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Tilton man says he was illegally snared in unrelated search for armed bandit

TILTON — An Autumn Drive man who has been charged with two counts of felony drug possession has requested that the evidence seized from his apartment and his person be suppressed because of an illegal search.

According to court documents, Benjamin Ricks of 80 Autumn Drive is the caretaker of the property and lives in an apartment in the back of the main house. Autumn Drive runs perpendicular to Lancaster Hill Road which is off Laconia Road (Rte. 3).

On August 21, 2013, at 3:30 p.m. an armed robbery occurred at the Tilton Shop Express on Laconia Road.

The first responding officer was Lt. Kevin McIntosh of the Sanbornton Police who happened to be driving on Laconia Road and saw a shop clerk throw a baseball bat at the robbery suspect.

The suspect fled on foot toward Lancaster Hill Road and McIntosh chased him but was unable to find him.

Police from Tilton and Sanbornton established a perimeter around the area between Grange Road, Lancaster Hill Road and Laconia Road in an effort to locate the bandit. Two K-9 units were unable to locate him.

In the course of their search, Sanbornton Police Chief Steve Hankard and one of his officers were on Philbrook Road which runs parallel with Lancaster Hill Road when they noticed Ricks riding a all-terrain vehicle headed down a wooded path.

At this point, Ricks's attorney Catherine Costanzo said it was an hour after the robbery and the two officers were about one-half mile from the store. Pleadings indicate the two officers thought Ricks (who they didn't know) "could have had something to do with armed robbery" and entered the trail in pursuit of him.

Constanzo, noted the robber had been described as wearing a black sweatshirt and a black mask, and Ricks was wearing a tan shirt, checked shorts and had a backpack.

She also noted the back of Rick's house is largely invisible from Philbrook Road and the trail leading to his house is clearly marked with "private property" and "no trespassing" signs.

Police followed the trail and said they smelled marijuana when they got to about 15 feet away from house. They noted the smell kept getting stronger as they closer they got to the home. When police knocked on the door, they said no one answered.

Based on this information, the Sanbornton officers returned to Tilton and learned from Det. Nate Buffington that three years earlier he had gotten a tip from a confidential informant that Ricks may be "growing a lot of weed" at his house.

Police applied for and got a search warrant. During the search they found marijuana, paraphernalia and a couple of digital scales but no evidence of a grow operation. Police found "several" Adderall tablets in Ricks's pocket.

Constanzo argues that there was no evidence of an armed robbery or Ricks involvement in one and has asked the court to rule that Ricks arrest and the search of his home violates the New Hampshire Constitution as well as the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution that protects people from unwarranted search and seizure.

She said any exigent circumstances do not apply in this case because there was no "hot" pursuit and the police had no reason to believe an ATV was involved in the robbery. In addition, Constanzo argues that the curtilage of the home and the home itself are protected against warrantless searches.

Curtilege is defined as any area around a home that is subject to regular use by the residents of the home. In this case, Ricks uses the trails in the woods for outdoor activities such as riding his ATV and hiking and camping and the trails and surrounding woods are posted.

"This is a case when officers arbitrarily decided to enter posted, private property on a remote and unfounded suspicion," wrote Constanzo.

Oral arguments on the motions to suppress are scheduled for early May.

As to the armed robbery, Tilton Police arrested Shannon Gauthier, David Messier, and Angela Kulacz for their roles in the armed robbery. All were found guilty by a judge in Belknap County Superior Court.

Ricks had been free on bail since his arrest, however his bail was recently revoked because of a violation of its terms. As of yesterday, he was incarcerated and waiting trial in the Belknap County House of Corrections.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:47

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DeVoy to run for Belknap Commission again

LACONIA — David DeVoy, a businessman from Sanbornton, announced yesterday that he will make a second bid for the District 1 seat on the Belknap County Commission, representing the city of Laconia and towns of Sanbornton and New Hampton

In 2012 DeVoy, a Republican, lost his challenge to incumbent Democrat Ed Philpot of Laconia by 701 votes, 5,320 to 4,619. DeVoy carried Sanbornton and New Hampton as well as Ward 1 in Laconia, but could not overcome Philpot's margins in the other five wards.

A retired colonel in the United States Army Reserve, DeVoy owns and operates three convenience stores — the Mobil Mart in Gilford and the Bosco Bell Store and Blueberry Station in Barnstead. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and earned his Master of Science degree at the United States Army War College and Master of Business Administration at Plymouth State University.

Politically, DeVoy is aligned more closely with the Republican majority of the Belknap County Convention than with the commission, where Philpot sits with Republicans John Thomas of Belmont and Steve Nedeau of Meredith. He describes himself as a fiscal conservative, who favors limiting government and lowering taxes to spur economic growth.

DeVoy said yesterday that he entered the race to address the issues posed by conditions at the county jail and to heal the rift arisen between the convention and the commission. He questions the commissioner's proposal to replace the existing jail with a new facility, but shares their commitment to provide educational and therapeutic programs to reduce recidivism. Likewise, he supports the establishment of both a drug court and mental health court and would maximize the use of electronic monitoring to supervise qualified inmates. "It's very expensive to warehouse people," he said, "but buildings are not necessary for programming."

Noting that the jail was built in the 1970s and expanded in 1980s, DeVoy said that existing buildings can be rehabilitated. In addition, he suggested that the wing of the county complex currently occupied by the commission and administration could be converted to house the female inmates. He said that if necessary, programming could be conducted at other properties owned by the county.

DeVoy emphasized that because Laconia must budget within its property tax cap, the county must not impose costs on the city that would compel it to reduce expenditures on its schools, streets and emergency services to comply with the limits of its tax cap.

