Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘PEOPLE’ Category

By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff
The Keene Sentinel: January 09, 2009
Years before Michael Addison murdered a police officer and became the first state resident in half a century to face execution, he showed up at a center for troubled youths seeking help.

Gilsum resident Steve Bernstein was running that center, Compassionate Connections in Manchester, and said he saw hope in Addison.

Addison was in his early 20s and had the rap sheet and rough upbringing that was ubiquitous among the young people Bernstein knew.

What set Addison apart from some of the others, Bernstein said, was his optimism and drive to succeed. He said Addison wanted an education and to learn a trade.

“He had a rapid realization that there was hope. A lot of people would be doubtful and skeptical and cynical in his situation,” Bernstein said. “This is a young man, at that time, with all the baggage he was carrying around, who really wanted to change his life.”

Addison came to Bernstein’s center in 2001 with a group of acquaintances with gang ties and significant criminal backgrounds, Bernstein said.

He said he saw many new faces come through the center’s doors, but they often failed to return or their visits were sporadic at best.

“Michael came in one day and more or less never left for a good year or so,” he said. “If people would come and show up and show up and show up I knew they were more serious than not. And he kept showing up.

“This is a guy who would wake up every day and have to weigh out if he was going to go out and do drugs and sell drugs or if he was going to come down to my teen center and not make any money.”

What Bernstein had to offer Addison and others like him was a career opportunity through his connections with various employers in the community. He would determine what they enjoyed, whether it was carpentry or tattoo artistry, and hook them up with a professional in that field.

“Michael was looking at me and my work as a way to better himself,” Bernstein said. “My sense is that he never got that kind of one-on-one attention before and he never got that kind of interest in him as a person before.”

Growing up in the crime-infested South Bronx “jungle” of New York City gave Bernstein firsthand knowledge of the allure and negative consequences tied to the street life.

Bernstein said he began committing petty crimes when he was young and eventually landed in jail.

“They fortunately had a wonderful mentoring program where I was able to do jail alternatively and I was taught a trade,” said Bernstein, now a master plumber. “My mentor was a guy who was in my shoes when he was younger. My work now is largely related to my experience with him.”

Under Bernstein’s guidance, Addison obtained his driver’s license, sought counseling for his behavioral problems and began pursuing his GED. Addison also expressed interest in becoming an electrician, and Bernstein said he was working on setting him up with an internship.

“I saw a sociability developing,” Bernstein said. “I would say he was getting more comfortable with his surroundings, and that was largely based on him developing a sense of hope for his future. That was certainly not in the cards for him before.”

Domestic violence, drug addiction, alcoholism and neglect shaped Addison’s upbringing, according to Bernstein and court testimony in Addison’s capital murder trial.

“Here was a young man who showed up to change his destiny,” Bernstein said. “He was as good if not better than most that I’ve ever met.”

Addison never left the center. The center left him. After working with Addison for about a year and a half, Bernstein said the grant money that was the lifeblood of his center dried up and he was forced to close its doors.

The next time he saw Addison’s face it was on the news.

Manchester police Officer Michael Briggs was trying to stop Addison in October 2006 in an inner city alley when Addison turned on him and fired a bullet into his head. Briggs later died at a nearby hospital, leaving behind his wife and their two sons.

“This was a good guy, a great cop and a great person,” Bernstein said.

Briggs may have been among the dozens of police officers who visited the center to interact on neutral ground with the city’s troubled youths, he added.

Bernstein now sees Addison, 28, through prison glass. The two visited before and during the trial.

They talked about sports and current events, especially the presidential election. Addison enjoyed seeing Barack Obama elected, Bernstein said.

“He was excited about an African American becoming our president. Not with respect to him (Obama) maybe cutting him some slack,” he said. “He was just very articulate about politics. It wasn’t racially motivated. If this guy had gone to school I think he would have been a very eloquent speaker.”

They talked about the murder mystery and detective novels Addison likes to read. They even talked a little about what was happening in the courtroom, but were restricted from discussing details of the shooting or the case because of the ongoing trial.

