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Archive for the ‘MISCELLANEOUS CRIMES’ Category

By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: May 13, 2009

CHESTERFIELD — The man accused of swindling two business owners in Chesterfield has been tied to a scam and vehicle theft in Maine and an armed robbery in Massachusetts.

John P. Baldasaro, 45, of Somerville, Mass., has posed as a businessman, a federal agent and a U.S. marshal while committing the string of crimes in three states, authorities said.

Baldasaro’s mug shot is posted among Massachusetts’ most wanted and he is being sought by more than a dozen police agencies, along with the U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security and the U.S. Marshals Service.

“We’re already getting a ton of tips from various government agencies and police agencies and a lot of citizens,” Chesterfield police Lt. Duane M. Chickering said. “Our hopes are that we are going to locate him soon.”

Baldasaro convinced a pair of Chesterfield business owners that he was a U.S. marshal investigating a counterfeit money operation Monday morning, Chickering said.

Baldasaro allegedly duped Fayyaz Awan, owner of Khyber Convenience Store, and Paul Saba, owner of Big Deal, into handing over cash from their stores on Route 9 and talked Awan into giving him cash from his bank account.

“The guy was professional. He was just really, really smart,” Saba said. “I was working with him as an agent. I was trying to help this federal agent with what he was trying to do.”

While the robber was running the con, he displayed a holstered handgun and pretended to speak with a team of other U.S. marshals on a Bluetooth-type device attached to his ear, Saba said.

Saba said he felt threatened only once during the ordeal, when the robber requested that he hand over identification.

“He forced me to give it to him,” he said. “He put his hand on the gun like he was getting ready to pull it and I said, ‘No, no, here’s my ID.’ ”

Even after the con artist took cash from both stores and drove away with Awan to pilfer his bank account, he repeatedly called Saba’s cell phone to update him on the “operation,” saying the counterfeiting suspect was under surveillance and on the verge of being arrested.

“He kept calling me every two, three minutes. He’d say, ‘We’re watching the other guy, he’s coming out of his house now,’ ” Saba said. “He told me to wait at Khyber and I was supposed to meet with him there and he would bring back my money.”

While it’s not clear why the robber targeted Khyber — an employee declined comment and Awan did not return a message — it appears that he scoped out the location before making a move, Chickering said.

“It’s apparent that the suspect had done his homework on the area,” he said. “I don’t know 100 percent why he focused on Khyber, but I know that Route 9 is easily traveled and it takes you to Vermont, Massachusetts and Canada.”

Baldasaro is wanted in Massachusetts for posing as a federal agent and luring a robbery victim with a vehicle he said he was trying to sell, according to the Cambridge Police Department.

While riding in the bait vehicle with the victim, Baldasaro ordered the man to pull over, placed a gun against his head, stole $4,000 cash and an iPhone from him, and then told him to run away or be shot, police said.

In Maine, Baldasaro is accused of posing as a Bay State businessman and defrauding a family out of $7,000 in a fraudulent investment deal, according to the Sagadahoc County Sheriff’s Office.

He also stole a 2009 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo from a dealership in Maine, and was driving the vehicle during the Chesterfield robberies, Chickering said. The Jeep has shiny black paint and a rear license plate with “GOV” written at an angle on its left side.

Baldasaro was last seen at about 11:30 the night of the convenience store robberies at the Riverside Hotel in West Chesterfield near the Brattleboro town line. The hotel, which is owned by Saba’s brother, was not robbed and Baldasaro’s motive in going there remains unknown.

“If he’d rented a room, we would’ve caught him,” Chickering said.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: May 05, 2009

The retrial of a man accused of robbing a Keene bank was delayed again because a core witness has indicated police misconduct and planted evidence tainted the case, court documents show.

Jesse Garcia’s retrial at Cheshire County Superior Court was scheduled to begin today after several postponements, but his court-appointed attorney, Theodore W. Barnes, was granted more time to build his case.

Garcia, 32, faces three counts of armed robbery and one count of being a felon in possession of a weapon in connection with a midday heist in August at the Bank of America in downtown Keene. His new trial date has not been set.

Barnes said during the first trial in November that Garcia was the victim of a setup and that his ex-girlfriend, Cynthia Wood, was at the center of the frame job. Wood was angry with Garcia because he left her for a stripper, Barnes said.

In asking for another continuance in the trial, Barnes cited a pair of letters Garcia received in jail from Wood. The letters “call into question the truthfulness” of what Wood told the police and a jury during Garcia’s first trial, Barnes wrote in his request.

Wood’s letters “partially identify” a person who may have planted evidence that was used to connect Garcia to the bank robbery, Barnes’ request states.

Wood also claims in the letters that police investigators were aware of evidence that proved Garcia’s innocence, but ignored it and moved forward with the case against him, according to Barnes.

Barnes and prosecutors will question Wood under oath about the letters during a court hearing scheduled later this month.

Wood could refuse to answer certain questions about the letters by invoking her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. The court would then determine if she has a valid argument to remain silent.

The process will help Barnes and prosecutors prepare questions for Wood during the retrial.

In other pretrial maneuverings, Barnes unsuccessfully attempted to keep out of court a ski mask and pellet gun Wood said she found among Garcia’s belongings and turned over to police.

