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In court, 14-year-old faces man who repeatedly raped her over 9 year period

LACONIA — A former Meredith man pleaded guilty in the Belknap County Superior Court yesterday to five counts of rape and will spend at least the next 13 years in the N.H. State Prison.

Mark Thurber, 43, received five consecutive sentences. One for 10 to 20 years — all of which is to be served, one for 4 to 10 years — one year of which will be suspended pending good behavior, and three suspended sentences of 10-to-20 years each. All of the suspended portions of his sentence can be brought forward within 40 years of his release.

Thurber raped one of his female victims from the time she was 5-years-old until she was 14-years-old. The abuse happened at the girl's family's home in Tilton and in each of the homes he lived in in Meredith.

His second victim, now 20, was assaulted when she was seven to eight years old at Thurber's home that he shared with his ex-wife. Dept. Belknap County Attorney Carley Ahern said the girl would sleep between him and his wife and he would assault her while his wife slept.

Both victims and their families were in court yesterday.

Speaking softly through her tears, the victim who was abused the longest told the court she was now 14 and that Thurber would touch her and get on top of her. She said the abuse began when Thurber was living with her family, even when he had a house of his own. She said he threatened to kill her and her family if she told anyone.

She said she kept it to herself for years because she was afraid. She said she began cutting herself and once tried suicide. She said her grandmother suspected something and it was last year that she told he parents what happened to her.

"I wish I could tell my family everything but it's too much for them," she said.

She told the court that she wished she could go back to the days before the abuse started and that she really wanted him to go to jail for life.

"Maybe if it happens to Mark he'd know what it's like to take a childhood away," she said. "I hope he suffers in jail."

After hearing from the girl, Judge James O'Neill asked Ahern why she would recommend 14-to-30 years when the victim just said she wished the sentence was longer.

Ahern said that she had asked the families of both victims who told they wanted "life" but after explaining to them that they would have to testify at a trial they said "okay" to the 14 to 30 years.

"The most important thing was knowing he would go away today," Ahern said.

Thurber's lawyer, John Bresaw, said the court's acceptance of the plea would bring closure and that his client was willing to take responsibility for his actions.

Bresaw said there were some mitigating factors in Thurber's life including that he became a foster child at the age of 6 and lived with 16 different foster families where he was often physically abused.

He said he was not there to make excuses for his client but to get the matter resolved.

Judge O'Neill noted there were letters about Thurber's good qualities that were submitted to the court by some of his friends, many on whom were in court yesterday to support him.

Thurber also agreed to life-long supervision and to register for life as a sex-offender. He is also mandated to take any and all classes and counseling required by the courts now and into the future including after he is released.

Eight additional counts against Thurber were not prosecuted.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 12:09

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Saturday morning gathering planned in reaction to OD deaths

LACONIA — A group of people concerned and saddened by the recent spate of heroin overdoses in the city will be gathering Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at the gazebo in Rotary Park.

The gathering is the idea of Salvation Army volunteer Kathy Sorell, who said anyone in the area who is concerned about drug abuse can get together and talk about their feelings and share some ideas about what they can do to help.

She said she was so saddened when she learned of the two recent apparent heroin overdoses that she put the idea of an informal gathering on her Facebook page and at least 10 of her friends and others who feel the same way have committed to attending.

She said they will be providing coffee and donuts for anyone who attends.

Sorell said she is especially reaching out to the friends and family of the two people who died recently of suspected overdoses and hopes they'll attend Saturday morning so they'll know there are people out there who care about them.

"Even if they just want a hug or to cry, we'll be there," she said.

She said she will bring a list of local resources for those who feel they want some help but don't know who or what agency can help them.

Sorell said that she hopes there is enough community enthusiasm to continue meeting at Rotary Park on Saturday mornings.

"We don't want any negativity," she said. "We just want to reach out and try to so something positive for the city.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 11:57

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Another drug overdose death reported in city

LACONIA — Police are investigating a possible third fatal drug overdose in the city in the past week.

Chief Christopher Adams said yesterday that a woman in her mid-30s was found dead in her home in an apartment complex off Blueberry Lane.

He said police continue to investigate the overdose deaths of two other city residents on Tuesday. He said it is too early to determine if any of the deaths are related.

There have been five total overdoses in the city this week. Emergency responders were able to revive two people using Narcan, an antidote for opiate overdoses.

