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Judge tosses 1 of 3 Laconia arson charges against Gilmanton man

LACONIA — Fourth Circuit Court, Laconia Division Judge Jim Carroll threw out one of three arson charges against a former Gilmanton man after hearing nearly six hours of probable cause testimony strung out over a two-week period.

Carroll ruled the state didn't provide enough probable cause that Jason Clairmont, 36, knowingly caused a fire that damaged a car parked in the parking lot of the Funky Monkey night club on September 4, 2013.

"There are too many holes," Carroll said, after viewing multiple surveillance tapes that showed Clairmont smoking outside of the Funky Monkey and walking near the car but little else.

Clairmont is charged with three counts of arson and is a primary suspect in a number of other arsons in Laconia — including two that occurred on January 25 and for which Carroll ruled there is probable cause to continue to trial.

According to the testimony given yesterday by two Laconia Police detectives, Clairmont said he accidentally threw a cigarette or some ashes into a car that was parked on the corner of Bowman and Academy Streets.

Video tapes show him in the Funky Monkey, at Cumberland Farms, walking along Bowman Street and crossing through the parking lot of Young's Auto Sales all around the time the car fire was set — around 2 a.m. January 25. In addition, Clairmont was found by a Gilford Police Officer walking in the area of Highland Street shortly after a second fire was set in some lattice work on a house at 91 Highland Street.

Video from Lakes Region General Hospital shows the Gilford officer bringing Clairmont to the emergency room at 3:06 p.m. for the treatment of a dog bite. Information has previously been made public that Clairmont's own dog bit him at home and his girlfriend had later driven him to Laconia.

She dropped him off in the city but police are alleging Clairmont first went to the Funky Monkey, then to Cumberland Farms where he bought cigarettes, lit the car fire on Bowman Street, walked up Pine Hill to Highland Street and lit a second fire on the lattice work of a house near the hospital.

Carroll ruled that because of the time lines, the videos, and Clairmont's own statements made to police about how he could have accidentally set both fires that there was enough evidence to continue to trial.
While hearsay evidence is allowed at probable cause hearings, Clairmont's attorney John Bresaw argued unsuccessfully that the evidence presented both last week and yesterday, especially information gathered by police from a N.H. Fire Marshal who did not personally see any of the crime scenes, was too far removed to be allowed even at a probable cause hearing. His testimony included telling police that all of the fires were started with open flames and the source of ignition was either destroyed or removed.

Bresaw said the state is trying to disprove statements made by Clairmont after five hours of questioning by police about incidents he was trying to explain. He said Prosecutor Jim Sawyer never presented any evidence that Clairmont did what police contend he did.

"There's no evidence of him doing anything," Bresaw said, noting that there are many other people in the city who are out and about who also wear white sneakers and a gray sweatshirt with a white stripe on it.

"(Clairmont's) telling them what he remembers and that's not even what happened," Bresaw said.

As for the video purporting to be Clairmont at Young's Auto, Bresaw said it was rubbish. "It could have been anyone," he said.

Carroll ruled there was more than ample evidence that there was probable cause to go forward with a trial for the car fire on Bowman and the lattice fire on Highland Street. He ruled that Clairmont was in close proximity to both fires and admitted as much to police. he also said the video surveillance from Cumberland Farms is evidence that he was in the area.

Bresaw also tried to get Clairmont's bail reduced to $5,000 cash, saying his girlfriend had moved from the Gilmanton home and he could return there and that he was getting help from Horizons.

Carroll upheld the $50,000 cash only bail saying he had significant concerns with the safety of the community and that people should be able to rest comfortably in their homes.

He also ordered the state to preserve the tape from Cumberland Farms for the four hours before Clairmont was seen there and for the four hours after he was there.

The next step is for the state, through the Belknap County Attorney's Office to indict Clairmont by presenting the case to a grand jury.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 04:26

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Man charged with stabbing outside night club held on $50k cash-only bail

LACONIA — A Chichester man who allegedly stabbed a Keene man after a verbal altercation in the parking lot out side of the Funky Monkey night club here early on Sunday morning was ordered held on $50,000 cash only bail after appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday.

Travis Dunn, 24, appeared distraught and was hyperventilating while the Laconia Prosecutor Jim Sawyer recounted his criminal history that included two counts of theft in 2007 and 2009, two simple assaults in 2007 and 2009, and two misdemeanor marijuana charges in 2011 and 2013. Dunn appeared in court via video hookup from the Belknap County Jail.

In an interview given to The Daily Sun on Monday, Dunn minimized his criminal record but did admit to one of the assaults and a marijuana charge.

