Alleged speeder faces more charges

GILFORD — Police will be filing misdemeanor charges against the woman whose attempts to evade police Sunday night took her through three communities landed her in jail.

Chief Anthony Bean Burpee said during the time Sherry Giddis, 48, of Gilmanton drove through Gilford she avoided the police by allegedly driving through and damaging some of the outer fields at Gilford High School. He said she also allegedly damaged a driveway on School House Hill Road.

Bean Burpee said Gilford will go forward with a reckless operation charge, a charge of disobeying a police officer, and a criminal mischief charge.

Giddis allegedly ran out on her tab at the Lakes Region Casino around 11 p.m. Sunday and drove at high rates of speed through Belmont into Laconia, through Gilford and back to Laconia where she was apprehended by Laconia Police while in the drive through window line at McDonald's restaurant.

Giddis is being held on $10,000 cash only bail and as of Wednesday remained in the Belknap County Jail.

 – Gail Ober

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Laconia kidnapper gets 2 to 4 years


LACONIA — A city man who forced a married couple to accompany him through the city at gunpoint and then tried to get the male victim to rob a store pleaded guilty in Belknap County Superior Court Wednesday to two counts of kidnapping and one count of criminal threatening.

08-25 David Bickford

David Bickford, 22, formerly of Union Avenue, was sentenced to serve 2 to 4 years in the New Hampshire State Prison for kidnapping the man.

Bickford was also sentenced to 3 ½ to 7 years, all suspended, for criminally threatening the man, and to 3 ½ to 7 years, all suspended, for kidnapping the woman. Should Bickford not be of good behavior, the state can impose the full suspended sentences, which total to a minimum and maximum of 7 to 14 years more than the 2 to 4 years he agreed to serve.

When asked by Judge James O'Neill, Belknap County Deputy Attorney General Carley Ahern said that police never recovered the gun that was used by Bickford during the events of Aug. 25. She said the police had no statement as to the sentence and that the two victims didn't provide any input as to sentencing.

She said they searched the car in which Bickford was found but there was no gun. She said police looked all over the area and searched the Winnipesaukee River near the Laconia Spa convenience store but still never found it.

Ahern said the couple was at the library at 10:45 p.m. and were waiting for someone who was going to buy a bicycle from them. They were holding a charging cord that belonged to Bickford for safe keeping but when Bickford returned they said he demanded his backpack. They told police there never was a backpack.

She said Bickford pulled out a silver handgun and ordered the two to walk along the WOW Trail so that he could force the male victim to rob the Circle K.

At some point he released the woman, who went to her home and called the police. Bickford and the male victim went to the Laconia Spa and Bickford told him to go in and get some drinks for him and his friends. The male victim told the clerk to call the police.

Bickford was picked up by his friends but police stopped the car almost immediately after he got in and took him into custody.

In court Wednesday, Bickford's attorney said she thought the resolution is fair because it made it through the system in less than a month.

Bickford has previous convictions for robbery and theft and has already served two years in state prison for a probation violation.

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Lakes are feeling the effects of this year’s drought


LACONIA — While the impact of the drought on dug wells and field crops is obvious, the conditions that began with the warm temperatures and sparse snowfall last winter and persisted through a hot, sunny, dry spring and summer have also affected lakes and ponds, where water appears relatively plentiful.

Low water levels are the clearest sign of the drought. On Wednesday, Lake Winnipesaukee stood at 504.75 feet, about 6 inches below its average level and just 4 inches above its lowest level since 1982 for this time of year. Only twice in the past 16 years has the lake fallen to lower levels at this time. The immediate effect of low water falls on marine traffic as boats are at greater risk from unmarked hazards. Last month the Sophie C ran aground in Meredith Bay and a boater posting on the Winnipesaukee Forum reported that six vessels struck rocks in "The Graveyard," a stretch of water north of Chases Point and south of Melvin Bay in Tuftonboro. Watermark Marine Systems recently advised its customers to navigate with caution.

Amy Smagula, a limnologist, or student of lakes, who manages the exotic species program at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said that the drought conditions will likely have effects on the plant and animal life of the lakes. As the lake level has fallen, more of the lake bottom is exposed to sunlight, which she said has enabled both invasive species, particularly variable milfoil, and native species of aquatic plants to grow at greater depth than usual. As a result, she said that colonies of milfoil may expand, especially in areas where they have not been effective managed and controlled.

Stormwater runoff, the primary carrier of the nutrients, particularly phosphorus, that degrade water quality has diminished with the scant rainfall. On the other hand, sluggish flows in tributaries feeding the lakes has slowed the flushing rates, or the amount of time water spends in the lake. David Neils, chief water pollution biologist at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, said that while the amount of nutrients reaching the lakes has diminished they are lingering longer.

Neils said that cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, blooms appear to be occurring more frequently as well as later in the year. But, he was quick to acknowledge that while some believe their proliferation is the result of a changing climate, there is no hard scientific evidence linking them to the drought conditions prevailing this year.

The warm water temperatures accompanying the drought, Smagula said, stress cold water species, like trout, and reduce the volume of oxygen in the lakes, which weighs on the growth of plankton and algae at the bottom of the food chain.

"For us, having to conserve water is an inconvenience," she said, "but the animal life in our lakes need water to survive."

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