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State alleges abuses at New Hampton day care center

NEW HAMPTON — Annie's Place Children's Learning Center was ordered closed by the state agency charged with licensing child care facilities, according to a Tuesday report by WMUR (Channel 9) television. Inspectors charge a 1 to 3 p.m. nap time at the center was enforced by pinning babies down with tightly tucked-in sheets.

Other allegations detailed in a 16-page report by the N.H. Bureau of Licensing and Certification include incidents of corporal punishment.

Annie's Place, owned by Ann Mitchell, is located at 81 Riverwood Drive, west and north of the I-93, Rte. 104 intersection.

Channel 9 reports that 18 children who range in age from 6-weeks to 12 years are registered at the day care center.

Mitchell will have an opportunity to refute the report at a May 5 hearing.


Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 12:02

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Practices enforcing nap time major issues surrounding New Hampton day care center

NEW HAMPTON — Details made available about Annie's Place-Children's Learning Center on 81 Riverwood Drive show children as young a eight-months old were allegedly placed in cribs under four-cornered fitted sheets in order to get them to sleep.

Affidavits provided to the N.H. Child Care Licensing Unit said at least one seven-month old child was dressed in a one-piece winter fleece snowsuit with the hood drawn tightly around her head and face.

During an unannounced visit on March 11, state licensing coordinators found one 12-month old child laying in a "pack and play" and tucked in so tightly that only the top of her head was showing".

Staff members told the licensing coordinators that owner Ann E. Mitchell had told them that tight bed clothing was like swaddling and it helped them settle down so they could sleep at nap time.

State investigators also reported seeing one 10-month old "repeatedly struggling to move beneath the tightly tucked blanket, unable to free her arms or legs. They said the child continued to struggle without any response from staff.

The state board ordered Annie's Place closed on Friday, in wake of their findings. Mitchell is scheduled to appear at a hearing on May 5.

The 16-page report details numerous issues of using tight sheets to restrain children during a two-hour nap time, a practice which violates rules against corporal punishment.

Affidavits from employees indicate that some of the older children were yelled at and the owner would use force to make them sit. One employee said she saw a 27-month old child hit her head on the wall when she was forcibly seated in a chair.

Other violations included not allowing parents to visit without announcing their visit and not allowing visitors between the hours of 1 and 3 p.m. — which is nap time.

Licensing coordinators also documents a number of paperwork and record keeping violations.

Police Chief Doug Salmon said he has never gotten any complaints from parents about the Annie's Place. He said police had been there twice in the past few years as part of planned community events but never in reference to any reported criminal activity.

He said since the news of the forced closing he has heard from a few parents but declined to comment on the nature of their complaints.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:57

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Tilton man says he was illegally snared in unrelated search for armed bandit

TILTON — An Autumn Drive man who has been charged with two counts of felony drug possession has requested that the evidence seized from his apartment and his person be suppressed because of an illegal search.

According to court documents, Benjamin Ricks of 80 Autumn Drive is the caretaker of the property and lives in an apartment in the back of the main house. Autumn Drive runs perpendicular to Lancaster Hill Road which is off Laconia Road (Rte. 3).

On August 21, 2013, at 3:30 p.m. an armed robbery occurred at the Tilton Shop Express on Laconia Road.

The first responding officer was Lt. Kevin McIntosh of the Sanbornton Police who happened to be driving on Laconia Road and saw a shop clerk throw a baseball bat at the robbery suspect.

The suspect fled on foot toward Lancaster Hill Road and McIntosh chased him but was unable to find him.

Police from Tilton and Sanbornton established a perimeter around the area between Grange Road, Lancaster Hill Road and Laconia Road in an effort to locate the bandit. Two K-9 units were unable to locate him.

In the course of their search, Sanbornton Police Chief Steve Hankard and one of his officers were on Philbrook Road which runs parallel with Lancaster Hill Road when they noticed Ricks riding a all-terrain vehicle headed down a wooded path.

At this point, Ricks's attorney Catherine Costanzo said it was an hour after the robbery and the two officers were about one-half mile from the store. Pleadings indicate the two officers thought Ricks (who they didn't know) "could have had something to do with armed robbery" and entered the trail in pursuit of him.

Constanzo, noted the robber had been described as wearing a black sweatshirt and a black mask, and Ricks was wearing a tan shirt, checked shorts and had a backpack.