Garcia’s DNA was found on the ski mask and the pellet gun, which matched witness descriptions of the bank robber’s weapon, Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kathleen G. O’Reilly said during the first trial.

O’Reilly, the lead prosecutor in the case, did not respond to a message left at her office seeking comment on Wood’s letters to Garcia.

Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed and Barnes also declined to comment on the substance of the letters, which have not been made public.

Barnes said the letters are his “priority one” in proving Garcia’s innocence. But he is still considering hiring a private investigator to interview jurors from the first trial in an effort to prove Garcia did not receive a fair trial.

Jurors who spoke with The Sentinel after the mistrial said the jury was leaning toward acquitting Garcia when they left the court’s deliberation room for a weekend break. When they returned to court Monday, the jury favored a guilty verdict.

Barnes said he suspected some jurors disobeyed the judge’s orders and read news accounts of the trial, which mentioned Garcia’s previous convictions for armed robbery. His criminal history was not disclosed during the trial.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: April 22, 2009

The Hancock man who plotted to kill the mother of his young son was sent to prison today for at least eight years as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Guido “Tony” Boldini, 43, pleaded guilty in Cheshire County Superior Court to one count of solicitation to commit murder, a special felony that carries a 30-year maximum prison sentence.

Boldini and his public defender, Hampton W. Howard, struck a deal with prosecutors for a N.H. State Prison sentence of eight to 20 years in exchange for the guilty plea.

Boldini answered Judge John P. Arnold’s questions about his competency and guilt during the brief hearing, but said nothing else. He was handcuffed at the waist and his head had been shaved since his arrest in September.

Boldini and his mother, Constance “Connie” Boldini, 76, were taken into custody after they met with an undercover police officer posing as a hit man named “John,” and offered him $10,000 to kill Michelle Hudon during a videotaped conversation, according to Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed.

Heed said the case Keene police prepared against the Boldinis was among the tightest he’d ever seen, because of the ample evidence they were able to gather against the duo.

“That’s one of the reasons we’re here for a prompt resolution,” he said in court.

Guido Boldini hatched the murder-for-hire plan because he wanted to protect his 4-year-old son, who he believed was being abused at Hudon’s home, Howard said in an interview before today’s hearing.

“This case is fundamentally a tragedy. Our enormous love for our children and concern for their well-being can sometimes sweep away our judgment and lead us into terrible error,” he said. “Mr. Boldini was desperately concerned for the well-being of his child and simply did not believe the state could successfully protect the child.”

Guido Boldini admitted to hatching the murder plot shortly after he was arrested, and he never tried to place the blame on his mother, Heed said.

Guido Boldini also has no criminal record, which played a role in the plea deal, he said.

While Hudon was not in the courtroom, she wrote a statement that victim witness coordinator Priscilla L. DeHotman read before Guido Boldini was sent to prison.

Hudon thanked the police investigators involved in the Boldinis’ case for “the life you all saved and the lives you’ll save in the future,” along with prosecutors for the “swift and just outcome.” She also called DeHotman a “bright star in her tumultuous life.”

She said she will allow the young boy at the center of the incident to decide whether he wants to meet with Guido Boldini when he is released from prison.

The boy, who still lives with Hudon, will be “able to protect himself mentally” when that time comes, she said.

As part of the plea deal, Guido Boldini was barred from contacting Hudon.

Constance Boldini and her Keene attorney, Christopher F. Wells, struck a plea deal with prosecutors nearly two weeks after Guido Boldini negotiated his deal.

She expects to serve 41/2 to 15 years at a state prison. Her age and lack of a criminal record factored into her pending sentence, Heed said.

If a judge hands down a sentence that is harsher than Constance Boldini expects during her sentencing hearing, which has not been scheduled, she may back out of the deal and pursue a jury trial.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: April 21, 2009

The Hancock mother and son at the center of an alleged murder-for-hire plot have struck plea deals with prosecutors, court documents show.

Guido “Tony” Boldini, 43, and Constance “Connie” Boldini, 76, each face one count of solicitation to commit murder, a special felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of 30 years.

The Boldinis met with an undercover police officer acting as an assassin named “John” in September in a Keene parking lot, according to Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed.

During a conversation that was captured on surveillance video inside John’s vehicle, the Boldinis agreed to pay $10,000 to have a woman murdered and provided photographs of their target, according to Heed.

Guido Boldini signed a notice of intent April 2 indicating he will plead guilty to the murder plot in exchange for a N.H. State Prison sentence of eight to 20 years.

He is expected to plead guilty in front of a judge and be sentenced Wednesday at Cheshire County Superior Court.

If the judge hands down a sentence that is harsher than Guido Boldini expected, he can back out of the deal and pursue a jury trial.

Any defendant who signs a notice of intent form is not locked into a guilty plea. The form is simply a statement of intent, and the guilty plea is not official until the defendant confirms it during a court hearing.

Twelve days after her son notified prosecutors of his intent to plead guilty, Constance Boldini took the same step.

Her pending deal is for 41/2 to 15 years at a state prison. She also may back out of the plea if she doesn’t like the judge’s sentence. Her court hearing has not been scheduled.

Constance Boldini’s age and lack of criminal record factored into her plea negotiation, Heed said.