“Michael never talked about his guilt or innocence, the goodness or badness of his deeds. It was more like, ‘I’m here.’ I got the impression that the last thing he wanted to talk about is what he did,” Bernstein said. “He talked around it. He told me what he didn’t do, that he didn’t premeditate the murder.”

A member of Addison’s team of public defenders, Richard C. Guerriero of Concord, said Addison and Bernstein have a close relationship. He said Addison feels he can depend on Bernstein.

“Steve has been very supportive and a trustworthy and reliable friend to Michael and it’s very much appreciated,” Guerriero said. “He’s in a fairly desperate situation and regardless of what you think of the case it’s good to have people support you.”

Bernstein recently received authorization to visit Addison for the first time since he was sentenced to death. He said he expects they’ll pick up where they left off, which is exactly what happened during their first prison visit when they’d been apart for more than four years.

As Addison’s attorneys appeal his sentence, Bernstein is still fighting to change lives.

He oversees the AIM High apprenticeship, internship and mentorship program in Keene, which is similar to his first program in Manchester.

Fifteen youths are enrolled at Bernstein’s center. Many of them are high school dropouts. Some have substance abuse problems. Others come from broken homes.

Bernstein is determined to give them all an opportunity at a better life.

“The doors don’t open for the Michael Addisons of the world,” he said, “that’s why my work exists.”

Read Full Post »

By PHILLIP BANTZ
The Keene Sentinel: January 24, 2008
They gather twice a week beneath bare light bulbs and exposed rafters inside a barn attached to a house in Keene. Their backgrounds are as varied as their ages.

Wrestlers, boxers, martial artists and street brawlers — all glad they’ve found a place to fight, and it’s legal.

This barn is a hidden jewel, an oasis for the small group of combatants that Ben Knight invites into his home and his life. And there’s no membership fee or any hidden charges. It’s all free.

A former Keene High School wrestler, Knight, 30, now has five professional mixed martial arts fights under his belt. But after losing every match, he decided to train harder before stepping into the ring again.

He needed five stitches in his forehead to close a gash opened by his opponent’s elbow during a November fight in Atlantic City.

Mixed martial arts, led by the flagship promotion Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, has expanded in the past decade into a thriving industry.

From monthly pay-per-view shows to regular television programming, there is much available for followers — some of whom are inspired to try it themselves.

“It’s a brutal sport,” Knight said. “You have to be ready to go out and give a beating and take a beating.”

Shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday, the fighters begin to file into Knight’s makeshift gym on Water Street. It’s quiet and you can hear the hum of a space heater. One of the guys jabs a punching bag hanging from a rafter. Another sits on a donated wrestling mat stretching his legs.

Within 10 minutes, the small barn with plywood walls and no insulation is crowded with more than a dozen men, ages 18 to 37. A rap CD begins to play on a boom box on a shelf in the corner. They form a circle and launch into a series of warm-up exercises, shadow boxing and hopping in place to get the blood flowing.

Some of the fighters are wearing pajama pants and others have on gym shorts or sweats. They’re all wearing socks.

Henry Poitras, 25, of Keene leads the group, yelling “uppercut” and “hook.”

A Marine with a background in grappling or submission wrestling, Poitras joined Knight’s club, which has no official name, about six months ago after hearing about it from a friend.

Others, like Greg Somerset, 24, also of Keene, responded to Knight’s recent classified ad in The Sentinel asking fighters to come and train with him.

Of the 60 curious men and women who called about the ad, only six showed up to fight and three have stuck with it, Knight said.

Somerset had been used to fighting on the street, he said, but now he’s learning the art of combat, the myriad of styles and techniques with one efficient purpose: knocking out or making an opponent tap out in the ring.

“This is legal, legitimate,” he said. “We’re learning some useful skills.”

During a recent training match, Somerset was caught by another club member’s fist and his nose was broken.

“I heard a pop,” Somerset said, “and I just kept going.”

After warm-ups and a few grappling demonstrations, the fighters shed their socks, split into two groups and begin fighting on the ground. Each member fights every person in his group for 30 seconds.

A small cut opens up between Poitras’ eyebrows during his first match. It’s impossible to tell exactly what happened — the action is quick — there’s just a smear of blood across his forehead.

Despite first impressions, the training and fighting is relatively safe and most injuries are sprains and sore joints. The fighters use mouthpieces and wear shin pads, gloves and some use headgear.

