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3 youngsters now say they saw fatal accident

LACONIA — Three new eyewitnesses to the car crash that killed a local middle school girl and serious injured another on April 19, 2013 have come forward, prompting both sides to agreed to delay Amy Lafond's trial until at least June or July.

Lafond, who is represented by attorney Mark Sisti, had been scheduled to stand trial on May 5; however, in light of the new witnesses, Belknap County Judge James O'Neill III granted the extension.

Lafond, 53, is charged with is charged with manslaughter and two counts of negligent homicide for allegedly causing the death of Lilyanna Johnson after she allegedly went around a car that was stopped at a crosswalk, drove up on the sidewalk on Messer Street and struck Miner and her friend Allyssa Miner.

Lafond is charged with one count of second-degree assault for the injuries she allegedly cause Miner, who, among other things, suffered a broken pelvis.

Lafond also faces numerous drug and traffic charges.

According to Belknap County Prosecutor Melissa Guldbrandsen, the three eyewitnesses are juveniles who say they saw what happened that afternoon but didn't stay at the scene. They left before police arrived and were never interviewed.

In a hearing in Belknap Superior Court yesterday that was attended by nearly 20 supporters of the two girls, Guldbrandsen said one of the parents of one of the juveniles contacted her to learn why her child hadn't been contacted by officials.

Additionally, one of the juveniles now lives in Maine, which means an involved procedure to get him or her to New Hampshire for depositions and possible testimony.

Sisti said he thinks at least one of these juveniles has information that could alter the report created by the Belknap Regional Accident Investigation Team. Guldbrandsen disagrees.

She agreed that both sides should have more time before trial to interview the three but said she is "not sure they would impact the accident reconstruction."

Both attorneys told O'Neill they were planning on filing motions in limine — motions to either include or exclude information at the trial.

Gulbrandsen said she will file a motion to include a video animation of the accident made by the BRAIT. Sisti said he may contest it being introduced as evidence but hasn't decided yet.

Sisti said he would be filing a motion to exclude the blood test taken on Lafond because of a 1999 memorandum from the N.H. Attorney Generals Office about the procedures surrounding consented-to blood draws.

All agreed that a larger-than-normal jury pool will be assembled and Sisti said he will ask to individually question potential jurors.

Typically, jurors fill out a questionnaire and each attorney submits questions to the judge who asks them of the potential jurors. Sisti would like to question potential jurors directly.

Opposing counsel has 10 days to reply to motion and if hearings are necessary, they will be scheduled accordingly.

Guldbrandsen noted that a number of potential witnesses are Laconia police officers and for two weeks in June most if not all of them will be involved in policing Motorcycle Week.

O'Neill said once the trial started it was going to continue until its completion and all agreed it could take three weeks.

Lafond remains held at the Belknap County Jail in lieu of posting $50,000 cash bail.

Last Updated on Thursday, 17 April 2014 01:03

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$5k cash bail holding man accused of driving drunk through Belmont school zone at 72 mph

BELMONT — A Northfield man is being held on $5,000 cash bail after allegedly driving 72 mph while in a posted 25 mph zone near Belmont Elementary School.

Police said Derek Rollins, 28, was also driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs and had marijuana in his possession. He is charged with one count of disobeying an officer, one count of reckless operation, one count of driving while intoxicated — subsequent offense, and one count of possession of a controlled drug.

According to affidavits, Rollins was driving a 2000 Ford Mustang at 3:15 p.m. on Gilmanton Road when Lt. Rich Mann, who was standing near crosswalk doing traffic control, saw his green Mustang approaching the crosswalk from the east at a high rate of speed.

Mann, who was in a police uniform and wearing a yellow blaze vest identifying him as a police officer, waved his hands in an effort to get Rollins to stop. He said the Rollins refused to slow down or stop when ordered.

Rollins then passed an unmarked police car being driven by Police Chief Mark Lewandoski in a curvy area of the road marked with double yellow lines.

Mann said he ran to his cruiser, called to other officers to help intercept Rollins who finally stopped at the red light and the intersection of Route 106 and Route 140. Lewandoski had activated his lights and siren and was directly behind Rollins at the light.

Rollins was removed from his car but not before Lewandoski said he saw him throw a wine bottle from the car. The wine bottle was recovered as well as a glass pipe with marijuana residue from the back seat of his car.

A Department of Corrections media spokesman said yesterday Rollins is on parole for a 2013 conviction of being a felon in possession of a dangerous weapon, two counts of sales of marijuana and one count of manufacturing marijuana. He was sentenced to serve 1 to 3 years in the N.H. State Prison and has been on parole since September of 2013. His maximum end date is June 3, 2015.

