Drug sting results in arrest


LACONIA — A Winter Street man has been charged with sales of suboxone by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Drug Task Force after an investigation into illegal sales activity in the Belmont and Laconia area.
Joshua A. McNeil, 34, of 18 Winter St. allegedly sold suboxone, a drug used to treat people with opioid addiction, to a “cooperating individual” working with the task force, according to affidavits obtained Tuesday from the Belknap County Superior Court.
Affidavits said police arranged for a “one-party interception” or permission from the informant to record his or her phones calls regarding McNeil, which was granted on Sept. 6, 2016, by Belknap County Assistant Attorney R.J. Meurin.
McNeil allegedly sent a text message to the informant that 20 pills were needed and police told the informant to meet him at the Belknap Mall, where McNeil allegedly sold him 14 pills with money provided by the police.
Police observed the transaction and were able to identify McNeil through a mug shot obtained from the Concord Police Department.
A second similar deal was arranged between the two on Sept. 26, 2016, where McNeil said he was waiting for the informant behind the former school building near Sacred Heart Church off Union Avenue.
Two days later, a third transaction was arranged between the informant and McNeil near the same place. The informant was told to go over to McNeil’s girlfriend’s house on Winter Street and police observed the informant go on to the porch at 18 Winter St. Affidavits said that 18 Winter St. and the place of the second transaction were both within a drug-free school zone for the Laconia High School.
A warrant for his arrest was issued on Oct. 31, 2016, and McNeil was arrested Jan. 14 by Gilford Police during a routine traffic stop and held over the weekend in the Belknap County House of Corrections.
He appeared in the Belknap County Superior Court on Tuesday and was ordered held on $1,500 cash or corporate surety.
According a spokesman at the state Department of Corrections, McNeil was convicted of armed robbery in Belknap County on July 22, 2014, and was paroled on March 22, 2015. His parole ended on Aug. 31, 2018.


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Country bar to open in downtown


LACONIA — With the twang of electric guitars and a rampaging mechanical bull, country is coming to the city next month when the Whiskey Barrel Bar and Music Hall opens its doors at 546 Main St., last home to the Funky Monkey.

01-17 Whiskey Barrel logoA satellite of the "Barrel" in Haverhill, Massachusetts, owner Bernie Goulet said the nightspot will be just the second country music venue in the Merrimack Valley north of Boston. With capacity for 600 patrons, the Whiskey Barrel will feature live country music performed by local and regional bands and, with an array of flat screen televisions, will also rank among the largest sports bars in the Lakes Region, where fans can enjoy NFL games, NASCAR racing and the Ultimate Fighting Championship on pay per view.

Goulet said the venue will be managed by Matt Menegas, who as a longtime vendor at Laconia Motorcycle Week is no stranger to the city. He said that a "premier sound system," installed by RPM Dynamics, will keep the toes tapping and the joint rocking.

"Tentatively," Goulet said, he expects the venue to open on Friday, Feb. 3, with the familiar strains of the Eric Grant Band, fronted by the popular talent born and bred in Laconia. A week later, Foreigner's Journey will play a tribute to these two classic bands. Ultimate Aldean is scheduled to offer a tribute to the country star on July 1 and, in a change of pace, Slaughter will bring hair metal alloyed with glam, punk and pop rock to Main Street on July 15.

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Final testimony in fatal drug sale case ends with cause of death


LACONIA — Testimony ended in the case against a Northfield man who allegedly sold the fentanyl that killed a 21-year-old Tilton man with the state's chief medical officer saying the cause of death was acute fentanyl poisoning and that the death occurred sometime between late April 2 or early April 3, 2015.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Thomas Andrew said Seth Tilton-Fogg's autopsy was performed about three hours after his body was found on April 3 and that there were fresh needle marks on both of his feet.

"I saw no other reason for his death," said Andrew.

Brian Watson, 52, of Northfield is charged with selling Tilton-Fogg a lethal dose of fentanyl and could face a sentence of up to life in prison if convicted.

During two days of testimony from Det. Nathan Buffington, the jury learned that Tilton-Fogg had been in contact with someone using a phone registered to Watson. It's members also learned that on the day before his death, Tilton-Fogg had also been in contact with his best friend who was looking for some heroin but Fogg was unable to help him.

The jury also learned that someone who used the name Felicia texted Watson's phone on the same night as Tilton-Fogg and said she passed out for an hour after using some heroin/fentanyl.

The case against Watson has been largely one of the prosecution using telephone records from a phone belonging to Watson to a phone being used by Tilton-Fogg to connect the two people and to provide enough circumstantial evidence to the jury that it was Watson who was using the phone on April 2, not his live-in girlfriend Teanna Bryson, who only had a phone that worked if there was wi-fi available.

The defense's job has been to cast doubt on who the real user of the telephone was and to the identity of who actually sold the drugs to Tilton-Fogg that killed him.

Phone records show that it was Teanna Bryson who knew Tilton-Fogg from high school and who reached out to him when she heard he was using heroin.
Buffington testified Friday and Tuesday that the context of the text messages from Watson's phone changed, citing examples of uses of language like "fire" to describe the heroin and "hon" as a term of endearment used allegedly by her to different words like "this is B" that were allegedly used by him.

Buffington also testified that Bryson was initially the main suspect but they ruled her out when text messages from Watson's phone used words like "my truck" that they attributed to Watson.

Watson's attorney Mark Sisti did not call any witnesses of his own, but used his time during cross examinations to point out discrepancies and assumptions being made by police and prosecutors that point the finger at Watson, but that he says don't rule out Bryson or other people in Tilton-Fogg's life who also sold him drugs.

Watson did not take the stand, although the judge will tell the jury not give that any weight when it comes to deliberations.

Following the close of testimony, Sisti said he would be making a verbal motion Wednesday morning to the judge to prevent the case to go to the jury.

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