Prosecutor: Tell the jury -


MANCHESTER — A jury should know that former Belknap County Sheriffs Deputy Sgt. Ernest Justin Blanchette has been indicted elsewhere for two additional counts of rape against the same victim, said the Hillsborough North Assistant County Attorney who is prosecuting him.

Prosecutor Michael Zaino said in his motion Tuesday that Blanchette, 36, was indicted in Belknap County for two counts of raping the same victim in events that took place before the crime he is trying.

Under most circumstances, "prior bad acts" are not presented to the jury; however, Zaino said in this case it shows that Blanchette "groomed" the victim during those events.

Blanchette faces multiple counts of aggravated sexual assault for alleged sexual actions he took while transporting several different people to and from jails and courts throughout the state. He has not been convicted of anything and is free on $100,000 cash bail.

In Ziano's  pleading, he said that the jury should be able to evaluate on its own whether Blanchette coerced his victim by giving her cigarettes and allowing her to use his cell phone on Sept. 18, 2014, and again sometime in late 2014. Zaino said Blanchette knew these were things she was unable to get while in prison.

During the Sept. 18 encounter, Blanchette transported a prisoner, referred to as "BH," to a dental exam in Tilton. Zaino contends that he allowed BH to use his cell phone on her way there and she called a number of friends and family. Once there, he unhandcuffed her and allowed her to smoke one of two cigarettes she had.

After her appointment, she told police that he allowed her to sit in the front of the transport van without handcuffs. She said he started complaining about his marriage and she said she told him she wished she could have sex with her boyfriend.

She said that while in Belmont, he made an abrupt turn down a long dirt driveway to an abandoned house. She told police she thought he was going to handcuff her and put her in the back of the van, so she walked in that direction.

Once at the back of the van, she said he took off his duty belt and placed it in the van. She told police she became uncomfortable and said, "Is this really happening?" to which he allegedly replied, "It could if you want it to."

In her statement to police, she said he kissed her on the lips and then exposed himself. She said the two engaged in sexual intercourse. BH told police she felt that she couldn't say no.

She told police she went to the dentist again in late 2014 and this time Blanchette allegedly provided the cigarettes and allowed her to use his cell phone. On the return trip, she said there was an accident and Blanchette stopped to assist, so there was no time for any other actions. She told police that she was relieved to get back to jail because of what had happened previously.

On July 2, Blanchette transported her from the Belknap County Superior Court to the New Hampshire State Prison for Women in Goffstown. He again provided her with cigarettes and a cell phone. Once in Bedford, she told police that Blanchette drove to an abandoned house, where they again had sex.

"During all relevant times, B.H. believed that (Blanchette) was the boss relative to his position as a sergeant in the (Belknap County) Sheriffs Department and that no one would believe her word over his."

Earlier this month, Blanchette's attorney filed a motion to allow the jury to hear a snippet of a telephone conversation recorded between her and a friend while she was incarcerated that indicated she wanted to have sex with Blanchette because he was "sexy."

Blanchette's attorney confirmed yesterday that they are scheduled to pick a jury on Monday and that the hearings on the pending motions will be heard in the afternoon. The case is being tried in the Hillsborough North Superior Court in Manchester.

Students, GMI join to create walking path at PSS


LACONIA — Thanks to the diligence of the first-grade classes at Pleasant Street School, which was rewarded by the generosity of GMI Asphalt of Belmont, when pupils return from their spring vacation, the playing field will be encircled by a paved walking path where they can keep themselves fit and enjoy the outdoors.

David Levesque, principal of the school, said that the pupils, teachers and parents have been raising funds for three years and the first-graders brought the project to fruition by writing 60 letters, all embellished with illustrations, to GMI Asphalt explaining how by walking every day they would remain healthy and grow strong.
He noted that last year Pleasant Street School was recognized as the healthiest in state and through events like "Walk to School Wednesday," "Taste Test Tuesday," and regular morning recess has sustained a keen commitment to fitness and wellness among its students.

