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Judge not buying self defense line of questioning, finds probable cause for holding Drouin for alleged stabbing

LACONIA — Belmont Police testified yesterday that after searching the apartment and car of stabbing victim Corey Cromwell, they didn't found any illegal drugs.

Lead Det. Raechel Moulton said he police found a box containing realistic-looking Air-soft guns that shoot plastic pellets in Cromwell's apartment but didn't take them into evidence.

The statements came during a probable cause hearing for accused assailant John J. Drouin and was made as Drouin's defense team, asking Moulton whether or not she asked Cromwell about illegal drugs during her interview with him.

Drouin is charged with two counts of first-degree assault.

Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll had initially disallowed the line of questioning saying he didn't see how it was relevant.

Drouin's lawyer, John Bresaw, said he was potentially looking at self-defense arguments.
The case centers around Drouin, who is accused of stabbing Cromwell and his friend John Hynes on February 24 at 1:05 a.m. in a stairway leading up to Cromwell's apartment at 252 Daniel Webster Highway (Rte. 3).

Carroll said he hadn't herd any testimony that had anything to do with self-defense or drugs that was relevant to Drouin's defense.

Moulton's testimony about not finding drug or weapons came when Bresaw was given the chance to provide a reason for the line of questioning. After hearing her testimony, Carroll said that he wouldn't allow any further questions about drug use.

A probable cause hearing is not a trial but is a way used by the court to determine if there is enough evidence to sustain the charge. It is often used by defense teams as a way to force the state to show them some preliminary information before the actual indictment process begins.

Yesterday was the second time Moulton has taken the stand at a probable cause hearing regarding the stabbing. The first was earlier this week when she testified at the probable cause trial for Robert Rama — a former Concord man who is alleged to have been with Drouin when the stabbing occurred. Rama is charged with one count of criminal facilitation and one count of simple assault for allegedly choking Cromwell's girlfriend when she tried to break up the fight.

Moulton also testified that a surveillance camera that was installed in the upstairs hallway outside of Cromwell's door had been ripped out of the wall and tossed into one of two vacant apartments in the building. She said police recovered it when the landlord gave them permission to go into the apartment that she said appeared to be under construction.

She said she noticed the wires missing and Cromwell told her there should have been a camera there.

Cromwell and the other two victims have said the Drouin and Rama ambushed them from a common bathroom as they were walking up the stairs to go into Cromwell's apartment after driving around in their car for about an hour.

Moulton also said he told her he installed the video surveillance in the apartment after his landlord mentioned that some thefts had been reported in the building and then he noticed some of his stuff was gone.

She testified that one of those cameras, which was pointed toward the front door, recorded all five of those involved in the assault standing in the parking lot. She said the camera showed Drouin standing in the parking lot with his arms apart with a knife in one hand.

Moulton also provider a clearer description of the interior of the building saying the common bathroom was at the top of the stairs and it was a very narrow stairway. She said it looked like there are four small apartments, all sharing a common bathroom. Other than Cromwell's, only one was occupied and that person told police he heard a commotion but chose not to get involved.

She said Cromwell's girlfriend told her that Cromwell had gone up the stairs first, followed by Hynes and her. The lower floor is occupied by Lakes Region Dock, which is closed for the winter.

She also said there was blood on the stairs and in the parking lot for the building as well as in Cromwell's car where the three allegedly took shelter while they were waiting for police.

Police also recovered four cell phones during the initial part of the investigation, including Cromwell's, Rama's, and two phones found in Cromwell's car that belong to two people seemingly unconnected to the case.

She said there were several calls made between Drouin and one of the people not connected to the stabbing.

