Motorcyclist hurt

10-17 accident

Gilford Fire Department rescue workers wheel Paul Hilson, 62, of Laconia, to an ambulance following an accident Monday at 12:49 p.m. on Hounsell Avenue in which Hilson's motorcycle was involved in a collision with a vehicle driven by Mark Middleton, 28, of Center Barnstead, which was making a right-hand turn into Laconia Eye Associates. Hilton suffered shoulder and rib injuries in the accident according to Gilford Police, who said that no charges were filed in the incident. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Rape trial begins

Belmont man’s alleged victim only told story after plea bargain on theft charge


LACONIA — A local jury will have to decide whether a longtime Belmont businessman sexually assaulted a girl from the time she turned 13 until she was 17 nearly two decades ago or whether she fabricated the assaults to avoid going to jail for stealing from him in 2014.

According to the opening argument by Assistant Strafford County Attorney Alysia Cassotis and testimony given Monday by the alleged victim in Belknap County Superior Court, Steven Price, 66, of Laconia was a friend of the alleged victim's father and helped her and her family financially during the time she was a young teen. Price owns Lakes Region Fiberglass and the woman is now 34.

Price's attorney James Moir said in his opening argument that the woman made up the sexual assault charges against Price because she stole $30,000 in jewelry from him and his wife in 2014 and waited until the day she was scheduled to plead guilty to tell her attorney that Price had repeatedly sexually assaulted her as a child.

The alleged victim testified first on Monday and said that when she was about 12, she began to grow very fond of Price, who took her fishing and spent time with her, unlike her own father, who was an alcoholic. She said he was also like a father to her younger brother.

"We got along very well," said said, telling the jury that they both grew up poor and had a lot in common.

The victim told the jury she fell in love with him, and he began kissing and fondling her when she was about 12. She said the first time they had sexual intercourse was when she was "about 13," when they were in a cemetery off South Road after they had been riding around in his Red Dodge pickup. She said he told her that when she was 18, or "old enough," he would leave his wife and marry her.

She said the relationship continued with sex of all kinds on a regular basis until she was 17 and she moved eventually to Florida.

"I was in love with him," she testified repeatedly through her tears, adding that she would always love him.

The woman testified that Price continued to help her even after she eventually moved to Florida, married, and had two children. She said he would pay to fly her and her children to New Hampshire around her birthday and that they would occasionally have sex.

She also testified that once, when she was still a minor, one of Price's employees caught them having sex on his business property and reported it to the police. She said on three occasions officers from the Belmont Police Department came to speak with her and that all three times she had called Price and let him know the police were planning on talking to her.

The alleged victim also testified that by 2014, she was living in Bristol and was addicted to pain killers. She said she needed money to pay the rent and went to Price for help.

She said he told her he was having his own financial problems and he was unable to help her.

According to her, he opened the office safe and said, "Do what you need to do," and left the room. She testified she took some jewelry and old coins.

Under cross examination from Price's attorney, Jim Moir, she admitted that she pawned $30,000 worth of jewelry and old coins for about $1,000 and paid her rent. She said she likely bought some drugs with the money but held firm that most of it went toward the rent.

During his opening arguments, Moir said she was arrested for theft when Price's wife reported the missing items to the Belmont Police. She was arrested and indicted with a felony charge of theft.

During the time leading up to her agreement to plead guilty, she was represented by attorney John Bresaw of the New Hampshire Public Defender's Office. She testified Monday that Price kept telling her that he would take care of it.

When the day came for her to enter her guilty plea in court and be sentenced to jail for the theft, she said she told Bresaw the story about the sexual assaults.

Bresaw, according to opening statements, went to Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen who postponed the woman's plea bargain and began an investigation into Price about the woman's sexual assault allegations. Because of her role as investigator and potential witness, Guldbrandsen and her office were prohibited from prosecuting the case.

Eventually, Guldbrandsen and the Cassotis granted full immunity to the woman for the theft charges and brought charges against Price for "pattern" aggravated felonious sexual assault, meaning there was a pattern of abuse that lasted from the time she was 13 until she turned 17 and became a legal adult.

Trial continues Wednesday afternoon.

Cuocolo: Shooting was an ‘accident’


LACONIA — A Meredith man who was caught by police three days after he allegedly shot a woman in the head in Belmont told police the gun accidentally went off when he pulled it from his waistband.

