Witnesses back alleged victim’s testimony in third day of Belmont rape trial


LACONIA — A former employee of a Belmont businessman accused of four counts of raping a child back in the late 1990s testified yesterday that he saw the alleged victim on top of the accused, which corroborates her earlier testimony. 

Despite witness "JJ's" admitted drinking problem during the late 1990 and his on-again off-again employment with Steven Price, he was adamant that he walked by Price's living room and saw the alleged victim on top of Price.

"I've been known to drink a few beers back them, but I still know what I saw," he testified.

The alleged rape victim was caught stealing $30,000 in jewelry from Price in 2014. On the day she was scheduled to plead guilty, which was Oct. 2, 2014, she told her attorney about the alleged assaults, which triggered charges against Price. The charge of theft was dropped and the alleged victim was given immunity from prosecution from anything she would say in Price's trial.

"I saw them on the couch, playing or wrestling," J.J. said, corroborating a statement made the victim earlier in the trial that J.J. saw them for about three seconds in a compromising position. He said they were fully clothed but that she was on top of him and if they didn't have their clothes on, he believes he would have witnessed sexual intercourse.

About a month later, he said he and Price had an argument after which J.J. says he quit and others say he was fired, and he went to a body shop on Route 140 owned by Leon Cram and told him what he saw. He said Cram "hated" Price and wanted to make trouble for him so he called the police. Cram later denied that.

J.J. didn't remember talking to Officer Sean Sullivan, but Cram remembered talking to him. He said  J.J. was not drunk when he first came to the shop, but was drinking beer during their conversation. Retired Belmont Detective Steven Crockett testified that Sullivan responded immediately, but turned the case over to him after noting in his report that J.J. appeared intoxicated so he didn't interview him.

Crockett said he called J.J., who spoke with him on the phone but didn't show up for his formal statement the next day. He said he found J.J., interviewed him and then went to talk to the alleged victim, who denied they had any kind of sexual relationship.

Crockett said later that night, Price, whom he barely knew, called him at his home and demanded to know who the witness was, which was consistent with the alleged victim saying she called Price immediately after talking with police. Crockett closed the case.

Under cross-examination by Price's attorney, J.J. reiterated what he saw that day, but contradicted a number of other statements the alleged victim made during her testimony that were mostly about her role as babysitter.

J.J. said the alleged victim was at the shop all of the time and that Price would often pick her up from school. He described the relationship between all of them as "like a family" but that there was a lot of touching and grabbing between the two.

The jury also heard testimony from a high school friend of the alleged victim who said she saw the relationship between Price and her friend develop during their high school years.

S.M. said she saw the two often at the alleged victim's parents' house, which was when they were 14 and 15, and occasionally went to the shop. She said that they acted "like boyfriend and girlfriend" when it was just the three of them, and the two were often seen hugging and holding hands.

S.M. said that the two stayed in casual contact after the alleged victim left the area, but when she returned to New Hampshire, the alleged victim lived with her. She said they fell out because of the alleged victim's "untruthfulness" about a matter involving S.M.'s boyfriend.

During the alleged victim's testimony, she said she and S.M. once "made out" in front of Price but under cross- examination, S.M. gave an emphatic "No" when asked about it.

The trial continues Monday with continued cross-examination of S.M.

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Volunteers, historic photos, needed for Meredith’s 250th anniversary


MEREDITH — The Meredith 250th Anniversary Committee will meet at the Community Center on Monday, Oct. 24, beginning at 6 p.m., and Steve Durand, who with Jeanie Forrester co-chairs the committee, is urging all those eager to celebrate the birth of the town to attend.

"We need volunteers," Durand said, explaining that there are three sub-committees — one for the parade, another for the fireworks and a third for the two dress balls, the first on the date the town was founded and the second to mark the New Year. He added that the committee marketing the sale of commemorative sub-catchers and tote bags could also make us of more help. Durand said that events are scheduled for each month of the year and all need more helping hands.

Durand said that The Laconia Daily Sun will be publishing a commemorative hardcover book recording the history of Meredith in words and pictures. Mill Falls and Meredith Village Savings Bank are the marquee sponsors of the project, along with a major contribution from the Common Man Restaurants.

"The committee will be curating the pictures and content of the book," said Adam Hirshan, publisher of The Laconia Daily Sun, which will publish the book. "We plan to offer the book for sale in time for next year's holiday season, so it's time to begin gathering the photos and outlining the content."

Hirshan said he will attend the committee meeting to present the production schedule for the book as well as answer any questions about the project.

"We're looking for people willing to volunteer for anything," Durand said. "This is great opportunity to show pride in our community by pitching in to make this celebration one that will be remembered for years to come."

New device in Laconia’s Wyatt Park will measure air quality for the state


LACONIA — Next week, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services will place an air monitoring station in Wyatt Park that will measure air quality throughout the winter from November until April.

In particular, the agency seeks to determine if levels of particle pollution pose an issue. Particle pollution refers to the presence of solid or liquid particulates, generally emanating from heating devices, especially wood-burning stoves, in the atmosphere. Studies suggest that these particles can collect in communities situated in valley on cold, calm nights during the winter.

Personnel from the Air Monitoring Program will operate the station and make the data it collects available to the general public on the department's website. At the same time, the department will apply the data to forecast local air quality and, if necessary, issue protective warnings. For more information, visit the Air Quality Forecasting webpage at www2.des.state.nh.us/airdata/air_quality-forecast.asp.

Personnel from the Air Monitoring Program have worked with the Parks and Recreation Department to locate the air monitoring station and will host an open house at the station in Wyatt Park on Wednesday, Oct. 26 between noon and 2 p.m.

10-21 air quality chart

This is the chart you will see on air quality if you go to the DES website. It will soon include monitoring results from Laconia. (Courtesy graphic)