Sawyer said the victim, Richard Russell, was flown to Dartmouth with serious injuries in the neck and asked for $50,000 cash-only bail.

His attorney, Public Defender Wade Harwood, said he had no objection to the traditional bail orders of no alcohol or drugs, no weapons, and no contact with his victim or any of the other people the but argued the Dunn's case was on of self-defense and that he should be released on personal recognizance bail or $1,500 cash at a maximum.

Harwood said Dunn has multiple family members in the Lakes Region, a job, and 50 percent custody of his two-year-old daughter. Two of Dunn's relatives were in court yesterday.

Judge Cim Carroll said at this point he was setting bail based solely on the information contained in the affidavits presented to him by the police.

He said he knew Dunn spoke with the media about the incident but for the purposes of yesterday's arraignment he was holding him on $50,000 cash based on the police affidavits statements that multiple witnesses said Dunn was holding a knife in the air and that "Dunn slashed at Russell."

Three of the witnesses said the blade was between 3 1/2 to 4 inches long, said affidavits.

Dunn said Monday he ran from the scene after the victim charged into his knife. He said he wasn't sure if Russell knew he was holding a knife and that he had brandished it to keep what he estimated to be six attackers at bay while he got into a car with two female friends.

He said he likely lost the knife while running away (he said he fell three or four times on the ice while running) and that he thinks it's somewhere downtown. It is not known if police have recovered it.

Carroll said Dunn would have an opportunity to revisit bail during a probable cause hearing that would be held within two weeks.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 04:10

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Lot merger to be undone on Bear Island

MEREDITH — Pursuant to a statute enacted by the Legislature in 2010 at the urging of Barbara Aichinger of Governor's Island, the Board of Selectmen has fielded its first request to restore lots that were involuntarily merged in 1979.

The lot in question is a 6.3 acre parcel on the east side of Bear Island. Originally the property consisted of four lots, each with at least 100 feet of frontage on Lake Winnipesaukee, as part of a subdivision belonging to Bear Land Forest and Wildlife Preserve, Inc. that was approved by the Planning Board in January 1974. In April, Paul and Barbara Ylvisaker acquired the four lots, where they built a three-bedroom home in 1976. In 1985 the property was conveyed to Paul Ylvisaker, Trustee of the Bear Island Nominee Trustee.

In 1979, the town merged the four lots into one, following a policy that prescribed when two or more lots with the same owner and are contiguous, and one or more is nonconforming as to size, dimension or frontage, all contiguous, nonconforming lots would be merged with contiguous lots until they became conforming. At the time, the policy was commonplace throughout the state.

Aichinger challenged the practice after constructing two homes on what she believed were two lots only to discover that the town of Gilford had merged them into one without the knowledge or consent of the owner.

The statute (RSA 674:39aa) stipulates that lots involuntarily merged prior to August 18, 2010 shall be restored at the request of the owner so long as the request is submitted before December 31, 2016 and no owner of the property has acted as if the lots were merged.

Last month, Mark Ylvisaker, on behalf of the Bear Island Nominee Trust, requested that the lots be restored, understanding that doing so will likely effect the assessed value and property taxes of the lots.

The request was referred to John Edgar, director of Community of Development.

Ylvisaker submitted a sketch of the property indicating that that house and cabin had been built straddling the shared line between two lots, numbered 13 and 14 on the subdivision plan and a septic tank and field were located on lot 14. Consequently, Edgar deemed lots 13 and 14 to have been voluntarily merged and recommended that only the remaining two lots, numbered 15 and 16 be restored. The effect would be to create one lot of approximately three acres, with about 210 feet of frontage on the lake, and two lots of about 1.5 acres, one with some 140 feet of frontage and another with about 115 feet of frontage.

The Selectboard is expected to act on the recommendation at its next regularly scheduled meeting.

Jim Commerford, the town's assessor, said that records indicate that approximately 150 lots were involuntarily merged.

Edgar noted that while many of the mergers combined waterfront lots, there is little likelihood of a significant number of similar requests to restore merged lots since most of these properties have been developed. "There is little vacant shorefront property," he said.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 02:16

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Careless disposal of smoking material causes 1st alarm fire in Belmont

BELMONT — Firefighters extinguished a first-alarm fire last night at an apartment building at 40 Concord Street. No injuries resulted from the fire.

Belmont fire officials said the fire was reported at about 6 p.m. on Monday night. The blaze appeared to be caused by careless disposal of smoking materials on a porch for a second-floor apartment. A 10 year-old boy was home alone in the apartment when the fire broke out on the porch, however, an alert neighbor helped the child evacuate the building.

The fire caused significant damage to the porch, while the interior of the second-floor apartment sustained smoke and water damage.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 December 1969 07:00

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