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Lafond admits guilt through plea bargain

LACONIA — Facing eight charges arising from the collision that took the life of one teenage girl and severely injured another on Messer Street last April, Amy Lafond yesterday pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and second degree assault, along with possession of of a narcotic drug and unlawful possession of a prescription medication.

The state dropped the charge of manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison along with a misdemeanor drug offense and three traffic violations.

Lafond is scheduled to be sentenced on Thursday, May 29, at 10 a.m.

Ashen and drawn, Lafond, who has been held in the Belknap County Jail in lieu of bail since her arrest, remained impassive throughout the proceedings in Belknap County Superior Court, responding to Justice James D. O'Neill III's instructions and questions with barely audible yes and no answers.

Lilyanna Johnson and Alyssa Miner were struck by the Jeep Cherokee driven by Lafond while on the sidewalk near the crosswalk at the south end of the Messer Street Bridge at approximately 2:30 p.m. on April 19. Lafond was traveling northbound on Messer Street toward its intersection with Opechee Street. A car going in the same direction had stopped at the crosswalk, apparently to enable a number of Middle School students to cross the street. Lafond skirted the stopped car, crossed into the southbound lane of Messer Street and mounted the raised sidewalk, hitting the two girls.

Johnson died from her injuries while Miner suffered a fractured pelvis and ruptured spleen as well as severe lacerations and internal injuries.
Following yesterday's hearing, attorney Mark Sisti, who represented Lafond, said that "she insisted on a plea. She wanted to make sure that the victims' families did not have to go through this trial."
Belknap County Attorney Melissa C. Gulbrandsen told the court that the Johnson and Miner families accepted the negotiated plea, but asked that Lafond serve a minimum sentence of six-and-a-half years in prison.

"No amount of time diminishes the pain and suffering these families have felt," she said.

Negligent homicide, a class B felony, carries a sentence of three-and-a-half to seven years in prison. According to the plea agreement, Lafond is required to undergo counseling and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse and forfeit her driver's license indefinitely. She will be forbidden to contact by any means, either directly or indirectly, the family of Lilyanna Johnson, and to make restitution amounting to $120,000.

Second degree assault, a class B felony, also carries a three-and-a-half to seven year sentence to be served consecutively with six months of the minimum suspended on condition she undergo counseling and treatment for substance abuse. Again Lafond may not contact the family of Allyssa Miner and is required to make restitution of $140,000.

The three-and-a-half to seven year sentence for possession of a narcotic drug was agreed suspended, conditional on her good behavior for 10 years while on parole. Finally she was given a suspended sentence of a year in the Belknap County House of Corrections for unlawful possession of a prescription drug, a misdemeanor.

In accepting the plea bargain as appropriate, Sisiti told the court that it ensures that Lafond, who recently turned 53, will be incarcerated or paroled until she is 67 years old. With time served and good behavior, he expected she will serve five years and four months in prison.

Guldbrandsen told the court that there was not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lafond was impaired when the collision occurred, in which case the negligent homicide charge would haven risen to a class A felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years imprisonment. Therefore, she accepted the plea of guilty to the charge of negligent homicide for failing to maintain a proper lookout.

Presenting the state's evidence in the case, Guldbrandsen said that one witness reported that Lafond was holding a cell phone before the collision. Moreover, police executing a search warrant of her cell phone found that she had received three calls and a text message in the four minutes surrounding the time of the collision.

The Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team, Gulkdbrandsen said, confirmed that Lafond, while traveling northbound on Messer Street crossed the double yellow line into the southbound lane at the junction with Opechee Street, then climbed on to the sidewalk, where she struck the two girls, struck the guardrail on the bridge and caromed across the roadway to come to rest in the northbound lane. Analysis of images of Lafond's vehicle captured by a surveillance camera mounted on Irwin Motors property indicated that she was traveling at 40 miles per hour, 10 miles per hour above the posted speed limit.

Following the incident, Guldbrandsen recounted, Lafond was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where she told Officer Ben Black of the Laconia Police "I may have blinked for 30 seconds at the time of the collision.

Guldbrandsen said that the attending nurse found a 30 milligram oxycodone pill in Lafond's clothing. A blood test, Guldbrandsen said, measured 166 nanograms per milliliter of oxycodone in Lafond's bloodstream, which Guldbrandsen said was well above the 10 to 100 nanograms per milliliter common among patients using the drug as prescribed. In the course of searching Lafond's vehicle Officer Jeff Wholley found gabapentin, a prescription medication for managing pain. Lafond had no prescription for either drug.

Last Updated on Friday, 23 May 2014 01:06

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Sanbornton's historic 2nd Baptist Church moved 24 feet

SANBORNTON — After two years of planning and fund-raising and weeks of excavating and foundation work, the 2nd Baptist Church was moved forward by 24 feet yesterday afternoon.

The move is Phase 1 of a project designed to give the church more space and allow to modernize and expand said Pastor Chris McMicken.

Before the church could be moved, parishioners including Earl Leighton spend hours in the history steeple shoring up the beam for the move. While there, they stumbled upon five hand written books from the early 1800s that tell the history of the church.

According to the History of Sanbornton, New Hampshire Vol.1 annals, the first meeting house at the bay was build around 1808 as a Freewell Baptist organization under the leadership of Elder Moses Cheney on land set in the northeast corner of Elisha Smith's lot. No record of an earlier church in Sanbornton could be found.