DeVoy said that in both the armed forces and business work "I learned to work cooperatively with other people," explaining that he believes his "interpersonal skills" will enable him to dispel the acrimony that has soured the relationship between the convention and the commission. "We need to chuck our egos aside," he said, "so that everybody in the county government gets along."

Philpot was first elected in 2008, when District 1 consisted solely of the city of Laconia, carrying four of six wards to top Frank Tilton, the current chairman of the executive committee of the convention, by 3,895 to 3,331.

Philpot has yet to indicate whether he will seek re-election.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 11:42

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Ashland celebrates opening of community garden; 20 plots available

ASHLAND — A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Saturday afternoon for a new community garden located next to the town's Elementary School.
Ashland HEAL and many community volunteers worked for over a year on plans for the Ashland Community Garden according to Fran Newton, a newly elected Ashland selectwoman and member of the committee.
She said that after receiving a grant from HEAL NH, Ashland HEAL solicited feedback during several community-wide forums to hear what types of healthy eating and physical activity opportunities residents would like to have in the town. A community garden space was at the top of the list and a committee was formed.
Newton said the project gained momentum with businesses and volunteers donating time and materials to help plan and construct the garden. ''Raised garden beds are being constructed by students at Ashland Elementary School from lumber provided by Sharps Lumber; Ashland Lumber is providing the fencing; and the site work is being done by M. E. Latulippe Construction and Tree Solutions. And Meredith Village Savings Bank chipped in with a $3,500 grant for the project.'' said Newton.
The garden will offer 20 4' x 8' plots on a first come, first served basis.
"Our goal is to increase the availability of healthy foods and provide opportunities for physical exercise, particularly for first time gardeners and those that have limited access to fresh vegetables," said Dave Toth of the Ashland HEAL Community Garden Committee. "We want to make it easy for people to participate in the garden, so we are providing free plants, garden plans, and advice from Master Gardeners and experienced Organic Growers during the growing season."
The plants for the garden come from New Hampshire Seedling Company of McCrillis Hill Farm in West Center Harbor, which according to owner Cora Caswell specializes in providing plants which are grown organically directly to its customers at wholesale prices. She says people can custom order their seedlings before the growing season starts so that they can get an early start on the growing season.
New Hampshire State Senator Jeanie Forrester spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony and praised the community garden as ''an exciting project which confirms exactly what this community is all about.''
The event opened with a reception at 1 p.m. inside the Elementary School followed by a 1:30 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony and a "Starting a Garden," presentation by Master Gardener Melanie Kerr.
People attending the event took part in a seed swap, talked with the Master Gardener and got information from Plymouth Local Foods, Ashland HEAL and enjoyed healthy snacks provided by The Common Man and Dot's Bread & Butter Bistro.
Recognized for their contributions to the project at the ribbon cutting ceremony were Ashland Elementary School, Ashland Lumber, The Common Man, Dot's Bread & Butter Bistro, M.E. Latulippe Construction, Meredith Village Savings Bank, New Hampshire Seedling Co., Randall Surveying, Samyn & D'Elia Architects, Sharps Lumber, Town of Ashland, and Tree Solutions.

Ribbon cutting ceremony at the Ashland community garden Saturday saw Natalie and Anna Boyer, front, helping David Toth, left, of the Ashland HEAL Community Garden Committee. Ashland Selectman Norm DeWolfe, State Senator Jeanie Forrester and State Representative Harold ''Skip'' Reilly cut a ribbon at the garden, which is located on a town-owned plot of land next to the Ashland Elementary School. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 April 2014 01:03

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Friends remember Lily Johnson on anniversary of tragic death

LACONIA — Despite a cold wind whipping in from Lake Opechee, hundreds of area people came to the Messer Street boat ramp area Saturday afternoon to remember Lilyanna Johnson — the middle school student who was killed after being hit by a car April 19, 2013.

Organized by the Laconia High School Key Club, the very quiet and respectful tribute to Lilyanna featured a table strewn with photos of her and her friends, a table of deserts for munching and the ability to contribute to two of Lilyanna's family's favorite things — the WLNH Children's Auction and the Sunday Dearborn Scholarship for athletes.

"(The family) helped us decide what was appropriate and what would make them feel the best," said Emilie Maddocks, a junior at Laconia High School and the event's main organizer from the Key Club.

Johnson and her friend Allyssa Miner had just left school on April 19, 2013 which was the Friday before spring break. The two had walked down Opechee Street and had turned left to walk over the Messer Street Bridge when a Jeep being driven by Amy Lafond ran up on to the sidewalk and struck both girls.

Lilyanna died later that day and Miner survived her injuries that included a broken pelvis.

Because it was a warm spring day, many middle school students were walking home in anticipation of their week off and unfortunately, a number of the children witnessed the horrible crash.

"It left a string of victims throughout this community," said one local police officer who was involved in the ensuing criminal investigation.

But Saturday's event was held for the sole purpose of remembering Lilyanna and for the friends, family, teachers, and the members of the community who wanted to remember her as the laughing and happy eighth grader she was.

Many students bearing bouquets of flowers and dressed in blue and purple, hugged each other and talked quietly in groups. Police, there for traffic-control purposes, kept a respectful distance.

Freshmen in high school now, most said they had moved on from their middle school days but the memory of Lilyanna and what happened will always be etched in their memories.

"It's good to see everyone together," said freshman Nicolas Murray who was holding a bouquet of flowers.

Murray joined the many students who used crayons to write a message to her on a table wrapped with a white sheet of paper.

Maddocks said that the Key Club organized the event by contacting the school superintendent, Public Service of New Hampshire, that owns the property, Laconia City Hall and the Lakes Region Scholarship Foundation.

Most importantly was the conversations they had with Lilyanna's family who who told the students they didn't want any speeches or formal events — just an informal gathering of her friends, family and teachers who wanted to remember her.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 12:59

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