She also noted the back of Rick's house is largely invisible from Philbrook Road and the trail leading to his house is clearly marked with "private property" and "no trespassing" signs.

Police followed the trail and said they smelled marijuana when they got to about 15 feet away from house. They noted the smell kept getting stronger as they closer they got to the home. When police knocked on the door, they said no one answered.

Based on this information, the Sanbornton officers returned to Tilton and learned from Det. Nate Buffington that three years earlier he had gotten a tip from a confidential informant that Ricks may be "growing a lot of weed" at his house.

Police applied for and got a search warrant. During the search they found marijuana, paraphernalia and a couple of digital scales but no evidence of a grow operation. Police found "several" Adderall tablets in Ricks's pocket.

Constanzo argues that there was no evidence of an armed robbery or Ricks involvement in one and has asked the court to rule that Ricks arrest and the search of his home violates the New Hampshire Constitution as well as the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects people from unwarranted search and seizure.

She said any exigent circumstances do not apply in this case because there was no "hot" pursuit and the police had no reason to believe an ATV was involved in the robbery. In addition, Constanzo argues that the curtilage of the home and the home itself are protected against warrantless searches.

Curtilege is defined as any area around a home that is subject to regular use by the residents of the home. In this case, Ricks uses the trails in the woods for outdoor activities such as riding his ATV and hiking and camping and the trails and surrounding woods are posted.

"This is a case when officers arbitrarily decided to enter posted, private property on a remote and unfounded suspicion," wrote Constanzo.

Oral arguments on the motions to suppress are scheduled for early May.

As to the armed robbery, Tilton Police arrested Shannon Gauthier, David Messier, and Angela Kulacz for their roles in the armed robbery. All were found guilty by a judge in Belknap County Superior Court.

Ricks had been free on bail since his arrest, however his bail was recently revoked because of a violation of its terms. As of yesterday, he was incarcerated and waiting trial in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:47

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DeVoy to run for Belknap Commission again

LACONIA — David DeVoy, a businessman from Sanbornton, announced yesterday that he will make a second bid for the District 1 seat on the Belknap County Commission, representing the city of Laconia and towns of Sanbornton and New Hampton

In 2012 DeVoy, a Republican, lost his challenge to incumbent Democrat Ed Philpot of Laconia by 701 votes, 5,320 to 4,619. DeVoy carried Sanbornton and New Hampton as well as Ward 1 in Laconia, but could not overcome Philpot's margins in the other five wards.

A retired colonel in the United States Army Reserve, DeVoy owns and operates three convenience stores — the Mobil Mart in Gilford and the Bosco Bell Store and Blueberry Station in Barnstead. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and earned his Master of Science degree at the United States Army War College and Master of Business Administration at Plymouth State University.

Politically, DeVoy is aligned more closely with the Republican majority of the Belknap County Convention than with the commission, where Philpot sits with Republicans John Thomas of Belmont and Steve Nedeau of Meredith. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative, who favors limiting government and lowering taxes to spur economic growth.

DeVoy said yesterday that he entered the race to address the issues posed by conditions at the county jail and to heal the rift arisen between the convention and the commission. He questions the commissioner's proposal to replace the existing jail with a new facility, but shares their commitment to provide educational and therapeutic programs to reduce recidivism. Likewise, he supports the establishment of both a drug court and mental health court and would maximize the use of electronic monitoring to supervise qualified inmates. "It's very expensive to warehouse people," he said, "but buildings are not necessary for programming."

Noting that the jail was built in the 1970s and expanded in 1980s, DeVoy said that existing buildings can be rehabilitated. In addition, he suggested that the wing of the county complex currently occupied by the commission and administration could be converted to house the female inmates. He said that if necessary, programming could be conducted at other properties owned by the county.

DeVoy emphasized that because Laconia must budget within its property tax cap, the county must not impose costs on the city that would compel it to reduce expenditures on its schools, streets and emergency services to comply with the limits of its tax cap.

DeVoy said that in both the armed forces and business work "I learned to work cooperatively with other people," explaining that he believes his "interpersonal skills" will enable him to dispel the acrimony that has soured the relationship between the convention and the commission. "We need to chuck our egos aside," he said, "so that everybody in the county government gets along."

Philpot was first elected in 2008, when District 1 consisted solely of the city of Laconia, carrying four of six wards to top Frank Tilton, the current chairman of the executive committee of the convention, by 3,895 to 3,331.

Philpot has yet to indicate whether he will seek re-election.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:42

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