Heed declined to comment further on the details behind the Boldinis’ plea negotiations until they have their plea and sentencing hearings in court.

Constance Boldini’s Keene attorney, Christopher F. Wells, did not respond to a message seeking comment on the case.

Guido Boldini’s public defender, Hampton W. Howard, also did not return a message seeking comment.

The apparent target of the murder-for-hire plot, Michelle Hudon, was involved in a custody dispute with Guido Boldini, her ex-boyfriend and the father of her young son, neighbors who were familiar with the situation told The Sentinel.

The neighbors also said Hudon and Guido Boldini were involved in a conflict over land. Constance Boldini owns nearly 44 acres off Bonds Corner Road in Hancock, where she and Guido Boldini lived before their arrests, according to property records. Hudon’s home sits on 5 acres at the edge of Constance Boldini’s property, and Guido Boldini believed that if he obtained Hudon’s land he would have an easier time selling his mother’s property, the neighbors said.

They said Guido Boldini believed Hancock was becoming too populated and wanted to use the profits from the sale of his mother’s property to relocate to a remote area in Canada and live off the land.

Hudon, who was trying to sell her house and land when the alleged murder plot was hatched and foiled, has not been reachable for comment.

She obtained a restraining order against Guido Boldini in March 2007 after she accused him of pulling their son out of her arms and punching her in the chest. Guido Boldini’s pending plea negotiation bars him from having any contact with Hudon.

The Boldinis have declined comment through Cheshire County jail Superintendent Richard N. Van Wickler. They remain at the jail in Westmoreland.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: April 16, 2009

Letters from a jilted ex-girlfriend to a man awaiting retrial in a bank robbery case indicate he may have been framed, according to his attorney.

Jesse Garcia, 32, sits at the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland awaiting a second trial after the first ended in November with a deadlocked jury.

Prosecutors say Garcia robbed the Bank of America branch in downtown Keene in August. Garcia’s court-appointed attorney, Theodore W. Barnes, said it was a setup.

Barnes has filed a request to have the second trial rescheduled from May 4 to a later date, because of a pair of letters Garcia’s ex-girlfriend, Cynthia Wood, sent him in jail.

His request also cites a delay in receiving court transcripts from the first trial.

Barnes writes in his request that Wood makes statements in the jail letters that “call into question the truthfulness” of what she told Keene police and, later, the jury when she took the stand during last year’s trial.

Wood also partially identifies a person who may have planted evidence that was used to connect Garcia to the robbery and indicates that the police were aware of evidence that proved Garcia’s innocence, according to Barnes.

Garcia was arrested at a Brattleboro hotel after Wood went to the police with a pellet gun and a black mask she said she found among Garcia’s belongings. Prosecutors say that the bank robber used both items during the crime.

Wood later testified in court that she was furious with Garcia when she went to the police because he left her for a stripper.

Barnes declined to comment on the jail letters when reached at his office in Manchester. He said in court during the first trial that he believed Wood framed Garcia, and suggested that her son committed the bank robbery.

Cheshire County Superior Court Judge Brian T. Tucker has yet to answer Barnes’ request for a continuance. Tucker has denied several other requests Barnes filed in preparation for the retrial.

Barnes asked that the pellet gun and ski mask be kept out of court because Wood’s testimony linking Garcia to both pieces of evidence was unreliable.

Tucker decided to let the next jury determine Wood’s credibility, and ruled they should see the pellet pistol and ski mask.

Technicians at the state crime lab in Concord found Garcia’s DNA on a cutting of fabric from the ski mask, and witness descriptions of the robber’s gun match the appearance of the pellet pistol, according to Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kathleen G. O’Reilly.

Barnes also asked the court for additional funding to hire a private investigator to track down the original jurors and determine whether their deliberative sessions were tainted by news coverage of the trial, which detailed Garcia’s previous conviction for armed robbery.

The jurors were initially leaning toward acquittal with an 11-1 vote, but came back after a weekend break between deliberations with a vote of 9-3 in favor of conviction. Barnes said he took the wild swing in votes as a sign of a tainted jury.

When asked to describe the eight hours of deliberations that led to the mistrial, jury foreman Mark Griffin held out his trembling hands as evidence of how high tensions ran.

He said jurors were yelling at each other as they discussed Garcia’s guilt or innocence. Griffin said he believed Garcia was guilty.

“I’m certainly upset about the outcome. I find it to be very frustrating,” he said. “Unless the guy was tackled in the foyer of the bank and held until police arrived, it’s difficult to come to a unanimous decision with all the different personalities involved in this jury.”

Barnes also writes in his request for a private investigator that Griffin’s “vehemence” and “emotion” may have affected other jurors and the outcome of the trial, furthering his concern about jury prejudice.

O’Reilly argued that jurors were repeatedly instructed to avoid news accounts of the trial as it was unfolding and during deliberations, and that there was no evidence that showed they disobeyed those orders. Tucker agreed, and denied Barnes’ request.

Barnes said he is exploring other options to track down and interview the jurors, but declined to comment further on the case.

If he was able to prove juror bias, Barnes said previously that he would try to convince a judge that retrying Garcia is unconstitutional.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: April 10, 2009

Forty miles outside Keene earlier this week, a 35-year-old man with a history of dealing drugs was gunned down during a home invasion.