As the walking path was the work of the first-graders, it was their secret until they shared it with the rest of the school at an assembly yesterday. Warren Colby, with Marc Bourgeois, co-owners of GMI Asphalt, and Bourgois' wife, Renay, first met privately with the first-graders and their teachers — Mary Faria, Allison Walls and Caitlin Friend-Rushton — to answer their questions about the project.

"How big is it?" asked one boy. "One thousand feet long and eight feet wide," Colby replied. "What color is it? asked another. "Black," Colby said. "Can we paint PSS on it?" a girl wondered. "That's a project for you to do with your principal and teachers," Colby answered.

Then the pupils walked single file into the gym, spreading themselves across the front row to the applause of their schoolmates. Levesque reminded the pupils of the school's commitment to encouraging sound health and physical fitness, announced the construction of the walking path and expressed appreciation to the first-graders and gratitude to GMI Asphalt. "When you come back from vacation," he said, "it's all yours."

Colby stressed the role of teamwork in bringing the project about. He said that pupils did their part by eating healthy food and engaging in daily exercise and above all by working together to write the letters. His wife said when she opened the packet she spread all the letters out on a table for everyone in the office to see. "You did an excellent job," she said. "Your letters made me come here today." Colby said that company gives something back to the community each year and "the hard work they did and the healthy eating had me sold."

"Hard work pays off," Colby told the pupils. "It's an important lesson."

 04-21 Pleasant Street School kids GMI

Warren and Renay Colby of GMI partnered with the three first grade classes at Pleasant Street School to build a walking path around the playing field where the children, who attend the the school chosen healthiest in the state in 2015, pride themselves on eating plenty of healthy food and getting lots of physical exercise. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch) 

Appeal made to save cabinet-making class and shop space at LHS


LACONIA —It's been three years since Laconia High School offered a cabinet-making class, leaving tens of thousands of dollars' worth of equipment unused and taking up space. While School Board members have decided to eliminate the class from the budget, others want the program to be saved.

Attorney Ed Philpot, who is also a former member of the School Board, asked the current members to spare the space now used for the cabinet-making shop.

Philpot, who sat through the meeting Tuesday and listened to a presentation about strategic planning, said during public comment section that "there is nothing better for problem solving than cabinet-making."

"I know the limitations of the budget and I know it's not in next year's budget," said Philpot, who only asked the board not to repurpose the space.

It's been three years since cabinet making has been offered at the high school; however, there is a vibrant adult education class that Philpot and many others have "three- and four-peated" because of the wonderful space and ventilation. This class is not being offered next year.

"There's about $40,000 to $50,000 worth of tools and equipment there," Philpot said, adding that people who take cabinet making are bringing their own materials and the entire programs likely costs about $200 to run. "Maybe you should charge more for it."

When asked, Business Administrator Ed Emond said a facilities study calls for the space, which is next to the band room, to be converted into band space.

Retired full-time teacher Ed Felona, who still teaches the adult program, said he fears that, if it goes, it will never come back.

He also remembered his time as the wood-working teacher at Laconia High School, and told the board that the cognitive effects of hands-on projects like cabinet-making can benefit a number of students.

Felona recalls many students telling him that, if not for wood shop and cabinet-making, many of these kids would likely have dropped out of school.

He said other teachers used to asked him what his secret was because all of his students could use a tape measure, add, subtract, multiply and divide, had learned all of their angles and could measure things.

Board member Mike Persson asked if there was any way the space could be used for some revenue, other than what it collects from the Adult Education program.

Felona and Philpot said they and some of the other people who take the classes have been thinking of how this could be used to at least minimally support the program and possibly take in a little more.

"I think we can easily generate enough interest to easily offset the cost," Philpot said.

He added that local builders who are looking for cabinet-maker interns who have been trained through high school programs can't find employees with these basic skills and that Laconia's cabinet shop is one of few left in the immediate area.