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Sanbornton man accused of raping child claims 'limited capacity' (742)

By BEA LEWIS, for THE LACONIA DAILY SUN

LACONIA — The lawyer representing a Sanbornton man charged with sexually assaulting a child claims police extracted a confession because his client is of "limited mental capacity."

Michael Lennox, 49, of 21 Patriot Lane, was arrested in May, and remains free after posting a $101,000 bond, on the condition he have no contact with the alleged victim, her immediate family or anyone under age 16.

In August, he was indicted on four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of felonious sexual assault, alleging that he engaged in sex acts with the girl beginning when she was 9 and continuing until age 12, from August 2008 to August 2013.

In a motion asking that the defendant's statements to police be kept from a jury, attorney Charles O'Leary of Manchester, argues that Lennox "has significantly impaired mental functioning."

The defense attorney claims police took advantage of Lennox and questioned him for some 3.5 hours even after the defendant allegedly showed that he wasn't really sure why he had been asked to come to the police station. When police asked where and when he'd known the complaining witness and had contact with her family, Lennox's answers
showed he lacked clarity as to the dates and times of significant events, O'Leary claims.

Prosecutor Carley Ahern maintains police did not violate Lennox's right to remain silent, and that the defendant voluntarily spoke to them.

During a probable cause hearing, shortly after the defendant's arrest, Sanbornton Police Lt. Kevin MacIntosh asked that a hand-written apology Lennox had written to the girl during his interview with police be admitted as evidence.

O'Leary objected, arguing that the document was not relevant to the issue of probable cause and that it would prejudice his client, if it were made public before he could challenge its admissibility in Superior Court.

Lennox had been scheduled to stand trial this week, but the state did not oppose O'Leary's request for a continuance after he disclosed that he anticipated that additional reports that would provide a more current assessment of his client's level of mental functioning and cognition would be turned over to the prosecutor by late December.

In October 2015, Sanbornton police were notified by the Division of Children Youth and Families of an investigation into suspected child abuse. Lennox was identified as a suspect after two minor children were interviewed at the Greater Lakes Child Advocacy Center in October 2015 and in January 2016.

On May 9, Lt. MacIntosh went to Lennox's home and told him that an investigation into allegations of child abuse was underway and asked whether he would be willing to take a lie detector test.

Lennox reportedly agreed to come to the Tilton Police Station four days later, to undergo further questioning and submit to a polygraph examination.

In asking a judge to throw out the statements Lennox made to police, his lawyer asserts that his client showed up at the police station without legal counsel, or even with an interested adult such as his mother, with whom he lives.

When Lennox asked Tilton Police Detective Corporal Nate Buffington what would happened if he decided not to answer and left, the defense claims the officer spoke to Lennox, but basically avoided giving him a direct answer.

The defense claims the statements should be suppressed as they were not freely and voluntarily given.

Lt. MacIntosh has previously testified that the girl disclosed that starting when she was in the fifth grade, that Lennox sexually abused her as frequently as three times a week.

The defendant knew the girl through her mother, and the inappropriate behavior, MacIntosh said, began with Lennox kissing and touching the girl both on top of and beneath her clothing before escalating to other sexual acts.

The officer testified that the girl disclosed that Lennox frequently assaulted her before school and that it "made her feel bad and wrong, and that she knew this wasn't happening to any other child in the school."

An hour-long hearing on the motion to suppress is scheduled to be held in Belknap County Superior Court on Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. A final pretrial hearing is now set for March 14, with a jury to be selected on March 20.

11-08 Michael Lennox

Michael Lennox, 49, of Sanbornton, appeared in the Franklin Circuit Court in May for a probable cause hearing. He has since been indicted on rape charges and his lawyer argues police took advantage of his "limited mental capacity" to get him to confess. (Bea Lewis/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Belmont Mill, bank building futures still at issue for selectmen

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

BELMONT – A recommendation to the Selectboard Monday from the town's administration to spend $303,000 renovating the old Northway Bank building led to another heated discussion about what to do with the half-vacant Belmont Mill.

After an hour-long discussion, selectmen decided to wait a few weeks so administrators can see if the mill can be restored over a period of five years and decide then if they want a warrant article asking to renovate the bank using money from a building capital reserve fund saved for that reason.

The initial recommendation of the town's administration was to do the upgrades on the bank building and move the town's Parks and Recreation Department into it.

But when Selectman Jon Pike said he wouldn't support the proposal because he wants the Land Use Office and the Town Clerk Tax Collector's offices to be moved there, the conversation veered toward future of the mill and using it as a future town hall.

Pike said he doesn't want the Parks and Recreation Department there because he fears it will grow into the space and need a full-time director with staff.

Selectman Ron Cormier wants to see the mill renovated and all of the town hall moved into it, but since an initiative to do that failed at the 2016 Town Meeting, he recommended the town look into slowly renovating the mill.

Pike said the proper place for the Parks and Recreation Department would be in the ground floor of the mill and Cormier agreed.

"We tried to do the mill and that was the right plan," said Cormier who said that if they move the Land Use Office and the Town Clerk's Office to the bank, then nothing will ever be done with the mill.

As to whether people will vote for the bank renovation, Cormier said they would because it is the "cheap" option but not necessarily the "right" option.

Pike said that the main problem with Town Hall is that people are jammed up in the hallway and there is no more space for storage in the Land Use Office.

The town of Belmont has too much vacant space and not enough usable space. In 2012, the town bought the bank. At the time, the Belmont Mill was completely occupied and the town eyed the bank building as either a way to ameliorate some space concerns or to raze it as part of the Belmont Village Revitalization Project.

But at the end of 2012, the town learned that the fourth floor of the mill, which had long housed the Lakes Region Community College Culinary Program, was in danger of collapse. Over the next few years, the college relocated and the day care center in the basement ran out of space and moved to Route 106. With only two floors of the mill being used and a newly purchased bank building, the town had lots of space, but all of it needed work.

After a professional assessment of the mill, selectmen put an warrant on the 2015 ballot for a $3 million renovation that would have provided a newer and bigger space for the town offices, but it failed by nearly 4-to-1 margin.

Meanwhile, the town is faced with two buildings that are gradually deteriorating from non-use.

The board will revisit the situation at its next meeting but agreed no money would be spent until after the 2017 annual Town Meeting.

Gilford enforces new electioneering law

By GAIL OBER, LACONIA DAILY SUN

GILFORD — At least two voters were told by police Tuesday that they had to remove their Trump T-shirts before entering the polls at the Community Center.

A Gilford police officer said both were cooperative and complied with the request, although both mentions that they felt it was their First Amendment right to wear what they wanted.

Earlier this year, the state legislature passed a law prohibiting people from wearing buttons, T-shirt, or any other campaign literature inside the polling places.

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Dennis Fields, R-Sanbornton-Tilton at the request of the N.H. secretary of state's office, reported the Concord Monitor.

In Gilmanton, there was a Democratic poll watcher posted outside the Academy Building but he declined to speak to the media.

Belmont Police reported a small traffic jam on Church Street and Seavey Road from early voters and school traffic trying to get to the high school for 7 a.m.

Town Clerk Cynthia DeRoy said things moved smoothly inside but said she had about 130 votes when the polls first opened.

11-08 Gilford mock election

Gilford Middle School students participated in a mock election Tuesday. (Gail Ober/Laconia Daily Sun)

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