LACONIA — The victim of an armed robbery on Joliet Street at 4:09 p.m. on March 25 was allegedly in the process of selling pot to a friend of the man who is accused of robbing him.
According to testimony offered in the 4th Circuit Court, Laconia Division yesterday at a probable cause hearing for accused armed robber Joshua McNeil, 31, police said the victim admitted the alleged perpetrator had come to his apartment to purchase some marijuana. The robbery then allegedly occurred at gunpoint.
Police testified that the victim said he had gotten a text message from McNeil asking to buy some pot from him and that McNeil met him and his passenger in a downtown parking lot.
The three men allegedly then went to the victim's apartment on Blueberry Lane, got some marijuana and were driving across town to sell it to one of McNeil's friends.
A Laconia officer testified that the victim told him somewhere along South Main Street, McNeil put a gun to the back of his head and told the passenger to keep his head between his legs and not look up. The victim said he was told to stop at the bottom of Pine Street where the passenger was ordered out of the car.
Police said the victim told them that McNeil ordered him to turn right on to Baldwin Street and then right on to Joiliet Street. At this point, the victim said he was trying to convince McNeil that he didn't have any money and said he gave his wallet to McNeil to prove it.
He told police that McNeil stole the marijuana and "pistol whipped" him in the head. The victim said he ran to one of the residences for safety on Joliet Street and the resident called the police for him.
Two police officers spoke separately with the victim and his former passenger and both picked McNeil from a photo lineup. The testifying officer said he included McNeil in the photo array because the victim told him McNeil's first name was Josh, had described tattoos that the officer knew were similar to those McNeil had, and that he knew McNeil had friends and/or family in that South End neighborhood.
The officer said at no time were the victim and his passenger in the same room during their contact with police so they could not have concocted the story they both told separately to two separate police officers.
Under cross examination, McNeil's attorney elicited from the officer that the victim had asked the Joiliet Street resident who called the police to hide a marijuana pipe for him because he was afraid of getting in trouble when the police came.
Neither the victim nor his passenger called the police but did cooperate when police arrived.
When asked if the officer was familiar with the victim and his alleged marijuana activities, the officer testified that he had never met or heard of the victim until he first encountered him on Joliet Street.
He also said that the next morning a woman who had some relationship with McNeil called the Laconia Police and told the sergeant in charge that McNeil had used a BB gun but that he no longer had it.
The officer testified that the sergeant encouraged the woman to get McNeil to turn himself in, which he did on March 26 around 8 p.m.
McNeil's public defender argued that the credibility of the victim and his passenger were suspect and since a gun hasn't been recovered there isn't enough evidence to sustain the charges of armed robbery.
The city prosecutor argued the credibility of the victim and the witness are matters for trial.
Judge Jim Carroll agreed with the prosecutor and found probable cause for the charges. McNeil continues to be held on $100,000 cash-only bail.
The case will be bound over to the Belknap County Attorney for possible indictment.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:20
CONCORD — City officials appeared before the House Municipal and County Government Committee at the Statehouse yesterday in opposition to legislation —Senate Bill 333 — that would exempt from property taxes recreational vehicles stored or placed on a rented campsite at a recreational campground or camping park year around.
In January, SB-333 carried the Senate by a unanimous vote of 24 to 0. Nevertheless, a crowd of more than 150, dominated by campground owners, filled the committee room to overflowing for the hearing that ran for almost two-and-a-half hours.
After the Senate passed the bill officials in Laconia and Bristol were quick to raise concerns. Jon Duhamel, the city assessor, has counted 423 recreational vehicles parked at a dozen campgrounds year around with an aggregate assessed value of $9,994,500. They have been taxed for years, but would become exempt from property tax if the bill were enacted. He estimates that the city would forgo more than $220,000 in revenue, which would add 10 cents to the property tax rate.
At Bristol Shores there are 183 recreational vehicles with a total value of nearly $8 million representing some $160,000 revenue, in foregone revenue to the town.
The statutory definition of a recreational vehicle includes motor homes, vans, pickup campers and tent trailers as well as recreational trailers of 400 square feet or less. The definition includes so-called "park models," which may be 12-feet and 36-feet long with pitched roofs and gabled windows that resemble miniature cottages with room to sleep as many as 10 people. Unlike other recreational vehicles, park models cannot be registered as motor vehicles or transported on public roads without a special permit.
