Murderer seeks sentence reduction; repeatedly shot wife along Court Street in 1984

LACONIA — A former Laconia man who shot and killed his wife as she walked down Court Street in September 1984 has asked a Belknap County Superior Court Judge to suspend two years of his 35-year sentence potentially allowing him to be released in 2018.

According to paperwork obtained from the court, Richard Pliskaner, Jr. pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 1985 after he was indicted for first-degree murder. He was sentenced to a 35 year to life in prison.

This is the seventh time Pliskaner has asked the court for a sentence reduction. His previous requests came in 1988, 1992, 1998, 2001, 2006, and in 2010.

In the motion he wrote himself, Pliskaner said that he had met the three goals of incarceration: punishment, deterrence, and rehabilitation.

After his guilty plea, "for the ensuring 30 years the defendant had continued working hard through attending 57 self help programs..."

Pliskaner said that if his request was granted he would have three years in prison to work on what he would do if released in 2018.

Senior Asst. Attorney General Jeff Strelzin objects to Pliskaner's request for a reductions.

He said the facts of the crime are still very disturbing in that in August of 1984 Pliskaner had been involuntarily committed to the N.H. State (mental health) Hospital for eight days. Upon his release, Pliskaner's wife Debra left him against Pliskaner's wishes.

On September 1, Laconia Police confronted Pliskaner while he was across the street from his wife's apartment. He was carrying a loaded revolver and the police confiscated it and released him.

On September 13, Pliskaner purchased a pistol, four boxes of ammunition and a holster. He lied about his name, his address and his reason for buying the gun.

On September 14, Pliskaner was driving through Laconia when he saw his wife walking her dog along Court Street. He got out of her car, shot her, spun her around and shot her a second time.

He ran away towards his car, but stopped, looked back and returned to his wife who was lying on the ground. Pliskaner fired a third shot into her head, killing her.

Pliskaner walked away and then shot himself in the head, living but loosing the sight in one eye.

Strelzin noted that Pliskaner has had a number of disciplinary violations during his time in prison, including sending a threatening letter to a former girlfriend and harassing her with multiple phone calls in 1996. An investigation determined he placed 55 calls to her after he had been specifically ordered not to.

He was also reprimanded for sending four threatening letters to his second wife and more recently, Stelzin said Pliskaner was transferred to the Berlin prison from Concord because a female mental health staff member in Concord felt he was "stalking" her.

Strelzin said that Pliskaner claims to be a mature 58-year old man, but "it is clear the defendant has not matured and does not understand what his did and how to comport his behavior to the law."

"His behavior demonstrates a dangerous and disturbing pattern of behavior towards women, a pattern of behavior that should no be rewarded with a sentence reduction," continued Strelzin.

Strelzin also cited Pliskaner's behavior to the court itself when in 2006 he accused the court of not doing enough research into his case and writing to the judge that incarceration is "simply a cash-making business, warehousing them and forget them, your job."

In asking Judge James O'Neill to deny Pliskaner's request, he wrote that the "defendant showed no mercy to his wife in 1984 when he gunned her down. He showed no mercy to her daughter in 2006 when he wrote her a letter calling her a liar. And now in 2014, he continues to show no mercy to his victims with his 7th attempt to leave prison early."

The court will hear Pliskaner's motion Monday at 1:30 p.m. Newspaper accounts of his 2010 hearing indicate that Debra Pliskaner's family was at the hearing and objected to his early release.

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Newfound board posts 'recommended reading' prior to Monday's meeting on future of middle school