After hearing the 90 minutes of testimony, Carroll determined there was probable cause for the two charges against to be bound over to Superior Court for possible indictment by a grand jury.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 12:34

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Warm reception for proposed sign ordinance changes

LACONIA — A public hearing on proposed changes in the city's zoning ordinance governing signs which was held Tuesday night showed broad support from members of the Planning Board and the city's business community for the changes developed by the city's Zoning Task Force.
Most of the discussion at the hearing centered on electronic signs and where they could be placed, particularly with regard to the professional zone on a short stretch of Union Avenue from the area between Sunrise Towers and Normandin Square.
Suzanne Perley, a member of the Zoning Board of Adjustment who chairs the task force, said that signs became a priority of the task force after a complaint from a business owner in that area. One of the major changes in the proposal would allow electronic, changeable-copy signs, previously barred from the professional district, in all zoning districts except riverfront and residential.
Jeff Flanders, owner of Byse Insurance Agency on Union Avenue, said that he had spent three years working on improving his sign and supported a change which would allow electronic changeable copy signs in the professional district as they are permitted a short distance from his business in commercial districts on Court Street and on Union Avenue north of its intersection with Church Street.
Also welcoming the proposed changes were Randy Brough of the Laconia Public Library, who said that the library has long wanted to have a sign that would enable it to highlight events that were taking place at the library. He said that the library would like to install an electronic changeable copy sign comparable to the one at the Taylor Home.

The library is located in an area that is also zoned professional.
John Moriarty, a member of the library's board of trustees, who also owns a building in downtown Laconia and is president of the Laconia Main Street Initiative, said he supported the proposed changes although he questioned the one minute time limit before sign language changes, noting that it is only eight seconds in many sign ordinances in other communities.
Steve Weeks, a commercial property realtor, said that the stretch of Union Avenue zoned as professional is in reality a part of a commercial corridor and should have the same sign regulations as a commercial zone.
Perley said the task force focused on signs alone and did not look at possible zoning district changes. She said the proposal distinguishes between "electronic message centers," or EMCs, "animated signs" and electronic changeable copy signs. EMCs, as defined by the task force, are those signs "capable of displaying words, symbols, figures, pictures or images that can be electronically or mechanically changed by remote or automatic means. The task force recommends that all EMCs be fitted with a sensor that automatically dims the sign to match the ambient light at all times of day and night. EMCs display static messages and images, without either actual or apparent movement or variation in intensity, though the face of the sign could change every minute.
"Animated signs" are those with imagery or text in perpetual motion and varying intensity and include signs with scrolling text. Electronic changeable copy signs display text for not less than five minutes, but do not include time and temperature signs.
Brian Gilbert of Gilbert Block said that he would like to see a change which would allow him to have a scrolling message at his business which is located in an industrial zone on Province Road (Rte. 107), where they are currently prohibited.
Planning Director Shanna Saunders said that the ordinance changes will not apply to existing signs but only those proposed after the ordinance is adopted.

A second public hearing will be held next month on the ordinance, which will incorporate a suggested change and a correction in the use table. If it wins board approval it will then be forwarded to the City Council, which can choose to hold a public hearing of its own or adopt the hearings held by the Planning Board, before taking action.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 12:22

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Gilford advances in NHIAA playoffs behind 24 points from sophomore

GILFORD — Sophomore Cody Goodwin and the Golden Eagles beat Prospect Mountain 59-53 on Thursday night to advance to the quarter-final round of the NHIAA Division III Boys Basketball Tournament. Goodwin had a game high 24 points.

The Golden Eagles dressed only eight players, due to suspensions handed out after an altercation in the final game of the regular season. Goodwin, normally a role player off the bench, nailed down five three pointers and ended the game converting a pair of free throws with 29 seconds left to secure the victory.

Eleventh-seeded Prospect Mountain kept pace with sixth seeded Gilford throughout the evening. The largest deficit was only 11 points, at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Prospect Mountain came within two points with two minutes remaining but Gilford tightened up on the defensive end of the court and forced the Timberwolves to foul. The Golden Eagles were a perfect six for six from the free throw line in the final two minutes.

Juniors Kaleb Orton had 14 points and Nate Davis had nine for the Golden Eagles.

