LACONIA – A Belknap County Superior Court judge accepted a Gilford man's guilty plea to three counts of rape yesterday and sentenced him to a minimum of 18 years in the N.H. State Prison. Douglas Fisher, 55, also pleaded guilty to one count each of burglary and robbery.
As part of the negotiated plea agreement, five years of the minimum of Fisher's sentence can be suspended provided he remain on good behavior while incarcerated and successfully complete a sexual offender rehabilitation program within the first five years of his incarceration.
He will be registered for life as a sex offender.
During her offer of proof, Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen told the court the state would prove that just before midnight on May 7, 2014, Fisher broke in the door of a 54-year-old woman's room on the Gilford side of the Margate Resort and Inn and, after a struggle, tied the woman hands behind her back with her shirt and raped her three times.
Guldbransen said the victim was in the area on business and was the only occupant of the Margate who was staying in the Gilford side of the resort. She said the victim would testify she went to bed at 9 p.m. that evening and was awaken by Fisher when he smashed in her door. She said it was dark and she couldn't identify her assailant. The victim unsuccessfully fought back and was told to keep quiet.
After the rape, Guldbrandsen said the woman was ordered by Fisher to find her pocketbook and give him the money in it which she estimated to be $200. Even though he threatened to return, once Fisher left, the victim found her cell phone and called police.
K-9 Patrol Officer Adam VanSteensburg responded almost immediately as he was in the area. Guldbrandsen said he would testify he found the door jam on Room 103 splintered and broken.
Once back up officers arrived VanSteensburg and his dog began a search that eventually led to a small house on the property where Fisher, who was employed by the Margate as a maintenance worker, lived. He spoke with Fisher who denied being near the motel that night.
Guldbrandsen said the victim was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital where her injuries were consistent with what she said happened to her. DNA swabs were taken and in August, a forensic doctor working at the state lab found sperm cells in one of the swabs. The DNA was extracted and entered into CODIS – the FBI's Combined DNA Index System and was matched to Fisher who was a felon convicted of drug sales in 1979 and who served a nine-month sentence.
Gilford Police obtained a warrant for Fisher's DNA and found it to be a match.
Guldbrandsen told the court the most important thing about the plea bargain was "finality and closure" for the victim. When Judge James O'Neill asked her why there was no restitution on the robbery conviction, Guldbrandsen replied that the victim said she didn't want anything from him nor did she want to be at his sentencing.
She described the victim as a "strong woman" who was moving on with her life.
Fisher was defended by Public Defenders Eric Wolpin and Amy Ashworth. Wolpin told the court that the case was difficult for everyone involved and his client agreed to take responsibility for his actions so he and his victim could move on with their lives. Wolpin asked the court to accept the plea.
Guldbrandsen said the plea bargain addressed three important components of justice – punishment, rehabilitation and closure for the victim. She emphasized to O'Neill that the victim did not want to relive her ordeal at a trial.
Aside from pleading guilty separately to all five counts and telling the court that he understood the rights he was waiving by accepting the plea, Fisher said nothing and stared straightforward during most of the nearly hour-long hearing.
Gilford Police Sgt. Christopher Jacques and Det. Denise Parker were the lead investigators in the case and both were at yesterday's sentencing.
"Today is all about the victim," Jacques said after the sentencing. "The fact of the matter is that this is closure for a strong woman."
Parker echoed Jacques and said she's very happy the victim found some closure.
- Category: Local News
- Hits: 1271