The roof apparently blew off in 1816 and was replaced. The building was moved once before in 1886. In 1828, the church voted to adopt a "temperance article" and by 1875 the membership numbered 118.

McMicken said by moving the church forward or closer to the lake, they will be able to add a 24-foot area that will have bathrooms, a nursery and a refreshment area. The inside of the church will be reversed and the parishioners will face toward the lake with the entrance to the church through the new rear vestibule.

The project also moved the church about 13 feet closer to the vestry next door. Eventually, said McMicken, the church plans on connection the vestry with the church with and the new extension will have an ell on it for what he calls Phase II.

To move the church, excavation company Gold Eagle Contracting dug out the foundation and shored up the floor with temporary wooden scaffolding with rollers that allowed Rick Geddis of Geddes Building Movers to pull the entire building forward and sideways with a backhoe.

McMicken said the church will get an extra 12 feet of basement space as the result of the new foundation that will be built under the church.

For now, service are being held in the vestry. McMicken said they are targeting Thanksgiving Day for the first service in the newly reconstituted church.

Overall, McMicken said the project has cost $350,000 so far and the church has used some trust fund money and donations — including a significant one from the nearby Steele Hill Inn.

He said there is still a capital campaign ongoing to raise an additional $50,000 needed for some improvements to the parking lot and some insulation that couldn't be done under the existing budget.


CUTLINE: Pastor Chris McMicken stands in front of the 2nd Baptist Church in Sanbornton. The church was moved forward by 24-feet yesterday after about six months of preparatory work including shoring up the historic steeple. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

CUTLINE: Rick Geddis gives directions to his work crews as they prepare to move the 2nd Baptist Church in Sanbornton yesterday afternoon. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 May 2014 12:39

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Cooking competition entertains Taylor residents

LACONIA — More than 50 residents of the Taylor Community turned out for an afternoon cooking competition Wednesday which featured chefs Amanda Coburn and Brandon Rutherford matching wits and techniques in ways that tested their creativity and sent delightful aromas through the Woodside building.
Coburn, Taylor's director of dining services, who was the regional winner in a cooking competition sponsored by Kraft Foods last year, said that she was inspired by the competition and wanted to have one at the home which the residents could enjoy.
Both she and Rutherford were presented with the same basic ingredients — scallops, squash and avocados — along with a host of grains, fruits and vegetables with which to work and had 45 minutes to get it done.

Coburn served her scallops topped with an avocado based fresh salsa which was topped with blueberries, oranges and pineapple and accompanied by long-grained basamatti rice.
Rutherford chose pan-seared scallops served with a rustic avocado guacamole, squash and pan-seared french fries topped with cheddar.
Judges were Donna Garrison, Hal Dyment, Beverly Martin and Roger Amsden of The Daily Sun, who was drafted as a judge when a local chef was unable to attend.
The competition ended in a tie as both competitors received high marks from the judges for their creations.
Audience members said they enjoyed the event so much that they would like to see another competition in the near future.


CAPTIONS: Amanda Coburn, director of dining services at the Taylor Home, plates her entree during a friendly cooking competition at the home on Wednesday afternoon (Roger Amsden/ for The Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Thursday, 22 May 2014 12:23

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Huot advocates county can't build its budget worrying about Laconia's tax cap restrictions

LACONIA — Nearly a decade after the city enacted its property tax cap, Rep. David Huot has become if not the only, one of the few, public officials to openly suggest that the City Council should consider exercising its authority to override it.

Huot, a Democrat, was speaking last month amid a debate at the Belknap County Convention about whether to appropriate $336,170 to fund the pay raise and health benefits included in the tentative agreement negotiated between the Belknap County Commission and the State Employees Association on behalf of 80 full-time employees of the county nursing home.

Earlier, Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) pointed out that the increase in the 2014 county budget, which the convention adopted in March, matched the increase in the amount to be raised by property taxes specified by the city's tax cap. Therefore, he said any additional appropriation by the county would compel the City Council to trim an equivalent amount from one or more municipal departments in order to budget within the limits of the tax cap. Since Laconia bears about 19 percent of the property taxes raised by the county, Tilton calculated that funding the contract would add approximately $70,000 to the city tax commitment beyond the bounds of tax cap, requiring reduced appropriations of an equal amount. expenditure.

"I represent the people of Laconia too," said Huot, speaking in favor of funding the proposed contract. Noting that the county was obliged to fund the employer's share of the increase in health insurance premiums, he said "it is not a question of the Laconia tax cap." He went on to say that if the City Council overrode the tax cap by $70,000 the impact on property taxpayers would be minimal.

Huot later explained "I was simply pointing out that you can't run the county on the city of Laconia's tax cap." He said that the county is obliged to provide specific services that its 11 municipalities do not provide themselves, including the Registry of Deeds, Nursing Home, County Jail, County Attorney and Sheriff's Department. He said that Tilton "wrote the county budget to accommodate the city of Laconia."

Huot described the tax cap as "the third rail of city government" and likened suggesting it be overridden to breaking the pledge to oppose the introduction of a state sales or income tax. However, he insisted "override is an alternative in extreme circumstances."

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 May 2014 12:17

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