Gilford will head to the three seed Berlin on Saturday for the quarter-final matchup. In other NHIAA Division III play Thursday night night, seventh seeded Winnisquam fell to number 10 Farmington 58-57 and ninth-seeded Laconia lost at eighth-seeded Mascoma Valley (Enfield), 59-43.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 08:25

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Post 1 celebrating 95 years of American Legion presence in Laconia

LACONIA — Wilkins-Smith American Legion Post 1, located at 849 North Main St. in Laconia, will celebrate 95 years of service to the community and its veterans and its youth with a dinner and awards night on Saturday, March 8.
Post Adjutant Earlon Beale, one of only three commanders at the post to ever serve as state American Legion commander (2006-07), has held the adjutant's position for 18 years and says that he was inspired to become involved in American Legion leadership by the late two-time post commander Charlie Tracy, who was state commander in 1971-72. The other state commander from Laconia was Cy Malone, who served as state commander in 1966-67.
''Charlie asked me to drive him to Boston but it turned out that he didn't really need me to drive. He talked to me all the way down and back about how important it was for the Legion to continue its traditions and provide leadership in the community and support for veterans,'' recalls Beale, who served in the Navy during the Vietnam War and retired from the Army Reserves after 34 years in the military.
Beale moved to Laconia from Augusta, Maine in 1986 and worked as a telephone lineman for years, once winning an award for heroism from New England Telephone for helping rescue an elderly couple from a burning home on Lower Bay Road in Sanbornton.
He served as Post 1 commander in 1992-93 and took over the adjutant's position, long occupied by the late Raymond Lahaie, a few years later with the understanding that it would only be for a short period of time.
''Eighteen years later I'm still here,'' says Beale, who says that the post, which five years ago had 625 members, has now shrunk to 480 and that it has become increasingly difficult to recruit younger veterans who will be needed to keep the post the vital force in the community that it once was.
''There's a lot of history on these walls,'' says Beale, as he looked at photographs of past commanders, noting that many were prominent lawyers, like Thomas P. Cheney, the post's first commander, and that at least two, Gerard L. Morin and Don Tabor, were mayors of Laconia.
He said that the post was the first one formed in New Hampshire in the immediate aftermath of World War I and was chartered by Congress in March of 1919. It was originally named for Frank W. Wilkins, the first Laconia boy killed in World War I.
Although Wilkins was over the age to be drafted he left New England Telephone Company and joined the U.S. Army as a master signal electrician in Co. D 401st Telegraph Battalion. He died in France of injuries received when he crashed his motorcycle while trying to avoid hitting a little girl. Wilkins suffered a broken leg in the accident, in which the gas tank of the motorcycle ruptured and his wounds were contaminated by the gasoline soaked ground, leading to complications which claimed his life.
The name was changed in 1946 to include that of Lt. Cmdr. James Stuart Smith, U.S. Navy, who was the first service man from Laconia to be killed during WWII.
From 1930 to 1953 the post home was located at 329 Union Avenue. The post sold the prime piece of property to the First National Corp, which later became the home of Mr. Grocer. The property is currently the home of Auto Zone.
The current post home was built on North Main Street next to Opechee Park in 1953 and was purchased when Gerard L. Morin was commander. Morin, the owner of Lake City Beverage, was elected mayor in 1953 and was the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate in 1954, losing to Norris Cotton, and was later chairman of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission in the mid-1960s and a candidate for an Executive Council seat in 1976.
In celebration of its 95th anniversary the post will host a complete prime rib dinner to members and their guests. Also certificates of continuous membership will be awarded to those with 50-55-60 years of membership. The event gets underway with a social hour at 5 p.m. and dinner will follow at 6 p.m. Ticket information is available by calling the Post #1 canteen after 12 p.m. at 524-9728.

Wilkins-Smith Post #1 American Legion Adjutant Earlon Beale stands beneath the sign which was on the the post's first home, which was located near Laconia High School at 329 Union Avenue from 1930 until 1953, and photos of Frank W. Wilkins and Lt. Cmdr. James Stuart Smith, for whom the post is named. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun).

Last Updated on Friday, 07 March 2014 01:24

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