The brazen murder unfolded in the middle of the afternoon in a seedy section of a city that supplies a large amount of the cocaine and heroin that ends up on local streets, according to Keene police.

While insulated from much of the drug violence that plagues larger cities such as Fitchburg, Mass., where the violent death is being investigated, the Elm City still has no shortage of buyers willing to shell out big bucks for hard drugs.

In recent weeks, city police, working with the N.H. Attorney General’s Office Drug Task Force, among other agencies, have arrested four alleged dealers trafficking cocaine into Keene from other Bay State cities, including Boston, Holyoke and Springfield.

The Keene police have noticed an alarming increase in cocaine and heroin arrests, along with dealers who are trading drugs for guns.

“Over the years I have seen cycles for everything, and it seems as if we are on the upswing for people trading drugs for weapons,” said Keene police Lt. Peter S. Thomas, who has 27 years of law enforcement experience.

“As most people involved in crimes have some sort of conviction, they are unable to lawfully purchase a weapon. If they desire a weapon they must purchase it illegally.”

The dealers who travel to Keene for business often set up shop in hotels, motels, apartments and houses for a few days at a time, selling their drugs as quickly as possible to a steady stream of customers.

The method is nothing new — dealers have been selling from rented or borrowed rooms in Keene for years — and it can be an effective way to avoid the police, especially if the dealer is unfamiliar with the city, Thomas said.

“On different occasions we have had heroin dealers, cocaine dealers and crack cocaine dealers stay at local hotels for a short period of time,” Thomas said. “It is a way for someone outside the area to have an established ‘safe base’ for operations.”

Hotel and motel employees frequently work with the police in drug investigations, Thomas said. Citing “investigative reasons,” he declined to discuss how the employees assist the police and how successful they are in spotting dealers.

‘You can only sit in a car for so long’

Because drug investigations are tedious and usually involve dozens if not hundreds of hours of surveillance and other forms of intelligence gathering, such as recruiting confidential informants, not all police officers are gung-ho about going after dealers.

The decision-makers at a police department may also be apprehensive about jumping into drug investigations because they can strain an already-thin budget.

“A drug investigation is a lot of time consumption and a lot of boredom followed by a very quick culmination, the actual arrest,” Thomas said. “You might spend 12 to 15 hours in a car doing surveillance. You can only sit in a car for so long before you start to go crazy.”

The Keene Police Department, though, has a small group of officers who excel at busting dealers and one officer in particular who has a knack for prying information from sources and turning criminals into informants, which has been one factor behind some of the recent arrests, Thomas said.

“I don’t want to make it sound like one officer is the driving force behind all these cases,” he said. “While we have an officer who has a strong interest in these types of cases and does a great job of following up on it, he’s not alone in the effort.”

During an undercover operation in late March, detective Charles I. Newton of the state drug task force and a confidential informant orchestrated a crack cocaine deal with a man from Holyoke known as “Black.” He was later identified as 21-year-old Dexter Thaxton, according to an affidavit Newton wrote.

The affidavit provides the following details about the surveillance operation that led to the arrest of Thaxton and his alleged accomplice, 22-year-old Springfield resident Orlando L. Rodriguez:

After several recorded cell phone conversations with the informant, Thaxton rented a room at the Holiday Inn Express in Keene, where he stashed a scale for weighing drugs behind a bed pillow. He had two to three ounces of crack.

When the police raided the hotel room, Thaxton and Rodriguez tried to flush crack down the toilet before they were handcuffed. They had been coming to Keene to sell drugs every week for “many months,” and only stayed for a day or two during each visit, Thomas said.

The crack deal with the informant took place in the hotel room, after Thaxton and the informant drove to a nearby gas station to buy cigarettes as drug agents followed in an unmarked car. The informant gave Thaxton $300 in cash, which the drug agents provided after documenting the serial numbers on each bill, then the two discussed trading drugs for guns during future meetings.

After the informant completed the deal and walked out of the hotel, drug agents gave him $50 for his help and secured the crack he bought as evidence.

The agents stuck around and witnessed three other apparent crack deals in less than four hours between Thaxton and a local woman who has yet to be charged with a crime.

The agents also watched their informant return to the hotel to see Thaxton again, this time without their authorization.

When he was later confronted by the agents, the informant admitted to setting up a crack deal between Thaxton and a Vermont man who is under investigation for drug sales. The informant had been working with the state since March 2008 — he was immediately released from the program.

‘We don’t necessarily choose informants’

Informants are rarely caught buying drugs from the dealers they’re helping the police bring down, Thomas said. Most of them have a good reason to stay in line, at least while they’re working with the police, he said.

“We don’t necessarily choose informants. They choose us. They’re either people who are in trouble and seeking to help themselves out, or people trying to help their communities,” Thomas said. “It’s usually the latter. We don’t often have people coming to us saying they’re fed up with their drug dealer.”

In exchange for their help, informants are typically given leniency come sentencing time on whatever criminal charges they face, or the charges are dismissed, in addition to a small cash payment. But mercy from the courts seems to be the biggest incentive.

“Certainly if you have a judge looking at someone who’s in trouble and they’ve put their own person at risk helping the community, a judge is hopefully going to take that into consideration when handing down the sentence,” Thomas said. “But that’s not the case every time.”