As the guys toss each other around on the mats and throw a few punches and leg kicks, Knight’s girlfriend, Jessica Ashline, stands quietly in a doorway looking into the barn as a self-described “innocent bystander.”

“I know that it always looks worse than it actually is,” she said. “It’s really grown on me.”

Make no mistake, the club isn’t about a few guys getting together to beat the pulp out of each other. They’re here to hone their skills and, maybe, become professional fighters.

Adam Castor, 29, has been training “seriously” for the last four months. Like Knight, he wrestled for Keene High School. Now he’ll be fighting his first amateur bout March 15 in Plymouth, Mass.

“I just want to challenge myself,” Castor said, smiling. “I want to go and see what happens. It’s not always about fighting. It’s strategy. If you go out there swinging, you’re probably going to lose. It’s usually the smarter guy who wins.”

Many of the club members are training to fight as amateurs, then professionals. Others have simply found something constructive to do with their lives.

“It’s something to do in this town,” Jesse Warren, 22, of Keene said. “Without this, I’d be doing nothing, sitting at home.”

Napoleon Methe never misses a training session in the barn. The slim 22-year-old from Fitzwilliam said he’s working on a dream.

“This is what I want to do with my life,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to do anything, and now I’ve found something to do. I’ve just always wanted to be a fighter ever since I was little.”

As the night’s session closes, Knight’s no-frills gym is a din of noise. The fighters are laughing, joking with each other and throwing a few mock jabs and grappling moves. The place smells like a locker room and it’s considerably warmer than it was two hours ago. Everyone seems energized.

“I want to come here all the time,” Methe says. “Just being able to make friends with these guys makes it worth it.”

Knight hopes to have a proper gym some day and a sponsored team of professional fighters. He also wants to host a live fighting event in Keene, perhaps at The Colonial Theatre or the high school gym where he used to wrestle.

But for now, Knight said he would settle for a few more wrestling mats and some insulation for the barn.

“I don’t want to make a business out of it really,” he said. “I just want to do it for fun.”

Read Full Post »

By PHILLIP BANTZ
The Keene Sentinel: June 11, 2008
The very different lives of a Claremont optometrist and Lempster construction worker with identical names became entangled this week after one of the men leapt off a bridge and plummeted to his death.

Jason M. Fulton was sitting in an excavator Tuesday morning when his 64-year-old mother called in a panic.

“She said, ‘Oh my God am I glad to hear from you.’ She thought I was dead,” Fulton said.

“It’s ironic because just before she called I was thinking about how lucky I am. I couldn’t possibly be in a happier place in my life right now. The last thing on my mind would be jumping off a bridge.”

On Monday afternoon, Dr. Jason M. Fulton left the Brattleboro Retreat — where he was being treated for depression, according to a colleague — and walked about a mile and a half to the West River Bridge on Interstate 91.

Passing motorists called 911 when they saw Fulton, a successful optometrist with a young daughter and pregnant wife, leaning over a guardrail near the center of the bridge.

Vermont State Police Sgt. Michael S. Sorensen arrived with other troopers, who stopped traffic and attempted to talk Fulton out of jumping.

“I just asked what his name was. He said, ‘Jason.’ He wouldn’t say anything else,” Sorensen said. “Then he just jumped.”

Fulton fell approximately 110 feet into the West River. He was pulled from the water by Brattleboro police officers, but died hours later at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital.

When Sorensen returned to his barracks later that afternoon, he searched the Department of Motor Vehicles records database for a Jason M. Fulton. The results indicated that one lived in Lempster.

Sorensen distributed reports of Fulton’s death, which included the erroneous address, to newspapers and television stations throughout the region. A correction was issued Tuesday afternoon.

The other Fulton had already been inundated with phone calls from distraught family members and friends.

“I had to recharge my cell phone a few times,” he said. “It’s definitely made for an eerie day. It’s just strange.”

The situation went from bizarre to infuriating when officials at the Goshen-Lempster Cooperative School pulled his daughter, 9, and son, 14, out of a field trip and gym class, respectively, Fulton said.

