Jury returns ‘not guilty’ verdicts in sex assault case of preteen girl

By BEA LEWIS, For The Laconia Daily Sun

LACONIA — A Belknap County jury deliberated for less than an hour on Wednesday before acquitting a city man of sexually assaulting a pre-teen girl.

Randy W. Nadeau II, 35, had been charged with 11 counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, and was facing a potential sentence of up to 200 years behind bars had he been convicted. He took the stand to testify in his own defense and his eyes welled with tears as the jury forewoman responded "not guilty" to each of the charges read by the
court clerk.

His trial began on Tuesday, the same day the New Hampshire House Committee on Justice and Public Safety held a hearing on a bill that would require that a rape victim's testimony be corroborated. As is common in such cases, there was no forensic evidence linking Nadeau to the charges that were brought after the girl disclosed the allegations to her mother.

Assistant Belknap County Attorney Adam Woods told the jury the case was about a betrayal of trust. The victim had looked up to Nadeau as a father-like figure and the defendant used that relationship to manipulate her.

The prosecutor said the defense would claim the allegations were spawned by a scorned woman so enraged by the defendant leaving her, that she fabricated each of the allegations and convinced her daughter to parrot them.

Public Defender Eric Wolpin told the jury the ultimate decision they must make is not whether the alleged victim was lying, but rather, if they can have certainty it is the truth.

There is no physical evidence to support the allegations, Wolpin said, no text messages or any indication that the girl ever tried to distance herself from Nadeau.

"People don't always tell the truth," said Wolpin. "You know that from your own common sense. Sometimes people say untrue things to get what they want, or to get back at someone, but they're usually not this damaging. When words are the only evidence I ask you to remember that people don't always tell the truth."

A petite soft-spoken girl, the alleged victim spent about an hour on the witness stand, testifying. She told the jury her favorite school subject was math, and that she was also fond of her pet dog.

Under careful questioning by the prosecutor, she recounted that the sexual assault started with infrequent touching through her clothing and then progressed in variety and increased in frequency.

The defense spotlighted that the girl disclosed the allegations to her mother the day the woman and Nadeau had spent arguing and had ultimately decided to end their relationship. The girl's mother called police to report the abuse that same night, and the girl was interviewed the following day.

Wolpin worked to impeach the girl's credibility, focusing on her initial tape recorded interview at the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center.

When asked by a trained forensic interviewer the day after she made the initial disclosure, the girl responded no, when she was asked "Did anything like this happen on any other occasion?"

She agreed that she waited a full year before disclosing that the alleged abuse happened multiple times instead of just once, and that she never told either her counselor or the police about the other sexual encounters.

"You vowed to tell the interviewer the truth and you said it only happened once. Here today you vowed to tell the truth and you said it happened multiple times," Wolpin said.

What the jury of seven men and seven women didn't know was that an earlier effort to prosecute Nadeau ended in a mistrial, after the girl made additional allegations against him during her testimony.

Woods told jurors to apply their own experience in dealing with kids or recall their own childhood when weighing the girl's testimony and to consider how a child's memory works. He also asked them to consider how embarrassing it is for a young girl to have to recount the details of a sexual nature to a room full of strangers.

House Bill 106 was introduced by Rep. William Marsh (R), Wolfeboro, a retired ophthalmologist. The proposed legislation provides that a victim's testimony in a sexual assault case must be authenticated when the defendant has no prior conviction for the same crime. If adopted it would create an added burden of proof. Prosecutors would be pressed
to either produce DNA evidence or an eyewitness to a crime that predominantly happens behind closed doors.

Opponents charge it creates a new standard that would only apply to crimes of sexual assault, not to victims of any other crimes.

A related measure, House Bill 284, would change the term "victim" to "complainant" is sexual assault cases. If passed, anyone subjected to any other could would be referred to as a victim, except for those who have been sexually assaulted.

"These bills would perpetuate the faulty idea that victims lie about being raped," said Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs for the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

"They also send a message to the public that here in New Hampshire, a sexual assault victim is less credible than a victim of any other crime."

01-18 Randy Nadeau

Randy Nadeau listens as Judge Larry Smukler instructs the jury during Nadeau's sexual assault trial that ended Wednesday with the jury acquitting Nadeau. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Toddler injured in Gilford crash doing a little better

GILFORD — Police said Wednesday that they have learned the 2-year-old girl who was critically injured along with her father in a crash on Route 11 in Gilford on Jan. 2 is doing a little bit better than in the days after the crash.

Lt. Kris Kelley said that the investigation into the crash by the New Hampshire State Police Accident Reconstruction Team is continuing and he has no new additional information about it to release.

Police responded to Route 11 near Lockes Hill Road at 8:11 p.m. for a two car collision involving five people including a new born and a 2-year-old.

