the living room window and was burning the front porch. It took firefighter 30 to 40 minutes to get the 2-alarm blaze under control.

Drake said he understood that earlier in the evening New Hampton Police had received a call from N.H. State Troopers in Hill that there was the possibility of something happening at the home. Drake said he learned that an officer had driven by the Main Street home, had seen nothing and had gone to refuel at the local gas pumps.

He said not a lot of time had passed before the fire department was called to the building fire at 2:27 a.m.

According to affidavits obtained from the 6th Circuit Court, Franklin Division, at 11:30 p.m. Friday, State and Hill Police responded to a report of an assault and a burglary at 662 Borough Road in Hill.

State Police affidavits said Carl Grace, 48, of 55 Main St. in New Hampton entered the Hill home through an unlocked door and found his ex-girlfriend, who owns the home on Main Street in New Hampton, in bed with the owner of the Hill home.

An alleged fight ensued between Grace and the two people in the bed. Police said Grace jumped on top of the male victim and began to "pummel" him with his hands. The female said she tried to grab Grace's hair and pull him off but was unsuccessful. She said she grabbed a nearby fire extinguisher and started to hit Grace. At one point, said police, she missed Grace and hit the other man.

She dropped the fire extinguisher and Grace allegedly picked it up and began swinging at the male victim. The female victim tried to cover her new boyfriend with her body and Grace allegedly hit her four or five times before he ran out of the building.

Police said the Hill homeowner grabbed a shotgun and fired one round in the air as Grace was getting into his silver Ford pickup. Both told police Grace threatened to go home to get a gun, and return and kill both of them. He said he'd be back in 20 minutes.

Police said the female victim had visible bruising on her right arm, red abrasions on her right calf and a bruise and bump on the right side of her head.

Police said she had broken up with Grace about week before Friday's alleged assault but Grace still lived with her in her New Hampton home.

Grace was arrested without incident at 12:41 on April 4 at a home in Danbury.

Grace appeared in court yesterday by video to face charges stemming from the Hill assault. He is charged with two counts of Class A misdemeanor criminal threatening – one each for allegedly saying he would kill both victims – and one count of domestic violence criminal threatening for threatening to kill his ex-girlfriend.

Grace is also charged with one count of simple assault for striking the male owner of the Hill home, two felony counts of domestic violence second-degree assault for striking his former girlfriend with a deadly weapon (the fire extinguisher) and one felony count of burglary.

He was ordered held in the Merrimack County House of Corrections on $15,000 cash only bail.

New Hampton Police Chief George Huckins said yesterday the state police have turned the investigation into the fire at 55 Main Street to local police and fire departments with the N.H. Fire Marshal assisting.

Laconia Fire Department among busiest in N.H.

LACONIA — With close to 4,000 emergency calls among a total of 9,697 requests for service, the Laconia Fire Department remained one of the busiest in the state, according to the annual report Fire Chief Ken Erickson issued yesterday.

The 3,896 emergency calls represent a 62 percent increase in the past five years. Medical emergencies and rescue operations accounted for 68 percent of all emergency responses, while fires, both the 380 reported fires and 125 actual fires, represented 13 percent of the calls for service.

There were 1,635 simultaneous or consecutive emergency calls, more than double the number in 2000.

"The Laconia Fire Department responds to more multiple calls than most of neighboring departments respond to all calls," said Erickson.

Despite the increase in multiple calls, he said that emergency recalls, which averaged close to 300 a year, fell to 62 last year. Erickson attributed the decline to the additional firefighter on each shift funded by the Staffing Adequacy for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant which has expanded the department's capacity to respond to simultaneous calls and manage significant emergencies.

The 54 structure fires, 60 outdoor fires and 11 vehicle fires were the fewest since 2010. Erickson described 15 of the fires as "significant," with a four-alarm blaze in a multifamily apartment building on Davis Place that took the life of one resident as easily the most severe. The death was the first fire-related fatality in the city in 20 years. Altogether 17 individuals were displaced by that fire.

Erickson estimated the value of property lost to fire at $926,000, while noting that firefighters spared another $885,000 in property value from destruction. Along with the 125 actual fires, firefighters responded to more than 250 reported fires, or seven a week. The 411 alarm activations represented 10 percent of all calls.

The department responded to 2,422 medical emergencies, 118 vehicle collisions, seven entrapment rescues, 11 pedestrian accidents, 16 water or ice rescues and 72 other incidents and transported 1,841 patients -- 179 of them at high risk -- to Lakes Region General Hospital.

Erickson noted that drug overdoses, sudden deaths and cardiac arrests jumped 50 percent in 2014, with abuse of opiates contributing to a large share of the increase. He said that overdoses of heroin likely caused a dozen deaths and are suspected of contributing to another seven. At the same time, firefighters spared the lives of 25 people with timely administration of Narcan, which was used 46 times, double the number of occasions in 2013.