‘There is no drug haven here’

In Fitchburg, Police Chief Robert A. DeMoura is dealing with the city’s first murder of 2009, while he continues to wage war against drug-dealing locals. DeMoura called Fitchburg a “source city for narcotics,” but said he was unaware of its connection to Keene, though not surprised.

When DeMoura became police chief in Fitchburg a year ago, he immediately put his decade-long experience in street-level drug investigations as a narcotics officer in Lowell, Mass., to use. He said he sat down with state police and planned a covert operation aimed at dealers. The four-month operation netted 30 arrests.

“This sent a clear message to a large population of our city; I would assume that word travels fast and a percentage might have moved to parts unknown,” he said. “This may be one cause” of the upswing in drug arrests in Keene.

Identifying drug houses and having police officers go out and perform “knock and talks” at the residences to gather information; stopping suspicious vehicles; patrolling problem areas; and “following the money” trail from street-level dealers to their suppliers are techniques DeMoura said he relies on daily in his city’s war on drugs.

But in Keene, there are no drug corners or consistent hotspots of drug activity, according to Thomas, which makes life more difficult for the city police investigating dealers and drug crimes.

“We don’t have the same concentration like they have on street corners in larger cities,” he said. “Any place where there’s a congregation of people has a potential to be a drug area. There is no drug haven here. If we were aware of it, we would saturate it.”

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: March 25, 2009

A Connecticut man who was sent to prison Tuesday for committing a string of alcohol-fueled crimes in New Hampshire is a modern-day Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, his public defender said.

Kenneth W. Jefferson, 36, pleaded guilty in Cheshire County Superior Court to charges of robbery, theft, criminal mischief, receiving stolen property, reckless conduct and being a felon in possession of a gun.

Jefferson was sentenced to N.H. State Prison for four to 12 years, followed by a suspended jail sentence of 31/2 to seven years. The jail sentence could be imposed if he gets into any more trouble with the law in the next 15 years.

“I think you realize you’re lucky you didn’t kill someone,” Judge Brian T. Tucker said before handing down the sentence. “You’ll have to use the time in prison to turn things around, otherwise you’ll find yourself back here.”

The series of crimes that led Jefferson to Tucker’s courtroom began the weekend of June 13, 2008, when he began drinking and tried to kill himself by crashing a car into a tree in Hamden, Conn., public defender Alex S. Parsons said in court.

“He wanted to die, but he was afraid to do it,” Parsons said. “He was afraid to put a gun to his head and pull the trigger.”

The failed suicide attempt was the start of a five-day bender in which Jefferson stole a gun and a dump truck, robbed two convenience stores, led police on a high-speed pursuit and escaped in a stolen SUV, according to an affidavit prepared by N.H. State Police Sgt. Russell B. Lamson.

Jefferson said in court that his life went into a downward spiral when he was a teen and his parents split. He said he started drinking and smoking marijuana, and later developed a serious cocaine habit and became an alcoholic.

He’d been an honor student in high school and was accepted to the University of Notre Dame, but was unable to attend after the divorce, he said.

He was convicted of assault, burglary and criminal restraint in Connecticut and Vermont in the mid-1990s and early 2000s, according to Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Melissa A. Pierce.

In 2006, Jefferson was sent to a Connecticut prison for six months on a larceny conviction. He received substance abuse treatment in prison and managed to stay sober for a year before the crash, but fell off the wagon after he lost his girlfriend and his job.

“I just didn’t have the will to live anymore,” said Jefferson, a large, stocky man with a shaved head and a dark black goatee.

“There are two Kens: The normal Ken, when he’s not drinking, who is good and nice and a family man and a hard worker,” Parsons said. “Then there is the Ken who is affected by drugs and alcohol.”

After walking away from the crash, Jefferson stole a dump truck from a construction site two miles away. He then drove to a friend’s house in Wilmington, Vt. He stayed there for three days, and stole a Tec-9 submachine gun from his friend before leaving, Pierce said.

A surveillance camera at the Wal-Mart in Hinsdale recorded Jefferson trying to buy a single bullet and arguing with a clerk who refused to sell him one, Parsons said. Jefferson eventually bought a box of bullets and left the store.

Witnesses later saw Jefferson speeding out of a gas station in Spofford, where he pumped $100 of fuel into the dump truck without paying.

He walked into a convenience store in Dummerston, Vt., that evening and ordered the clerk to give him money while displaying the submachine gun tucked in his waistband, but the clerk refused and he left after stealing a 12-pack of Twisted Tea, an alcoholic beverage, according to police.

Early the next morning, Jefferson tried to rob the Big S Discount Store in Winchester, and was also turned away. He stole five cartons of cigarettes before he walked out.

“They thought it was a joke,” Parsons said of the two clerks who refused to give Jefferson any cash. “It was almost laughable. It was, frankly, pitiful, desperate and despondent.”

Jefferson still planned to kill himself after he crashed the car in Connecticut, but kept putting suicide off to continue drinking and committing crimes, Parsons said.

“This was a terrified, wounded animal acting out of extreme despondency and intoxication,” he said.

Winchester police spotted the stolen dump truck and chased it into Massachusetts, then back into New Hampshire at speeds that reached 100 mph. The truck’s front tires blew out during the pursuit, and the rims shot sparks off the pavement as the chase continued, according to Pierce.

