Motion hearing for Kibby trial begins in Belknap

LACONIA – Accused kidnapper and rapist Nathaniel Kibby, 35, appeared for the first time in Belknap County Superior Court yesterday for the first of three scheduled days of hearings about his pending trial.

Kibby, who was dressed in a blue shirt and khaki pants, sat next to his four-person defense team headed by the lead attorney of the Belknap County Public Defenders office, Jesse Friedman, and was in constant communication with him. The four-person prosecution team was led by New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Jane Young.

Extra security for Courtroom 2, which is the smaller of two courtrooms, was provided by the Belknap County Sheriff's Department, which had two officers posted at the entry to it. Security around the rest of the building appeared to be normal. Three people – two women and a man – attended yesterday's hearings as observers. State and local news crews were also on hand.

In a case that's drawn national attention, Kibby was indicted on 205 separate charges that include kidnapping his then 14-year-old alleged victim in North Conway on Oct. 9 while she was walking home from school and allegedly holding her prisoner and repeatedly raping her in his Gorham home and a storage trailer until this July.

With Judge Larry Smukler presiding, the defense and prosecution had agreed earlier this year that the charges from Carroll and Coos County would be consolidated and heard in Belknap County. Kibby faces a 206th charge of threatening Young, for which he will be tried separately. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that a motion to remove Young as prosecutor was denied.

Smukler has or will hear argument for 20 motions from the both the prosecution and the defense regarding evidence, testimony, and some preliminary housekeeping items during the three days set aside for them. In some instances he will rule from the bench ,and in others he will weigh the arguments and issue his decisions in writing.

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A Muskrat by any other name... Baseball team drops Laconia for Winnipesaukee

LACONIA — The Laconia Muskrats are no more. The team is changing its name to the Winnipesaukee Muskrats in the hope of widening its appeal in the Lakes Region.
Kristian Svindland, general manager of the Laconia Muskrats, the city's franchise in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, announced yesterday that the ownership and management of the team have made the switch.
Svindland informed the Parks and Recreation Commission of the decision when it met last night. Kevin Dunleavy, director of Parks and Recreation, said the commissioners one way or another to the news.
He emphasized that "Laconia is our home," but added "the team is for the Lakes Region. He noted that Robbie Mills Field is less than 30 minutes from Alton, 25 minutes from Tilton and 20 minutes from Meredith while Plymouth is within 30 minutes of the ballpark.
Svindland said attendance has been a challenge during the first six seasons, lagging behind the numbers posted by other teams in the league – most, if not all, of which have larger populations to drawn from. The Newport Gulls, perhaps the strongest franchise in the league, draws crowds of 2,400," he said, while some 1,200 regularly watch the Keene Swamp Bats. He said three other teams in the league also have names designating regions — the Vermont Mountaineers, who play in Montpelier; the Valley Blue Sox, who play in Holyoke, Massachusetts; and the Ocean State Waves, who play in South Kingston, Rhode Island.
Likewise, Svindland noted that the host families who house players during the season are not confined to Laconia, but reside in the greater Lakes Region.
"We want to encourage our neighbors from Franklin to Wolfeboro, Belmont to Plymouth to attend games," he said.
Apart from the name, Svindland said nothing will change. The logo will remain the same and Marko will continue as the mascot. Although the team will sport new uniforms, the colors will remain Columbia blue with brown trim.
Last month, the father-and-son partnership of Jonathan and Noah Crane that brought the Laconia Muskrats to Laconia sold their franchise to a trio of businessmen from Portsmouth – Todd Hewett, who is the president of the organization, Ira Blumenthal and Andy Minckler – and named Svindland, a longtime resident of Laconia, general manager with responsibility for day-to-day operations.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Svindland. "I love baseball and the city of Laconia, and am thrilled to have the opportunity to help attract the most talented players to our team, improve the experience for the fans at the park, and also strengthen the team's ties to the community by getting our players involved in a variety of community service projects."

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St. Helena demolished – Modular homes to replace house of God?

LACONIA — St. Helena Mission Church, which had stood on Endicott Street South at The Weirs since 1955, was demolished yesterday by Peter Morrissette of PEM Real Estate, LLC, who acquired the property in 2014.

Morrissette said yesterday that he intends to build a residential development of modular homes on the 3.38-acre parcel "with as many units as I can put on the lot." The property lies in the shorefront resident district. where six single-family homes or 20 condominium units would be permitted. He said the development of the property would be undertaken in partnership with his brother Kevin Morrissette of N.W. Morrissette & Sons, a well known local contractor.

"We'll build every inch of housing we can get," Morrissette said.

Earlier this year, Morrissette applied to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance that would entitle him to use the property as a storage facility. He said the property would be fenced and the exterior of the building would not be altered. Nor would there be an office or signs on the site. Instead, the space would be leased to one or two commercial entities for a relatively long-term to store seasonal inventory.

At a stormy public hearing before the ZBA in July, the request met stiff opposition from homeowners on Pendleton Beach Road, including Warren Hutchins, the chairman of the Planning Board, who made it very clear he was speaking strictly as an interested property owner, not as chairman of the Planning Board. The abutters and neighbors urged the ZBA to deny the requested variance, claiming that using the abandoned church as a storage facility would have adverse impacts on the character of their neighborhood and the value of their properties. In August, Morrissette withdrew his request.

Morrissette said that during the controversy he invited city officials to suggest what he might do with the property.

"I would loved to have someone call me," he said, "but all I ever heard was crickets. Most of the people who want to reimagine Laconia," he said, "can't reimagine it."

He added that when he presents a proposal to develop the property to the Planning Board he will ask Hutchins to recuse himself.

"He has a conflict of interest," Morrissette said. "I'll take it to court if necessary."

Meanwhile, John Remington, who was among the abutters opposed to using the church as a storage facility, owns the 30 acres surrounding Morrissette's property, where the Planning Board has approved a cluster subdivision, including four waterfront lots.The one home built in the subdivision is priced at $1.7 million.

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