In the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday, Rollins attorney said his parole officer who is from Merrimack County had told him she was going to petition the N.H. Parole Board for a detention order.

By holding him on $5,000 cash for the new charges, Rollins will be able to use the time he waits for his trial in the Belknap County House of Corrections as credit toward any sentence he may get in the new charges should he be convicted of any of them.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:49

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Judge orders county attorney to review personnel fire of Tilton police officer

LACONIA — Superior Court Judge James O'Neill ordered the Belknap County Attorney to review the personnel file of a Tilton Police corporal and turn over any exculpatory material to the defendant in a rape case investigated by him.

Det. Cpl. Matt Dawson's personnel file had been turned over to the court and the assistant county attorney interpreted the state law governing police officer's personnel files such that the court would conduct the private review.

O'Neill said his reading of the law is that the prosecutor has to make the determination if there is or isn't exculpatory information in his file and if she is unable to make the determination, then he will.

Exculpatory evidence is anything that is relevant to a case that could prove or disprove an alleged fact or otherwise shine light on a case. In the instance of a police officer, exculpatory evidence can also include anything in the officer's personnel file that could affect his or her credibility, even though by state law, a police officer's personnel file is confidential.

Dawson was one of the investigators in the case of Thomas Gardner who is accused of sexually assaulting a young disabled man who was in his care at the time.

Two weeks ago, Dawson appeared in Superior Court and invoked his right not the testify in the Gardner case for fear he would criminally implicate himself in a different matter.

Gardner is scheduled for trial in early June.

Though he is still being paid by the town of Tilton, Dawson has not been working since November.

Selectman's Chair Pat Consentino said yesterday that Dawson's status with the Tilton Police Department has been resolved in a non-public session of her board but because it is a personnel issue she cannot talk about it.

When asked if he would be returning to work she said she couldn't comment.

Consentino also said that Tilton Selectman Katherine Dawson, who is Matt Dawson's aunt, recused herself from any of the discussion or deliberations.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:40

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GHS student spends 3 months of her senior year working in southern India with members of that country's lowest caste

GILFORD — With its cascading waterfalls, cool temperatures, and botanical gardens, those looking at the Lonely Planet Website would think Kodaikanal in the Tamil Nadu province of India is a paradise.

And it is, said Gilford High School senior Sally Tinkham, unless you're of the lower caste.

After three years of planning, Tinkham spent three weeks in Kodaikanal working with those considered lower caste as part of a mission sponsored by the Congregational Church of Laconia and Help Kids India.

Tinkham's mission was to work with a local teacher who was writing a children's book and teach her new techniques. She was accompanied by another young woman who is a graduate of Gordon College — a Christian College in Massachusetts.

"When I was in eighth grade, Anne Peck came from Health Kids India to talk to our church," she explained. "I started thinking it would be awesome to help and to go over and see for myself."

But in order to get school permission to leave school for three weeks in late January and early February of 2014, she not only had to complete a social studies project on women in India but take all of her Advanced Placement Courses in such a sequence that would ensure she didn't loose any of credits.

Tinkham began planning in 2011. She petitioned the administration for an independent study contract and, with the assistance of a social studies teacher, wrote a plan that would be acceptable to the school and her parents.

After her return, she presented a project on women's rights to her social studies class.

While Tinkham said she saw some extreme poverty and evidence of substantial of wife beating, she said she was amazed to see how upbeat they about life in general.

"During the day they are so positive and loving," she said. "And then sometimes they go home and their husbands come home drunk and beat them."

Tinkham said she didn't see too many men during her work day as most able-bodied men and boys of the lower castes are put to work, but said the women she was with were very loving and caring — especially the teachers in her school, most of whom were trained by similar programs like Health Kids India.

"They have the double stigma of being poor and being women," she said. "The richer kids are in school learning English and Hindi."

While India doesn't officially have a national language, most business and government is conducted in Hindi and English. In Kodaikanal, Tamil is the spoken language.

While strides have been made in the cities regarding the ages-old caste system in India, Tinkham said the caste system is very much alive in this small town in the mountains of India's southern-most province.

She said India's government is trying to broaden education especially in the lower castes but for most women, it often falls by the wayside.

In the villages and among the lower caste, it can be much earlier. Many parents send their children to work to earn money to help support the family.

Tinkham said in her three weeks she learned how important basic literacy is.

"In Kodaikanal, a thumb print is a signature," she said.

Tinkham said she plans on being a early education teacher though she hasn't decided where she wants to go to college.

When asked if she would return to Kodaikanal she said "Absolutely."


CAPTION: (Sally Tinkham) Gilford High School senior Sally Tinkham displays books of photography picturing Kodaikanal in southern India where she spend three weeks working as a teachers assistance and completing a project on women's rights. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:21

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