Does it stink? - Testimony begins in case over Mayhew Funeral home crematorium


MEREDITH — A local man told a judge on Monday that his efforts to run a motorcycle museum has been scuttled because of what he claims are noxious emissions from the chimney of a crematorium located at a
neighboring funeral home.

"It's changed our lives," Doug Frederick said, of what he claims are foul odors and ash-like particles allegedly emanating from the crematorium in the Mayhew Funeral Home which abuts the American Police Motorcycle Museum property.

Peter and Kelley Mayhew and their business Mayhew Funeral Home Inc. initially filed a slander suit against Frederick and his wife, Leslyee. In it they claim the couples' continued public assertions that their crematorium is the source of alleged emissions, has defamed them in a business where reputation is paramount.

The Fredericks countersued, claiming the crematorium is a public and private nuisance.

During an afternoon hearing held in Carroll County Superior Court because of a conflict with a judge in Belknap County, retired police officers testified that the nose knows.

"I've had experience with burned bodies, and the smell of burned human flesh remains in your mind file for life," testified Gerry Lavigne of Campton, who said he served 26 years as a Manchester police officer.

Retired Bay State police officer John Nash, who now lives in Moultonborough, said when he visited the museum he was struck by a "God awful smell" that coated the back of his throat and was unable to abate it. He recounted having to witness autopsies during his career and told the judge the smell he experienced while at the Meredith museum was worse.

"There is nothing like it," he said.

Nick Leary, who works as a state trooper in Connecticut and handles a dog trained to sniff out cadavers, testified that he is a motorcycle enthusiast and visits the museum about five times a year.

"I could smell it in the air. It's a distinct smell and once you smell it you never forget it," he said of his recollections of a noontime visit to the museum on June 2.

The hearing Monday was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m., but was postponed for 45 minutes to allow the plaintiffs to arrive.

When Judge Amy L. Ignatius took the bench, she said the court had not been notified that that either an illness had occurred or that the plaintiffs were stalled in traffic. The court file contained a copy of the notice that was sent to all parties notifying them of the date and time of the hearing, she said.

Attorney William Woodbury of Laconia, who represents the Fredericks, told the judge he had 15 witnesses in the courtroom waiting to testify one of which had traveled from Philadelphia. He said he'd called opposing counsel's office and been told that attorney Marc Van Zanten wasn't in, and that co-counsel was believed to be at lunch.

"It's frustrating. There are a lot of people here," the judge said.
Woodbury said he was unsure when he would be able to schedule all of the witnesses to appear en masse again, and urged the judge to allow the hearing to go forward.

"I'm mindful that people have traveled from near and far and I guess in light of that I will begin," the judge said.

Woodbury represented that he had disclosed the names of all of his witnesses to the plaintiffs.

He argued that the Fredericks are under threat of irreparable personal, professional and financial harm if the crematorium is allowed to continue to operate and asked that the judge either issue an injunction halting its use outright, or limit its operation to nighttime hours, until such time as the case is adjudicated.

While conceding that the museum closed its doors to the general public on July 18, Woodbury said, the Fredericks are still on the property daily packing up three floors of police memorabilia and to allow the owners of motorcycles and other exhibit pieces that were on loan to pick them up. On weekends they have been holding a moving sale. The proceeds from items being sold will be used to help them relocate the museum and to offset legal fees, he said.

In response to questions from the judge about whether a new home for the museum had been found, Doug Frederick said that he'd just learned that the Lakeport Fire Station was for sale and was looking into that.

Among those testifying was Mark Diette of Moultonborough, who disclosed he still holds the mortgage on the property. He recounted that after reading that the museum was closing, he visited the property to talk to the Fredericks. When he toured the building that he formerly operated as a group antique shop, he said the interior has been totally renovated to serve as a museum. While walking the property with the Fredericks, Diette said, he could see heat waves coming from the crematorium chimney.

Bill Firth of Gilford testified that in late May when he and his wife were stuck in traffic on Route 3 near the Mayhew Funeral Home, an acrid smell caused him to suffer an asthma attack.

"The fumes just took my breath away. It was like breathing oven cleaner." He twice used his rescue inhaler to help abate the attack.

Michael Lingley of Rollingsford, who is an enthusiast of Indian motorcycles told the judge that when he came to Meredith to he stopped at the McDonald's restaurant across Route 3 from the funeral home to get something to eat.