Brent Stranger of Alton and his daughter Arianna were both flown by helicopter to Dartmouth Hitchcock Memorial Hospital in Lebanon where they remain today.

Sarah Kuntz, also of Alton, and her 1-month old son, Aiden, were treated for injuries at the Lakes Region General Hospital and released.

The driver of the other vehicle, James Willingham, was also treated and released.

A friend of the family has set up a GoFundMe page that has so far raised just over $21,000 for the family to help offset their medical bills.

– Gail Ober

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State ready to bid out Meredith downtown road improvements

By DAVID CARKHUFF/THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

MEREDITH — After nearly a dozen years of public review, an effort to improve routes 3 and 25 in downtown Meredith will go out to bid this summer.
But don't expect roundabouts or other costly installations. More modest, pedestrian-focused work will last through 2018, according to Don Lyford, project manager with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
The $1.5 million construction project will focus on "adaptive signals" that more smoothly regulate traffic flow against the movement of pedestrians, as well as new sidewalks, said Lyford. The state also plans to remove a driving lane northbound from Route 3 to Route 25 in order to widen the street and ease left turns onto Route 25, according to Lyford.
The Meredith US 3/NH 25 Improvements Transportation Planning Study — full name of this long-awaited and long-debated highway project — will start this year, based on the state schedule.
"We'll be putting it out to contractors to bid on it probably in July," Lyford said last Thursday. Some work will start this fall, he said, but the plan is to stagger the balance of the work between spring 2018 and fall 2018. The agency plans to encourage the contractor to avoid working in the summer of 2018.
"We'll have to see what the contractor's schedule would be, but it would be tough to do a lot of work right in the dead of summer and not interrupt traffic," Lyford said.
Phil Warren, Meredith town manager, was a member of the public advisory committee which helped guide development of this project. He said town officials are pleased to see the Meredith US 3/NH 25 Improvements project finally get off the ground.
"The town and its 3/25 Advisory Committee has worked for many years to see this project move forward to the benefit of the town and the downtown area," he said.
In April 2014, according to public advisory committee meeting minutes, "There was discussion regarding project budget limitations and how the economics will drive prioritization of improvements. Don Lyford indicated that the amount currently allocated for construction was approximately $5-$6 million. Don noted that if the estimated costs exceed the current allocation, there is the potential to seek additional funding."
In December 2014, the PAC was presented a plan including a roundabout near the fire station onto Lake Street; a single-lane roundabout at routes 3/25; and another roundabout near the Meredith Shopping Center. A public hearing followed on Jan. 26, 2015.
Ideas to relieve gridlock in downtown Meredith and preserve the town's charm encompassed other concepts such as bike lanes, a bypass and even a bridge over the bay, Lyford recalled.
Initially conceived in the late 1980s, the Meredith downtown traffic improvement effort took off in 2006 with a study and alternatives, Lyford said. Gradually, stakeholders eliminated "unreasonable designs," he said, but planning slowed down in the following decade.
"Funding was some of it," Lyford said, "and we took the reasonable alternatives and went back to the town." The town formed its PAC, and the Jan. 26, 2015, public hearing polled the public on plans for three roundabouts. Out of roughly 400 in attendance, 350 were opposed to those roundabouts, Lyford said.
"So we backed off for a while and met with the town and said, 'We still have a project, what do you want us to do?'"
Now the plan calls for the following:
• A pedestrian signal between Dover Street and Lake Street.
• A second pedestrian signal at routes 3 and 25.
• A signal in front of the fire station, similar to a pedestrian signal, but designed to allow the fire crews to navigate in and out of the station.
• Two crosswalks near the town docks with rebuilt sidewalks to guide pedestrians to the midblock crossing.

"We're going to put in one of those pedestrian signals and coordinate that signal with the 25 and 3 signal," Lyford said.
• A revised lane configuration on Route 3 at the intersection with Route 25. "We're going to eliminate one through lane going north from Route 3 to 25," Lyford said. This wider travelway will make left turns from Route 3 onto Route 25 easier, especially for trucks, he said.
New technology, the "adaptive signal," "can adapt to the hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute traffic volumes," Lyford said. "It should give you the most efficient flow of traffic through the intersection."
The stated goal of the study was "to develop a solution to the specific traffic and transportation needs in the Town of Meredith that is compatible with the town's vision to maintain a village character for its downtown area along US Route 3 and a rural character along NH Route 25."
To meet this goal, the study made use of "context sensitive solution" design considerations, "highlighted by an emphasis on seeking assistance from stakeholders from the area to help lead the study and the use of the 'Placemaking' process to involve members of the community in the ultimate design of the project that has the support of the community as a whole," wrote the Lakes Region Planning Commission. "The overall study is a CSS pilot project, and could serve as a model for future implementation projects along NH Route 104."
For more information about the project, visit www.meredith3-25.com.

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