Giant snapping turtle in Tilton draws concern

By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN

TILTON — A snapping turtle is neither a common nor a popular pet, but "Shellhe" has made his home in an aquarium with Chuck Drew, the owner and operator of Camaro Heaven, since he was a hatchling 18 years ago, much to the chagrin of one woman who finds his confinement nothing short of cruel.

Hillarie Goldstein of Franklin has complained that this turtle, "as far as I can tell, he's being tortured." On visiting Camaro Heaven in search of an auto part, she told The Daily Sun, "It had no room to move. All it could do was bob up and down and swim a foot or two in either direction." And she said a friend told her the turtle could not turn around and it "is literally stuck up against the sides of the tank."

Drew said Friday that he is familiar with the lady and dismisses her concerns as exaggerated and misguided. He recalled that "Shellhe," who was christened by one of his children who said the turtle was a "he" and lived in a shell, was among some two dozen hatchlings to emerge near his business, which then operated in Rochester.

"We saved him," Drew said. "That's how we look at it." He said that the turtles hatched near a roadway, where many perished.

"Shellhe" began life the size of a quarter in a five-gallon tank, but now, with his shell measuring about a foot from one end to the other, he has graduated to 70 gallons of filtered water. His shell easily clears both sides of the tank and he smoothly reverses direction. However, Drew said that "the next step is a bigger tank."

Drew said that more than once Conservation Officer Chris Brison of the New Hampshire Fish & Game Department has visited in response to complaints about the treatment of the turtle and has occasionally stopped when in the neighborhood. In New Hampshire there is no prohibition against keeping a snapping turtle as a pet. He said the officer has always found "Shellhe" well fed, living in clean, filtered water and in sound health.

Joe Chase, the shop foreman, said that Brison told him that he doubted the turtle the would fare well in the wild after living his entire life in captivity.

Shellhe is fed every morning, usually by the office staff, who supplement his diet of fish with crab legs. "He eats as well as we do," Chase joked. Drew said if he has good luck fishing he will share his catch with Shellhe.

"He'll eat an 8-inch trout like that," he said.

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"Shellhe" the snapping turtle looks out of his 70-gallon tank at Camaro Heaven in Tilton. (Michael Kitch/Laconia Daily Sun)

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Blanchette appeals rape conviction

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

CONCORD — The attorney for convicted rapist and former Belknap County Sheriff Ernest Justin Blanchette has filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court seeking to overturn his April conviction.

Attorney Brad Davis what he said are multiple errors of law made by the Hillsborough County North Judge Gillian Abramson during the course of Blanchette's trial.

Initially, Davis said, the court never should have allowed evidence of Blanchette's alleged prior bad acts, which include a sexual encounter with the victim that took place prior to that for which he was convicted. Davis said the state failed to tell him in the amount of time he needed to prepare for trial and that it should not have been admitted at trial.

Secondly, he said Abramson erred when she denied his request to set aside the verdict by concluding that he had direct supervision over her by virtue "where the actor was employed." Davis has long said that the law is specific only to corrections officers and that Blanchette was a deputy with the sheriff's department and not a corrections officer.

Davis said Abramson committed an error when she reviewed the language of the specific law when the statute is "clear and unambiguous." He said the Supreme Court should decide if there was enough evidence at rial for the jury to conclude Blanchette was employed by the New Hampshire State Prison where the victim was incarcerated.

He is also challenging the sentence, which he said took into consideration a prior bad act for which he was not convicted.

Davis is also challenging the evidence, saying it was not proved beyond a reasonable doubt that he "coerced" the victim into having sex with him by allowing her to use his cell phone during transports and for giving her cigarettes.

Blanchette was convicted of one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault when he had intercourse with a woman in Bedford while he was transporting her from the Belknap County Court House to the N.H. State Prison for Women in Goffstown on July 2, 2015.

He is facing multiple indictments in Belknap County Superior Court for similar acts he alleged committed while transporting other inmates, including his first victim, in Belknap County.

Belknap County Presiding Justice James O'Neill has said he doesn't want to try the Belknap County cases until the Supreme Court rules on the Hillsborough North case.

Blanchette was sentenced to 10 to 20 years in prison with two of the minimum term suspended provided he be of good behavior and successfully complete a sexual offender course while incarcerated.

Prosecutor says Meredith man is danger to society due to crashes

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — A Meredith man convicted by a jury of misdemeanor reckless conduct and two misdemeanor counts of disobeying an officer will have to post $15,000 in cash if he wishes to remain free while his case is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Joshua J. Deboer, 31, of 24 Follett Road was sentenced last week to serve 12 months in the Belknap County House of Corrections for reckless conduct, and 12 months with six months suspended for one count of disobeying a police officer. All of a 12-month sentence for a second conviction of disobeying a police officer was suspended. A Belknap County jury exonerated Deboer two weeks ago on one count of felony reckless conduct.

Deboer was convicted for driving at speeds up to 100 mph on Parade Road and for failing to stop for two police officers who were trying to get him to stop. His attorney has asked the court to set aside one of the disobeying an officer convictions.

In court Tuesday, Belknap County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen requested $25,000 cash bail for Deboer saying that his driving record has shown that "he is a danger."

She told the court, Deboer has had three convictions for reckless conduct and four speeding tickets.

In 2003, said Guldbrandsen, Deboer had three passengers in his car when he crashed it on Parade Road. One of his passengers sustained a fractured vertebrae while the other two were not injured.

In 2008, Deboer was involved in a double fatality on Parade Road for which he pleaded guilty to reckless operation. Guldbrandsen said he was racing the other vehicle and the two young men from Alexandria in the other car crashed. Both were killed.

According to Guldbrandsen, an accident reconstruction specialist determined he was driving about 90 mph and Deboer admitted to driving 75 mph through the curve. She said he admitted driving as fast as 100 mph on the straightaway before the curve.

"He is a danger to the community," Guldbrandsen said.

Deboer's attorney asked for $8,000 cash bail pending the appeal, arguing this was the same bail he had been able to post while awaiting trial. He said Deboer's family could not post any more money.

Guldbrandsen asked the court that if Deboer was to post bail that he not be allowed to drive. Deboer asked that he be allowed to drive to work and back however the judge determined that if he posts bail he may not drive at all.