The truck eventually turned into Pisgah State Park in Winchester, where it stopped and suddenly reversed into a cruiser driven by N.H. State Police Trooper Sean Eaton, setting off the airbag and causing minor injuries to Eaton’s head.

Fellow Trooper Daniel Brow attempted to shoot out the truck’s rear, dual tires as it drove deeper into the park.

Jefferson then ditched the truck and disappeared into the woods. He emerged hours later and stole an SUV parked in a driveway on Old Spofford Road.

Days later, Jefferson’s ex-girlfriend told police that she picked him up in Connecticut after he ditched the SUV. He was arrested without incident July 3.

Jefferson became teary-eyed and choked up while apologizing in court for what he’d done.

He said he believes his addiction may be the result of an undiagnosed bipolar disorder, and that his drinking and drug use is self-medicating.

“I can’t apologize enough to the people I’ve hurt,” he said, “and I will do all I can to get the help I need.”

The sentencing hearing in Cheshire County was only the beginning for Jefferson.

His case in Connecticut is resolved, but he still faces charges in Massachusetts and Vermont stemming from the chase and first convenience store robbery.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: March 17, 2009

A big drug problem is festering beneath the surface of this little city, police say.

Cocaine and heroin appear to be flowing into Keene at a higher rate than in previous years, although police aren’t exactly sure why.

“We are seeing more of it,” Keene police Lt. Peter S. Thomas said. “It’s just hard for me to say if it’s from enforcement efforts or if there’s more of it out there or if people are just being sloppy.”

The spate of bank heists that plagued the city last year and many of the property crimes that frustrate residents and police on a daily basis can be traced to local drug addicts, Thomas said.

“A lot of our breaking into vehicles and into homes is all related to the drug activity in the area,” he said.

The bulk of the drugs in Keene are coming from nearby Fitchburg, Mass., Thomas said. Other large suppliers include Boston and Hartford, Conn., he said.

For drug dealers based out of larger cities, Keene represents an untapped market, because competition from other dealers is weak and buyers are willing to shell out more money.

“The prices are drastically greater here than in Boston,” Thomas said. “You pay two or three times more here (for a drug) than what you’d pay in Boston, because of the options you have there and the distance” dealers have to drive to deliver their goods to Keene.

Moving past the dealers to focus on the suppliers

Two suspected street-level drug dealers have been arrested in Keene since late February. Both men are accused of trafficking drugs into the city.

“We have also made some arrests that you’re not aware of because they’re part of ongoing investigations,” Thomas said.

“We’re looking to move past the street dealers to their suppliers.”

A weeklong drug-dealing investigation involving a single suspect can consume more than 70 working hours.

“If an officer’s working 40 hours on street patrols, it doesn’t leave a lot of time to devote to this sort of thing,” Thomas said.

City police officials say the department is already stretched thin, and the number of drug investigators is expected to dwindle this summer. That may mean less time to devote to drug investigations.

“With manpower issues looming as they are, we may have to scale back a little bit,” Thomas said. “We’re already short one guy and we’re going to be short another guy in July with a retirement. When we have shortages we must take people from other positions and put them on patrol instead of doing investigative work.”

Police say they broke up drugs-for-guns trade

The latest publicized arrest in the city’s drug battle came Friday, when Raymond Wolfe, 32, of Boston was arrested during a traffic stop.

Detectives received a tip that Wolfe was coming into the Elm City to trade drugs for handguns, and began investigating him about a week before his arrest, Thomas said.

“You get somebody like that, we’re not going to mess around with him,” he said. “We want them in jail. We don’t want them around firearms.”

Wolfe attempted to swallow a few small bags of crack cocaine and to discard some marijuana before he was arrested, Lt. Eli Rivera said Monday during Wolfe’s arraignment in Keene District Court.

Wolfe has multiple drug-related arrests and convictions out of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and was sentenced to serve three years in a Bay State prison in 2003, Rivera said in court.

Rivera asked that Wolfe’s bail be set at $50,000 — the judge agreed — after calling him a “danger to society.”

Three weeks before city police closed in on Wolfe, they arrested a man who is also suspected of trafficking cocaine into Keene from Massachusetts.

Naik Howard, 30, was arrested after a monthlong investigation. Like Wolfe, he was picked up during a traffic stop.

Investigators had information that Howard was storing guns at a Citizens Way residence, and city police did not want to confront him there, Thomas said.

“It’s also a timely thing because these guys will change their methods and ways and habits to avoid the police,” he said. “When we receive information, we need to act in a reasonably quick time frame.”

Howard had been bouncing between multiple residences in Keene for about a year before he was arrested, Thomas said. A search of the Citizens Way residence turned up crack cocaine, handguns and rifles, Thomas said.

He said the search also revealed evidence that may lead to the arrests of lower-level drug dealers who were helping Howard.

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: March 14, 2009

Five years ago, a jury acquitted Brian R. Chevalier on multiple charges alleging he raped and terrorized his ex-girlfriend, a Jaffrey woman, but convicted him on a single count of kidnapping related to the incident.

The jurors deliberated for two days, then came back with the conviction minutes before Cheshire County Superior Court was scheduled to close for the weekend.