The issue of taxation arose in the wake of two court decisions. In 1999, the New Hampshire Supreme Court ruled that a truck trailer could be assessed and taxed as a building "if by its use it: (1) is intended to be more or less permanent, not a temporary structure; (2) is more or less completely enclosed; (3) is used as a dwelling, storehouse, or shelter; and (4) is intended to remain stationary." Two years later the Belknap County Superior Court applied this standard to eight trailers at the Hack-Ma-Tack Campground at The Weirs, confirming the city's authority to tax eight trailers on the property as buildings.
On the strength of the court decisions, the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration (DRA) urged municipalities to apply the criteria strictly. Some, like Laconia did, but others found the cost of assessing the units and billing their owners, many of whom reside outside the state, outweighed the revenue collected.
Sen. Jeanie Forrester (R-Meredith) introduced the legislation at the request of the New Hampshire Campground Owners Association, whose members, together with some municipal officials, were troubled by the inconsistent application of the law. Some are taxed as real estate while others are not. Some municipalities bill the owners of the recreational vehicles while others, unable to identify the owners, bill the owners of the campgrounds.
The bill was intended to mend what Forrester called a "crazy quilt" and introduce consistency in the treatment of recreational vehicles by local assessors by clearly distinguishing them from "manufactured housing" and simply exempting those in campgrounds from property taxation.
However, in response to the concerns expressed by Laconia and Bristol, an amendment, crafted by the Henry Veilleux, the lobbyist representing the campground owners and sponsored by Representatives Jeffery Shackett (R-Bristol) and James Belanger (R-Hollis), was presented to the House committee yesterday.
Veilleux told the committee that the amendment would exempt only those recreational vehicles less than eight-feet, six inches in width, leaving all wider units liable to property taxation, effectively authorizing municipalities to tax only the "park models," which represent the bulk of the assessed valuation of recreational vehicles. He estimated that the amendment would enable Laconia to recapture at $6,568,000, or 66 percent, of the assessed valuation. The amendment would leave all the units at Bristol Shores taxable.
Mayor Ed Engler of Laconia described the goal of exempting recreational vehicles as "admirable," insisting that "Laconia does not tax recreational vehicles and no one else should either." However, he said that the bill, by exempting units permanently situated on campsites from taxation, turned campgrounds into "safe harbors."
Distributing photographs of recreational vehicles embellished with porches and decks sitting on landscaped sites and surrounded by outbuildings, Engler said "these are not intended to be moved." He read from the ruling in the Hack-ma-Tack case, where the judge held "these trailers are more akin to a summer camp dwelling than to a camper intended for travel. A summer camp dwelling is a building."
Engler recommended that the committee revisit the definition of a campground, questioning whether it was intended to apply to recreational vehicles that were improved and never moved.
City Manager Scott Myers said that while the city "appreciated the amendment," it would still leave $3.5 million in property tax revenue on the table. He explained that the city does not tax any recreational vehicle registered as a motor vehicle or trailer or an unregistered recreational vehicle that has been moved within six months.
"We have had very few complaints in Laconia," Myers said, implying that the city has complied with the court decisions without encountering the issues that appear to have bedevilled relationships between local assessors and campground owners in other municipalities.
For example, Neal Cass, the town administrator in Hopkinton, said that it is difficult to identify and track the owners of recreational vehicles in order to bill and collect property taxes, especially when units change hands, since no deed is recorded.
Kevin LeCasse of New Hampton, who owns a campground in Effingham , said the local assessor handed him a stack of tax bills for the owners of recreational vehicles in his campground, expecting him to collect the taxes. When the owners questioned their bills, he said they approach him, not the town officials who assessed the property and prepared the bills. Moreover, state law stipulates that the owner of the campground may be assessed for the taxes left unpaid by the owner the recreational vehicle left on the property.
Robert Bradley of Epsom was among several campground owners who feared that taxing recreational vehicles left on campsites year round would have adverse impacts on their individual businesses and the tourist industry. One owner said that he lost a quarter of of his seasonal campers when the property tax was first levied.
Sylvia Leggett of Robert's Knoll Campground in Alton, said that allowing campers to store their vehicles was part of her business plan, but since the town began taxing recreational vehicles she had begun to fear losing her customer base.
Joe Lessard of Municipal Resources, Inc. hearkened back to the comparison with a summer camp, cautioning the committee that the bill, with or without the amendment, would lead to "inequitable treatment of similarly used properties," a constitutional question. He conceded there was some confusion in administering the tax as directed by court, but said the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration is seeking to resolve the problems. He recommended the committee report the bill "inexpedient to legislate."
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 01:24
LACONIA — High School administrators reported last night that from 2011 to 2013 the number of students who were truant or absent from school without a reason has dropped by nearly 50 percent.