Affidavits obtained from the Belknap County Superior Court said Jason Cuocolo, 42, of or formerly of 35 Lang St. Apt. B, who was also known as "the preacher," was one of four people who were the overnight guests of the tenants of an apartment at 24 Arlene Drive in Belmont when he allegedly fired the single shot that went into the victim's head just above her eye, exited through her neck and buried itself into her shoulder.

All four of the guests, two men and two women, were staying in the basement of one of the two apartments after they spent some time in Laconia near the Family Dollar, according to affidavits.

The three guests and the woman who lives in the home all gave statements to police and in some cases they are not consistent; however, they were all included in the affidavits. It appears only the victim knew Cuocolo's real name and that the two people who were with them knew him only as "the preacher."

A man who lives in the home on Arlene Drive told police that his wife was working the midnight shift when he got a call from a male friend who wanted to know if he could stay with them for the night. The man said it was all right, but that his wife was working overnight, that he had children in the home and he would have to stay in the basement, and leave first thing in the morning.

He later told police he knew his friend was coming but didn't know he was bringing three others.

According to a woman who was with Cuocolo and the victim, the two women slept on a single mattress in a basement and the two men slept on the floor. She said they had all entered through the back door around 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 10 and went directly to the basement.

She said that when she woke at 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 11, Cuocolo and the victim were already awake and they all began to pack their things when told by Cuocolo they all had to leave. She said while she was bringing some of her possessions that were stored at the house to her car, she heard a loud bang.

Coucolo came from the house and told her they had to leave, according to the affadavit. She said she didn't know what to do, so she crawled into the back seat when Cuocolo allegedly pointed the gun at her and told her to give him the keys. She said she did so and got out of the car.

The woman who lived in the house said she didn't know anyone was in the basement and that after she returned home from work at 8 a.m., she thought she was alone with her 3-year-old daughter and that her husband had driven to Manchester to get his son.

She told police she was on the couch with her daughter when she heard a loud noise. She said she thought someone was in the basement and had broken something, so she went to the basement stairs and yelled downstairs to learn what was happening.

She said went back upstairs because her daughter was crying and she saw a man run out the back door. The woman said she went outside to confront him, carrying her daughter, when a bald man turned and pointed a gun at her and allegedly said, "Don't make me do it."

She told police she asked him if he was going to shoot her and her baby and estimated he was about 10 feet from her. When she turned to shield the child, she said he backed the black Nissan out of the driveway.

The man who had called the home in the first place also spoke to police and said he had called his friend because they needed a place to stay.

He told police that before he allegedly saw Coucolo shoot the victim, she had said something to him in a very calm voice. He said he saw the man he knew as "the preacher" grab a black gun from his waistband and shoot her in the head.

He said that when they all woke in the morning, the women were "doing their hair." He said he heard the victim tell Coucolo that they needed to pick up some medication that day and the two had a discussion about it. He told police he was facing them.

The man said he saw the victim slump and fall to the ground. He said she got back up and charged at Cuocolo, who pushed her to the ground.

He told police he began helping the victim by putting pressure on her head, and while this was happening, he said Cuocolo came back and pointed the gun at him and demanded the keys to his female friend's car. He said he gave them to him and Cuocolo left the basement.

He described Cuocolo as short and stocky.

Affidavits also said that the victim was able to tell police who arrived first that her alleged assailant was "the preacher" and said "Jason Cuclo." Police said they found the woman in the front foyer between the two apartments and said there was a trail of blood that led to the basement.

Police said they found a gun holster and an single spent bullet casing.

State Police detectives said they began their investigation and Meredith Lt. Keith True notified them he knew the victim and "the preacher," whom he identified as Jason Cuocolo.

True told them he had contact with Cuocolo on Sept. 24 because of some domestic violence investigations.

Cuocolo was arrested on Oct. 14 around 1 p.m. on Livingston Road after he was spotted by a Meredith Police officer. He surrendered to him at gunpoint without incident.

It was during his interview with state police that he said the gun accidentally went off when he removed it from his pants waistband.

Cuocolo waived his arraignment in Superior Court Monday and is being held on $250,000 cash-only bail. Should he post bail, the court has said it will hold a source-of-funds hearing.

He is charged with one count of first-degree assault, one count of second-degree assault, one count of armed robbery and one count of criminal threatening.