Chevalier, 42, now sits in a state prison in Berlin, serving a sentence of 10 to 30 years.

The conviction carried a harsher penalty because Chevalier, formerly of Merrimack, had prior convictions for property crimes.

Throughout his 2004 trial and ever since, Chevalier has maintained his innocence.

“I’m not claiming to be an angel,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been in prison before. But I did not do this. I did not rape or kidnap anyone. I’m just hoping that somebody will take another look at this case.”

Two former police officials have taken up Chevalier’s cause, and they aim to free him from prison.

State Rep. Dudley “Dan” Dumaine, R-Auburn, who spent 15 years as a Keene police officer, and John M. Healy of Warner, a retired N.H. State Police lieutenant, believe Chevalier is innocent.

They base this belief on an analysis of the ex-girlfriend’s written statement to police, and what they say are inconsistencies in her retelling of events surrounding the kidnapping and alleged sexual assaults to hospital workers, prosecutors and investigators.

During his trial, Chevalier’s public defender, Hampton W. Howard, said the ex-girlfriend concocted the rape and kidnapping story because her estranged husband and young daughter walked in on her and Chevalier the morning after they spent the night together.

The ex-girlfriend feared she’d lose custody of her daughter if her husband brought up her infidelity during divorce proceedings, Howard said. Dumaine and Healy agree with that theory.

“I truly believe that Brian is not guilty,” Dumaine said. “He is sitting up there in prison and he doesn’t belong there.”

*****

After leaving law enforcement, Dumaine and Healy became private investigators.

They didn’t know each other as officers, but their lives would intersect later, when Dumaine enrolled in one of Healy’s seminars.

Healy trains local, state and federal law enforcement officials on the use of a written statement analysis technique known as Scientific Content Analysis or SCAN.

The SCAN technique is used to examine the words a person chooses to describe an event, and can help investigators narrow their line of questioning during repeat interviews with the same person.

When used correctly, SCAN can be as effective as a polygraph test, according to Dumaine and Healy.

“This is very scientific,” Healy said. “Think of it just like you would a polygraph test. My analysis of a statement is only as good as my training and experience, just the same as a polygrapher is only as good as their training and experience.”

The technique can be applied to victims or suspects, but authorities most often use it on the latter.

“I would be hesitant to use it on a victim’s statement,” Keene police Lt. Peter S. Thomas said. “We don’t want to re-victimize the victim of a violent crime. I’m not saying we wouldn’t ever use it on a victim, it just isn’t something we’ve ever done as far as I know.”

Two Keene police officials have received SCAN training and they’ve successfully used the technique in conjunction with other investigative methods, Thomas said.

“It’s a tool we use to get to the truth,” he said. “We have an officer who’s solved numerous cases with this. It’s not just this technique by itself, but it certainly played a role.”

*****

Healy was teaching a SCAN seminar in Boston after Chevalier’s conviction when a police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, brought in the sworn statement Chevalier’s ex-girlfriend gave to authorities.

The officer handed the three-page document to Healy, who analyzed it and began using it during his seminars as a textbook example of a potentially deceptive statement.

The ex-girlfriend’s statement begins just before Chevalier allegedly ambushed her inside her basement when she returned from work. She wrote that he forced her upstairs and said he wanted to spend one last night with her before being sent back to prison for violating his parole.

“Whenever you see a statement that starts at the significant or main event, the author is hiding everything that happened before that,” Healy said. “That is a huge red flag to me or anybody else that studies this.”

Other “red flags” include the way the woman referred to her husband and Chevalier later in the statement, the investigators say.

She wrote: “My estranged husband was not pleased that I had violated his homestead by permitting Brian in.”

The person introduced near the end of a statement — in this case it’s the husband — is often the factor that triggered the initial allegation, Healy said.

He said the most obvious sign of deception is when a person uses the term “we” to describe his or her relationship with an alleged attacker.

“The whole statement was alarming, but the most important thing is that there ain’t no ‘we’ after a rape. She never uses the term before the rape, but afterward she uses it at least five times,” he said. “When you’re reading a statement by a victim you will never see ‘we.’ The person cannot psychologically use the term ‘we’ after they’ve been frightened, assaulted or raped.”

*****

While Healy used the ex-girlfriend’s statement during his seminars, the identity of its author and subject remained a mystery. Chevalier’s last name was redacted from the statement and the ex-girlfriend’s name was omitted.

It wasn’t until Dumaine attended one of Healy’s seminars in 2005 that the two met and considered tracking down Chevalier.

The two private investigators uncovered Chevalier’s last name by digging through public records and old newspaper clippings. Dumaine finally visited Chevalier in prison in March 2008.

“I was told that a private investigator was here to speak with me,” Chevalier said. “I didn’t want to see him at first because I had no idea what it was about.”

Dumaine was persistent, though, and eventually convinced Chevalier to leave his cell and meet him in a visiting area.

“I was sitting waiting for him and he walked in with his arms folded with a look on his face like, ‘What are you up to?’ He stood there in the doorway and you could see the attitude,” Dumaine said. “He recognized that I was part of the system and he thought I was there to hurt him.”

Dumaine avoided discussing Healy’s analysis of the ex-girlfriend’s statement with Chevalier. He only said that he was there to help.