If anyone has any information they are asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or 527-1717.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 11:53

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DeVoy-Pollak race holds key to balance of power on Belknap County Commission

LACONIA — One of the most closely watched races in Belknap County on Tuesday will be the contest between Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) and Dave Pollak (D-Laconia) for the District One (Laconia, Sanbornton, New Hampton) seat on the Belknap County Commission currently held by Ed Philpot (D-Laconia.)
The winner of the race will determine the balance of power on the three-member commission, which sets policy for the county, and which will have only one incumbent member, Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith), who has been closely aligned with Philpot on most issues, including building a new county jail and fully funding the county's share of employee health insurance plans.
Nedeau wil almost certainlyl be joined on the commission by Rep. Dick Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who defeated commission chairman John Thomas (R-Belmont), who was also aligned with Philpot, in the Republican primary and faces no opposition in the general election.
Burchell has been a vocal critic of policies proposed by the current commission and a champion of the county convention's side in a nearly two-year long battle over line item authority in the budget. The convention recently won a preliminary court injunction which prohibits the commission from making budget transfers greater than $300 without the approval of the convention's executive committee.
DeVoy, who calls himself a limited government fiscal conservative, is making his second run for the commission, having lost in 2012 to Philpot by 701 votes, 5,320 to 4,619. DeVoy carried Sanbornton and New Hampton as well as Ward 1 in Laconia, but could not overcome Philpot's margins in the other five wards.
A retired colonel in the United States Army Reserve, where he served for 30 years, DeVoy owns and operates three convenience stores — the Mobil Mart in Gilford and the Bosco Bell Store and Blueberry Station in Barnstead. He graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and earned his Master of Science degree at the United States Army War College and Master of Business Administration at Plymouth State University. He is married and has two children.
He says that if elected he will ''follow the rule of law'' and work with the Belknap County Convention by developing strong personal relationships of mutual trust and respect with its members. He said that he supports hiring a professional negotiator for the county to handle contract negotiations with the four unions representing county employees, something which Burchell has proposed, and supports fully funding employee health care premiums as provided in their contracts.
DeVoy has been critical of the current commission, having charged at one point that commissioners were deliberately neglecting the county jail in order to foist an expensive new jail on the county. He also said that a recent notice sent to workers informing them that they might be liable for the county's share of their individual health insurance premiums for the remainder of the year unless the county convention approved budget transfers was the wrong thing to do. "It was totally unnecessary to frighten county employees,'' he says.
DeVoy was highly praised by Burchell in a letter which appeared in Thursday's Laconia Daily Sun and is seen as a potential Burchell ally on the commission.
He has offered his own plan for fixing problems at the county jail and says that as far as he is concerned it can be done without constructing an expensive new jail. A $2 million plan he introduced months ago calls for replacing the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, expanding the bracelet program and establishing a treatment center and a women's wing in what is now the administrative wing of the Belknap County Complex and moving the commissioner's offices to the Belknap County Courthouse.
More recently, he set a limit of $7 million on what he says should be spent on the jail, acknowledging that his plan doesn't yet have wide support and that he might have to compromise in order to reach a consensus which would allow a jail improvement program to move forward.
Dave Pollak, a professor at Lakes Region Community College for the last 10 years, is making his first run for public office. A graduate of George Washington University with a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania and a Master's degree in education from Antioch University New England, he is a member of the liberal arts faculty and teaches a variety of courses in the social sciences, including psychology, government and ethics. He is married with four children.
Before moving to New Hampshire, he practiced law for five years and spent about a decade before that in the construction industry as a project manager rehabbing apartment complexes in New York City.
Pollak said that he has followed the often contentious course of county government during the past several years closely and would seek "to dial down the rhetoric and find consensus." Noting that the future of the county jail is the overriding issue facing both the commission and the Belknap County Convention, he said, "I am coming to that with an open mind." He says that he has taught classes at the jail and is familiar with conditions at the facility.
"I am not an expert," Pollak said, "but I am a good listener and a good learner." He said that he "admires people with strongly held principles" and finds "if you start from a place of respect, you get to a good outcome."
He says ''I'm not in favor of spending $42 million dollars for a new jail. I am in favor of a deliberative process to find the right solution which will meet federal and state standards, will satisfy our safety and correctional needs, will work to reduce recidivism, and that has the smallest possible effect on the county tax rate.''
He has visited several county jails in the state which were recently built or had additions and says that he sees value engineering of current plans as a way of reducing projected costs to $20 million or less.
Pollak has been critical of the actions of the county convention and it's executive committee, maintaining that the convention has pursued a deliberate strategy of trying to force the commission to breach contracts with county workers by refusing to fund increases required to pay the county's share of health insurance costs.
''At the same time the convention wants the workers to pay a higher percentage of their health insurance costs, they denied them that 1.5 percent wage increase which would have been the first raise in many years. It may only be a coincidence but the full time jobs at the nursing home are very very hard to fill with positions remaining open for months,'' Pollak recently wrote in a letter published in The Daily Sun.
He said that what is being overlooked is that the convention's efforts to reduce county health insurance costs is actually a pay cut for county workers, especially those with the most experience who are at the top of the wage scale and won't get pay increases that match the increases in their health insurance premiums.
Pollak says that he would like better relations between the commissioners and the convention and that one of the first things he would do if elected is to invite legislators to attend a retreat ''where we can sit down and talk to each other.''
He would also like to see the county involved in strategic planning which would help all communities work together to achieve efficiencies through sharing resources. He says that reviving the former welfare office position at the county level is something which should be explored more fully.
''We're in a unique position at the county level to look at ways to take advantage of economies of scale,'' says Pollak, adding that former Laconia Mayor Mike Seymour has agreed to work with him on that effort.

Last Updated on Thursday, 30 October 2014 11:50

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