Firefighters also responded to 243 situations where downed wires, gas leaks, fuel spills, carbon monoxide structural failure threatened persons or property, and another 471 incidents requiring their assistance.

Meanwhile, department personnel also inspected 42 multifamily buildings, issued 1,253 permits and conducted 806 inspections of alarm, sprinkler, furnace, chimney and piping installations. And, in addition, spent more than 5,500 hours in training and education.

Erickson said that during the first quarter of 2015 the department has answered more than 1,000 emergency calls, a pace that would take the emergency call volume past 4,000 for the year. Measured by the number of firefighters and number of residents, he said that Laconia firefighters are among the busiest in New Hampshire.


N.H. Mutual adds wealth management subsidiary

MEREDITH — New Hampshire Mutual Bancorp, the holding company formed by Meredith Village Savings Bank (MVSB) and Merrimack County Savings Bank (MCSB), both mutual financial institutions, added a subsidiary this week — MillRiver Wealth Management, which combines the wealth management and investment services of the two banks.

In 2013, investment services at the two banks came together under the direction of Senior Vice Preisdent Paul Provost. With the formation of the new subsidiary the proprietary investment and trust services of MCSB will be extended to MVSB. Provost said that MillRiver was formed in response to clients of both banks who asked for a wider range of services and products. MillRiver, he continued, "gives our customers exactly what they've asked for while proviing opportunities for operational efficiency."

Founded in 1869, MVSB operates 11 offices in the Lakes Region and has total assets of more than $750 million. MCSB was founded two years earlier in Concord and has eight offices and total assets of more than $700 million.


Gilford rethinks grade weighting

GILFORD — Parents filled the elementary school library Monday night to see if the School Board would reconsider a policy that takes away weighted grades for honors courses.

The policy, that began this year for incoming freshman, allows for a weighted score for Advanced Placement courses, but takes away the weighted grades for honors courses.

"Weighting honors courses played a significant role in my senior being accepted to nine of nine colleges," said one parent who is concerned for her freshman daughter not being given the same consideration.

GPA weighting was discussed because 25 parents from Gilford and Gilmanton petitioned the school for a reconsideration of the policy.

The woman, who asked not to be identified, said she works for a different school district in the guidance department where she works closely with scholarship administrators, both locally and college affiliated, and said she fears that not giving a weighted score for honors classes could also affect much needed scholarship money.

She also noted that with the University of New Hampshire receiving 20,000 applicants annually and schools like Boston University and Northeastern getting 50,000 applicants annually, a high grade-point-average (GPA) will help the admissions staff in making their decisions.

She also said that 63 percent of Gilford students last year went to college and 50 percent of them went to UNH.

Suzanne McKenna said the colleges her daughter applied to used the GPA as a measure of accomplishment and she feels giving colleges the most accurate picture of student effort and accomplishments is important.

On March 3, 2014, the School Board stopped giving a weighted grade for honors classes. Before then, honors classes were given the same weight as AP classes – a system that High School Principal Peter Sawyer and Superintendent Kent Hemingway didn't support.

Minutes from the meeting of Feb. 3, 2014, where the changes were discussed, said Sawyer supported eliminating honors grade weighting because he said most schools make their decisions on their own weighting scale for the five core subjects of math, science, social studies, English, and modern language.

He also said colleges who use class rank do so only to evaluate how the applicant fares against other students from his or her high school.

Former School Board member Kurt Webber said in 2014 that he was against weighting any classes except for Advanced Placement because he wants students who only took the most rigorous classes to be rewarded.

When the matter was voted on by the board in 2014, it was a unanimous vote to remove the weighting for honors classes.

But parents who attended Monday's night's meeting said the new system for incoming freshmen will deter students from taking honors classes which, though not as rigorous as AP courses, are still harder than other classes taken by their peers.

One parent said some of the freshman students are not taking honors classes in their sophomore year because there is no reward for taking harder classes and the down side is getting a worse grade because of the difficulty of honors classes.

Former School Board member Derek Tomlinson, who no longer has children in school, said he felt that honors courses should not be rewarded at the same level as AP courses, as it was before, but there should be some recognition for the students who take honors classes.

Tomlinson said he would also like to see it addressed as quickly as possible. He noted that the freshmen have already picked their classes for next year and he would prefer that it be made retroactive or "just like it never happened."

"Overall rank is important," he said. "And we're all ranked at some point."

Board members ultimately decided, by a vote of 5 to 2, to return the policy to the Policy Committee and have a second public forum at the committee level. That meeting is scheduled for April 15 in the Gilford Elementary School at 7 p.m.

The vote was 5 to 2 because for the purposes of the high school and grade weighting, two representatives from the Gilmanton School Board participated in the discussion and vote.

Yesterday, both Sawyer and Hemingway said they are working on some suggestions to bring to the Policy Committee for discussion.

Members Jack Landow and Chris McDonough are the Policy Committee members.