When Chevalier started talking, his story matched what Healy had gleaned from the ex-girlfriend’s statement.

“He gave me a blow-by-blow description of his relationship with this lady,” Healy said. “When he was finished, it literally mirrored what John had said. It was amazing.”

*****

Dumaine and Healy, who are not being paid for their work on Chevalier’s case, want to overturn his conviction or convince a judge to grant him another trial.

Chevalier has exhausted his appeals to the state’s courts and is now trying to convince the U.S. District Court in Concord that he deserves an evidence hearing, a new trial or the dismissal of his conviction. He is awaiting a judge’s ruling.

Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kathleen G. O’Reilly, who prosecuted Chevalier, and Jaffrey Police Chief William J. Oswalt, who investigated the case when he was a detective, declined comment.

Several attempts to reach Chevalier’s ex-girlfriend were unsuccessful.

Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed also declined to comment on the concerns raised by Dumaine and Healy, but said his office stands by the conviction.

“Obviously we support any verdict that a jury reaches until such time as a judge tells us otherwise.”

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By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: February 04, 2009

The world is a different place today than it was when a West Chesterfield mother and daughter disappeared eight years ago.

New wars, presidents and technologies mark the passing of time. Each tick of the clock slowly covers the remaining tracks of Tina and Bethany Sinclair like footprints disappearing in the snow.

No bodies. No activity on bank accounts. The house they lived in off Mountain Road has been demolished.

The only remaining traces of the Sinclairs are haunting photographs, forgotten belongings, a slew of questions and a lingering sadness among those they left behind.

Family members of Tina Sinclair, who was 34 when she disappeared, and Bethany Sinclair, who was 15, remain vigilant in their quest for answers and some sort of closure to a painful mystery that has dragged on far too long.

Tina Sinclair worked at the Keene Beauty Academy and as a visiting nurse for a quadriplegic man. She picked up her daughter, a Keene High School student, from a local movie theater and drove her home the night of Feb. 3, 2001. They were never seen again.

“I still look at their pictures and talk to them. I’m not crazy, but you do that. I miss them terribly and I still wish they would come home,” said Tina Sinclair’s mother, Mary E. Lewis.

“Just the idea of them being gone for eight years … I get discouraged sometimes, but then I think, ‘Maybe we’ll find them.’ You just have to keep going.”

Searchers with the police, private organizations and the Sinclair family have combed forests and explored the Connecticut River with divers and sonar equipment, but remain empty-handed.

One private search party brought in cadaver-sniffing dogs in the fall of 2007. They trekked over hundreds of square miles in Chesterfield for seven days, eventually locating a spot where their dogs detected the scent of human remains.

“We ended up getting an excavator and going out and digging in the woods off Route 9 in the Old Chesterfield Road area,” N.H. State Police Sgt. Russell B. Lamson said. “We must have cut four or five cords of wood just to get the excavator back there. We were there all day, but we didn’t discover any evidence.”

Police investigators have entered the Sinclairs’ dental records and other identifying information into a national database that is used to match unidentified remains with missing persons, Lamson said.

“A few unidentified remains have popped up on the radar. Any time a police agency finds something they call us because they know we’re looking. It happened a couple times last year. Nothing matched,” he said.

“We’re also still getting tips and we always follow up on those. It’s just with each year the number of tips we get decreases.”

The desperate Sinclair family consulted a California psychic a few years ago who claimed to have seen a pair of bodies in a cave on the side of a mountain in Chesterfield. The vision never panned out.

They also hired award-winning private investigator Gil Alba, who worked for 27 years as a New York City police detective.

“We’re still active on the case,” Alba said. “Every time we get a lead we follow it up. I went to Chesterfield in April and did some more interviews. We’re also looking for evidence: body parts, clothing, maybe a murder weapon. Anything we can find.”

Alba is also looking at Eugene V. Bowman Jr. Bowman was dating and living with Tina Sinclair before she went missing. Police have called him a person of interest in the case.

“The problem with a case like this is joining the evidence together with the person of interest,” Alba said. “You have to keep working on them and that’s what we’re doing.”

Bowman is still living in New Hampshire, according to Alba. He said he has not spoken with Bowman. Attempts to reach Bowman for comment were unsuccessful.

Police searched Bowman’s residence a few months after the Sinclairs disappeared, but what they seized and what they were looking for may never be made public because the state Attorney General’s Office refuses to release the warrants.

The Keene Sentinel won an argument in the city’s District Court to view warrants that detailed the search, but the state’s Supreme Court reversed the decision. The Court ruled that the warrants should stay sealed while police are working the case.

Tina Sinclair’s sister, Sharon Garry, stated in an e-mail that she and her family remain disturbed by the disappearances and are frustrated by the lack of information.

“The anger, hatred, confusion and nightmares have shredded through me and made me into a person I don’t even recognize anymore,” Garry wrote. “The holidays, birthdays and family gatherings were like a bad dream because Tina and Bethany weren’t there.”

A memorial for the Sinclairs will be replaced at a bend in the Connecticut River off Route 9 in West Chesterfield to mark the grim anniversary, Garry said.

The first two memorials, a cross and a photograph of the Sinclairs mounted on a plaque, were stolen.

Garry urged others to visit the memorial and light a candle in memory of her sister and niece.

She said she will never stop searching for them.

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