by Thomas P. Caldwell

BRISTOL — The Newfound Area School Board has posted "recommended reading" on the school website in preparation for Monday night's planning and dialogue meeting that will focus on the possible closing of Newfound Memorial Middle School.
The school board is considering the advantages and disadvantages of closing the school, reacting to financial pressures the district is facing with declining enrollments and a loss of state aid, as well as complaints about the quality of education at the middle school. Many residents have been advocating a return to a junior-senior high school model and retaining the elementary grades at the outlying schools.
Danbury recently considered withdrawing from the seven-town school district and the towns of Bridgewater and Hebron currently are looking at withdrawal, in part because of the concerns about the middle school.
At the Sept. 8 school board meeting, a number of teachers and residents voiced support for the current educational structure and defended the middle school, questioning why the board would even consider closing it. Others faulted the school board for failing to present any information to justify the discussion and the board said it would put together a presentation for the Sept. 22 meeting.
Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury said a series of documents on the website, under the heading "Recommended Reading for the K-6 & NMMS Closure Discussion", provides information on cost per pupil, student-teacher ratios, teacher retention, teachers' salaries, and 10 years of enrollment history.
Also among the issues the school board is looking at are the amount of time students spend on buses and the advantages of keeping the current configuration that has kindergarten through Grade 5 in the individual towns, grades 6-8 in the middle school, and grades 9-12 at the high school.
Without a change, there is a possibility that Bridgewater and Hebron would leave the district to operate their own K-8 school in the building the two towns built and currently lease to the school district for $1 per year. It would tuition its high school students to either Plymouth, which offers a more attractive per pupil cost, or to Newfound Regional High School.
Groton might decide to follow their lead, rather than send its elementary students all the way to Bristol, Danbury, or New Hampton. Most of Groton's elementary students now attend the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School.
Another factor in the discussion is the town of Hill's interest in ending its enrollment agreement with Franklin and sending students to either Newfound or Merrimack Valley. If they were to come to Newfound, it would partially compensate for the loss in the local student population and bring an infusion of tuition revenue to the district.
Monday's meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the high school.

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Man sentenced to prison for variety of crimes in Laconia

LACONIA — A man who pleaded guilty to drug possession, burglary, and theft of a firearm in July also pleaded guilty this week to one count of criminal threatening with a deadly weapon.

Joseph Coughlin, 34, formerly of Spring Street was sentenced to three to six years, all suspended, in the N.H. State Prison for threatening a person on May 4 of 2013 with a knife by saying "I'm going to cut you up."

Coughlin is already in prison, having pleaded guilty in July of 2014 to possession of clonazepam on July 9, 2013 and was sentenced by Belknap County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler to one to two years in the New Hampshire State Prison.

At the same time, he also pleaded guilty to one count of burglary for breaking into a home on Harvard Street and stealing a handgun. For the burglary he was sentenced to one to three years, suspended, and for the theft by unauthorized taking ( a hand gun) he was sentenced to three to six years, all suspended.

Coughlin was arrested on July 9 after three Laconia Police officers who were on their way to a special detail at a rock concert saw some suspicious activity near the Laconia Public Library and stopped to investigate.

Coughlin ran, was chased down by a Laconia police captain who was threatened by Coughlin with a knife. As part of a plea agreement, those charges were dropped as were possession of marijuana charges and two other counts of theft by unauthorized taking, firearms.

Should Coughlin re-offend after his release from prison, he faces an additional nine year of incarceration at a minimum.

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Barbara Luther seeking school board appointment

LACONIA — Retiring Belknap County Registrar of Deeds Barbara Luther is the first person to officially put her name into consideration for the Ward 2 seat on the School Board left vacant with the resignation of Beth Arsenault.

Luther said that with her impending retirement from the registry, she thinks that serving on the School Board will "be a good way for her to continue to give back to the community."

Luther has lived in Laconia for 42 years and all three of her children attended Laconia schools. She has two grandchildren enrolled in the school district — one at Pleasant Street School and one who is a freshman at Laconia High School.

Originally from Waltham, Mass, Luther graduated from Waltham High School.

She began her professional career as an administrator at a law office and worked at Martin, Lord, and Osman.

For the past 30 years she has been with the Belknap County Registrar of Deeds.

Luther said she has no particular agenda when it comes to serving on the School Board but said she is very interested and supportive of the Huot Technical Center.

"My son attended Huot Technical Center and is now a master electrician," she said.

She also said she would like to learn more about so-called block scheduling at the high school.

If chosen, she said serving on the School Board would be a new challenge for her.

"It appears to me that the School District does the best possible with the amount of money they are given," she said.

Superintendent Terri Forsten said any additional candidates from Ward 2 have until September 23 (Tuesday) to express an interest in the position.

All candidates will be first interviewed by the Budget and Personnel Committee and then by the full School Board with some recommendations from the Budget and Personnel Committee. All of the interview sessions will be conducted in public and noticed as are regular meetings.

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