Home invasion case stalled for witnesses


LACONIA — For the second time in as many months, the Belknap County Attorney's office has failed to produce the witnesses it intends to call to further its case against a man they say committed a home invasion on Harvard Street in June of 2014.

In the state's case against Tyler Twombley, 31, five potential witnesses have allegedly asked for immunity in exchange for their testimony. To date, one has been served with a subpoena but has yet to appear in court and three others, including two women yesterday, have not appeared for their immunity hearings.

Twombly is accused of burglary for entering a home with another as yet unidentified man, and for robbing one of the people in the home of some controlled substance after either hitting him or shooting him in the head.

Twombly attorney Mark Sisti said yesterday he would file a motion asking the judge to eliminate the four from the state's potential witness list if they cannot be produced in two weeks. Jury selection is scheduled for mid June.

Sisti also reapproached the topic of granting immunity to Joshua Pike, who has been charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and robbery, but who has yet to be indicted. Sisti has long claimed that Pike, who was in the home during the incident, can and will testify that Twombly was not one of the two men who entered wearing hoodies and bandannas across their faces.

The judge has refused to grant Pike immunity.

Yesterday, he said he would be inclined to grant Sisti's motion to eliminate all the remaining people the state intends to use a witnesses who do not show up for their immunity hearing if the state can't get them into the court room within two weeks.

Blanchette asks judge to throw out jury’s guilty verdict


MANCHESTER — A former Belknap County deputy convicted on April 28 of one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault has asked the judge who presided over his case to set aside the jury's verdict because he was not employed by the Department of Corrections.

Through his attorney, Brad Davis, Ernest Justin Blanchette of Valley Street in Manchester argues that when the legislature was writing RSA 632-A:2,I(n) the lawmakers made it clear that the law was only intended for corrections officers, parole and probation officers, and for those who have direct supervisory control over secured psychiatric hospitals.

Davis also claims that a correctional institute is a building, enclosure or a structure used for the confinement and not a concept of corrections.

"In viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the state, the jury could not have properly found the defendant was an employee of the correctional institute under the plain language of the statute," wrote Davis.

Davis cited state laws that establish employer-employee relationships and a letter written from Associate Attorney General Ann Rice to Sen. Andrew Peterson who was the chairman of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary who asked for language to be added that said "where the actor is employed" be inserted at the end of the sub-paragraphs dealing with correctional officers.

In his reply, Assistant Hillsborough County Attorneys Michael Zaino and Nicole J. Schultz-Price said Davis took Rice's communications with Peterson out of context. The state says that the reason the language was added was to clarify jurisdictions of off-duty corrections officer in area where they were not employed, like work release, and how it applies to non-working sexual relationships.

In this particular case, the state said Davis eliminated references to the words "or for any other matter related to confinement." Zaino said a sheriff's vehicle is an enclosure and a space and certainly a structure used for confinement or for any matter related thereto.

"It would be illogical to assert that individuals handcuffed and locked in the back seat of a fully marked police cruiser are not confined," he wrote.

In her order on the verbal motion raised by Davis about Blanchette's employment as a county sheriff, Judge Gillian Abramson wrote on the same day he was found guilty that to interpret the statute in a manner that would absolve a defendant, "This case a sheriff's deputy with direct disciplinary and supervisory power over (the victim) by virtue of her status as a N.H. State Prison for Women inmate and and his delegated duty to deliver there thereto – of criminal liability simply because he does not receive a paycheck from the NHSPW would be directly contrary to (the) underlying purpose of the statute. Moreover, it would create and untenable loophole under which inmates, despite being protected from the coercive acts of those with authority inside the wall of a penal institute, are subject without restraint to the coercive acts of those delegated with similar authority outside of the wall."

She determined the inherent vulnerabilities of a defendant don't go away when he or she leaves the insides of those walls.

No hearing date is set. Blanchette is expected to be sentenced on May 27 at 10:30 a.m. in the Hillsborough North Superior Court.

Gilford votes to accept fire boat from Portsmouth

GILFORD – Should the Portsmouth City Council agree, the town will have a new-to-it fire 30-foot fire boat to replace the 40-year-old "Snuffer."

Selectmen voted unanimously to accept the boat after hearing positive comments from the public and being told by Chief Steven Carrier that the Portsmouth Fire Commission voted to give it away.

There had been some concern of late that some smaller communities in the seacoast area wanted the boat to stay in Portsmouth. Some had said they would contribute to the maintenance but that proposal apparently didn't come to fruition.

As to the costs of operations, Carrier said that Portsmouth spent about $12,000 annually on maintenance largely related to replacing zinc anodes that protect connectors but that corrode rapidly in salt water. With the boat coming to fresh water, he said the "zincs" would likely never need replacing.

Additional costs to Portsmouth that won't be incurred in Gilford are attributed to union contracts that provide stipends and additional pay to boat operators. Carrier said their contract has no such provisions.

Carrier said training initially would be costly. He said he is working with the N.H. Marine Patrol about getting boat operators through one of their classes they offer for similar boats owned by the agency.

Speaking for the boat was Jim MacBride, the chairman of the Gilford Island Association. A long time boating enthusiast, he said one of the problems Portsmouth likely had that Gilford will not, was navigating the boat in the currents of the Piscataqua River when tides go out.

John Goodhue, who has a home on Mark Island, said he is familiar with a double jet stream boat and, while in favor of the acquisition, said that the department must put the appropriate time and money into training the people who will operate it.

"This is a very sophisticated piece of equipment compared to Snuffer," he said.

He also said that the maintenance of the boat must be upkept to which Selectman Chair Richard "Rags" Grenier said that he has faith in the department because they kept Snuffer in shape for 40 years.

Goodhue said that the new boat will be infinitely better for assisting the fire department for fires along the water, where Snuffer could never get close enough or could pump enough water to be truly useful.

The Portsmouth City Council meets Monday and will vote on whether or not to dispose of the boat by giving it to Gilford.