In 2011 the district reported 1003 truancies while in 2013 there were 456.
Administrators told the School Board last night that positive interventions and improving the school culture were some of the leading reasons for the improvements in attendance.
As to the number of students who needed to be disciplined, the number of out-of-school suspensions dropped from 72 in 2011 to 52 in 2013. The number of in-school suspensions had also dropped from 364 in 2011 to 203 in 2013.
Administrators said they added an administrative detention period in 2013 as well as a student support system that helped 535 students overcome some issues that they were having either in school, at home, or otherwise.
"It's all about climate, culture and consistency," said Principal Jim McCollum who took over as high school principal in the 2012-2013 school year.
McCollum said the biggest problem facing the high school right now is excused absences and those are more difficult to control. In 2013 there were 2,596 excused absences.
For the purposes of record keeping, and excused absence is defined as a student missing one or more blocks of school with parental consent or a student that is more than one-half hour late for school again with parental consent.
He said that if a parent calls the school and notifies it that their son or daughter will be absent or late, then there's not much the school can do about it.
McCollum said the part of the positive behavior intervention system at the school constantly reinforces the notion that a student has to show up in order to be productive.
He said statistics show that overall a student who misses six or fewer days in a school year will have a grade point average of 3.3 or higher. A grade point average declines as the number of absences — excused or unexcused — increases.
"It's what we hear from employers and it what we hear from the community college. You have to show up," McCollum said.
Commenting from the audience, retired civics teacher Richard Coggin said that was the best presentation he's heard in about five years.
Coggin called out some of the existing board members for letting good attendance records slide and and disciplinary incidents increase under the administration of former Principal Steve Beals.
Long-time member Joe Cormier said he didn't necessary agree with Coggin stating that his view was "skewed."
However Coggins assessment got a back-handed approval from the newest board member Mike Perssons, who said that the recent increase in the number of programs and academic offerings as well as the leadership of the current administrative team at the high school have made a big difference in the truancy and discipline issues.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 April 2014 01:08
BELMONT — A Cross Street man who came home to find an intruder in his house suffered a hand injury during his encounter with the burglar, according to affidavits submitted by police.
The affidavits said some blood was found on Robert Martel's pants after police caught him on Interstate 93 after a police chase that began on Route 3 in Tilton.
Police said Martel, 30, whose last known address was 336 Central St., Apt. 24, in Franklin had allegedly parked his SUV in the driveway of the Cross Street home and entered it. When the couple returned from running some errands, they pulled their car in behind his in the driveway blocking him from leaving.
Martel is charged with Class A felony burglary for breaking into the house and hurting the victim, and was also charged with auto theft for taking the couple's Ford Taurus.
After appearing by video in the 4th Circuit Court yesterday, Martel was ordered held on $100,000 cash-only bail. His defense team reserved the right to argue bail at a later day. Martel asked the judge for less bail but was told to speak with his attorneys and not to address the court directly through the video.
The victims told police that they thought they had company when they arrived home at 12:27 p.m. Friday. But when they entered the home they came face to face with Martel who was allegedly carrying a pillow case filled with their belongings.
The man yelled to his wife to call 9-1-1 while Martel allegedly ran past the two into the driveway. The male victim wrestled briefly with Martel who allegedly stole his car and fled at a high rate of speed.
The victim's parked car was blocking Martel's SUV in the driveway.
Lt. Rich Mann said two Belmont officers were at the victim's home within 90 seconds, and offered medical assistance to the male victim
Police issued an alert for the stolen Taurus. Tilton Police Chief Robert Cormier heard the alert and spotted Martel traveling west on Route 3 by the Tanger Outlets. He said he was "at the right place at the right time" and was driving an unmarked cruiser.
Cormier followed the car onto Interstate 93 and officers from Belmont, Northfield, Tilton, Sanbornton and State Police were able to stop Martel just south of the I-93 Exit 19. One of the southbound lanes was closed during the arrest.
Police said some jewelry reported stolen from the home was found inside the victims' stolen car.
Additional conditions placed on Martel require that should he post bail he is not to consume any alcohol or non-prescribed drugs, must not go south of the intersection of Route 106 and Route 140 so that he stays away from the victims' home, and is to live a 336 Central St. in Franklin.
A representative of the N.H. Judiciary call center said Martel has previous convictions for criminal trespass and unlawful possession from about 10 years ago and a driving while intoxicated in 2012 and a bail violation in 2013 – both out of Merrimack County.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 April 2014 01:26
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