"I smelled an odor and asked them what they were cooking that smelled so bad. They said it's not us, but the crematorium across the street," Lingley testified.

After leaving the restaurant, he went to the museum and said he spoke with Doug Frederick and joked about the exchange he'd just had with the restaurant worker.

"He didn't think it was funny," Lingley said.

In his own testimony, Doug Frederick recounted that during his career as a police officer he'd been to the scene of some 200 homicides.

"It is a smell a policeman never forgets," he said of the odor that he claims wafts onto the museum property from the crematorium.

"I could not longer in good conscience bring people into the museum. The smell was punishing," he said.

About 45 minutes after the hearing began, the court clerk informed the judge that the plaintiff's lawyer had called and said he was unaware that the hearing was scheduled for that day.

After hearing the testimony, Judge Ignatius said she would review the evidence and issue a written ruling at a later date. She said she would also be considering whether or not to allow the plaintiff's counsel to listen to a recording of the proceedings and if he should be allowed to file a written response.

The case is tentatively on track to go to trial next April.

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Bridgewater man facing arson charge after fire at his mobile home

BRIDGEWATER — Following a fire at a mobile home at 862 Mayhew Turnpike, lot 6, on Sept. 30, a local man is facing charges including arson.

Tyler J. Prescott, 30, who lives at the site of the fire, was in Plymouth Circuit Court District Division Monday for a probable cause hearing, according to State Fire Marshal J. William Degnan and Fire Chief Don Atwood.

He faces a Class A felony charge of arson, a Class B felony charge of criminal threatening, a Class B felony charge of reckless conduct, and a violation offense of disorderly conduct.

The court found there was probable cause on all charges and bail remains at $100,000 cash or surety. Prescott's case is now bound over to Grafton Superior Court for further court actions. Prescott is currently being held at the Grafton County Jail.

Anyone with information that may assist with the investigation is encouraged to contact Investigator Matt Wilmot of the State Fire Marshal's Office at 603-223-4289.

– Ginger Kozlowski

Convicted burglar who lost shoe near crime scene wants a new trial


LACONIA — Instead of being sentenced Monday for his role in burglarizing the Emerald Street residence of a widow, a local man will be asking a Superior Court judge for a new trial instead.
Michael Regan, 32, claims that because there was no physical evidence putting him inside the home at 51 Emerald St. in August of 2015, and because the case is completely circumstantial, the jury didn't follow the judge's order.
In his jury directions, Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill told the jury that "If it is reasonable to arrive at two conclusions, one consistent with guilt and one consistent with innocence, then you must choose the reasonable conclusion consistent with innocence."

Regan, through his attorney Mark Sisti, cites three things the jury should have considered, the first being that there was no physical evidence that put his client in the home. There were no fingerprints and no gloves were found on Regan.
Second, he said the victim testified that a small gold bracelet that was broken and stored in a small manila envelope was missing, but the bracelet was not found on Regan.
Third, the victim testified that she woke and saw two intruders in her office and that one of them had dark legs. She also testified that the lights were on in the office and she thought one of the men was dark skinned or black.
Both Regan and Kevin Gobeil, who pleaded guilty, are white.
Regan testified in his own defense and said that he and Gobeil were sitting in his Arch Street apartment when a friend named Marcus, who is Dominican or black, came over and told them they could go to his aunt's house where there was air conditioning and television.
He said the three walked to Emerald Street and "Marcus" told them he had to go around to the back of the house to get the key. He said all three went to the backyard, but when he heard glass break, he "freaked out" and ran away.
While he was running, Regan said he lost one of his shoes and while looking for it, fell into a ditch or ravine about 10 to 15 feet deep, which is where Laconia Police Officer Joseph Tucker found him.
Tucker testified that the person who fell wasn't moving and for a second thought he was dead. Regan, said he struck his head and woke only to hear Tucker tell him to put his hands up or he would send in a police dog.
Regan, 32, was found guilty of one count of burglary by a jury on Aug. 10. While the trial lasted three days, the jury took nearly as long to deliberate and at one point reported they were deadlocked.
O'Neill brought them all back in the court room and gave them "Allen Instructions," which is a generic term for encouraging those in the opposition to reconsider their positions. "Allen instructions" are often called "dynamite" because they have a way of blasting a verdict out of a jury.

Police never arrested a third man.