“My daughter was standing there and overheard them telling my ex-wife that they’d confirmed I was dead,” Fulton said. “They took my son out of class and had him sitting for 45 minutes in limbo.

“Not once did they try to call my parents or call me or anyone in my family,” he said. “Not once did we receive a phone call, which I found a little upsetting. I just can’t understand what they could have been thinking.”

Principal Thomas J. Fitzgerald said he tried to call Fulton’s mother and other family members, but could not reach them.

Fitzgerald was told about the death by mutual aid dispatchers.

“I had the unenviable task of calling the children’s mother,” he said. “I was the one that broke the erroneous news to her that her ex-husband had committed suicide.”

Fulton’s children were never told by school staff that their father was dead, Fitzgerald said.

He defended the school’s actions and blamed local media and police for any stress or trauma Fulton’s children may have experienced.

“If it’s released by police and it’s in print, what do you expect us to do?” he said.

Tammy L. Jackson, Fulton’s sister, said their mother has been “absolutely traumatized” and their family was still recovering from the shock.

“My mother was getting calls of sympathy,” she said. “It was pretty horrible.”

Jackson questioned why police didn’t contact Fulton’s next of kin to confirm his identity and address.

“It’s pretty disappointing that the state police could be that far off,” she said. “It just seems absurd to me that they could be that lackadaisical.”

Dr. Fulton’s family found out about the suicide before it was reached by authorities, which is why reports of his death were relayed to local media, and there was no reason to suspect a mix-up, according to Sorensen.

“If we had known there was another Jason Fulton walking around we would have tried to deal with that,” he said. “In my 18 years of being a trooper, this is the first time I’ve ever seen anything like this happen.”

Dr. Fulton’s age is still not clear. Initial reports from state police said he was born Dec. 27, 1973, which is the other Fulton’s date of birth.

“That would just be too bizarre,” Fulton said. “I mean, we were thinking that this could be some sort of identity theft, but it doesn’t look like that at this point.”

Although the two Fultons lived in nearby towns, their paths never crossed. They never even received each other’s mail.

Sometimes, though, other people would mistake Fulton for a doctor who lived in Claremont.

“It’s come up in conversation a couple of times. I kind of joked about it the first time someone asked me if I was a doctor. I enjoyed it, you know, because I’m just a construction worker,” Fulton said. “I just want his family to know that I feel horrible about what happened. I’m sure they must be suffering terribly.”

Dr. Fulton’s wife, Roberta, is expected to give birth to a baby boy in about a month.

He also left behind a daughter who will celebrate her second birthday in July, said Dr. Frank E. Reed of Reed Optical in Claremont.

“This is a very sad, sad thing,” said Reed, who worked with Fulton for the past two years. “Jason was probably the most decent, kindhearted man I’ve ever met. Maybe he was too kind. He was very sensitive and, I don’t know, I guess he just became overwhelmed with life’s issues.”

Roberta Fulton is staying with friends, according to Reed, and could not be reached for comment.

The Fultons were religious and very active in their local church group. Dr. Fulton also enjoyed playing tennis and golf, Reed said.

“On the outside, he seemed pretty normal to me. It was my hope that he and his wife were going to buy my optometry business some day,” he said. “I did know he had been struggling for three or four months with depression. Apparently he had struggled with depression in the past, which recently came to light and was unbeknownst to me.”

Fulton had sought mental-health treatment at the N.H. State Hospital and, a week before he committed suicide, checked into the Brattleboro Retreat after experiencing a relapse, according to Reed.

“The last time I saw him was the Friday before he went to the retreat. He had a washed-out look,” Reed said. “His eyes had almost become black. It was a sad and difficult thing to see.”

Reed and others who knew Dr. Fulton will likely be grappling with his death, and the series of events that led him to the edge of the bridge, for years.

“He had such a bright future. He was making a good living. He had a beautiful wife and a beautiful little girl and a son on the way,” Reed said. “It’s almost like you can’t believe that someone can sink to that depth and commit such a final act. It’s hard to fathom.”

Read Full Post »

By PHILLIP BANTZ

The Keene Sentinel: February 16, 2008

One raw winter night years ago, Fay L. Gemmell was called to an apartment in Keene. The minister was needed.

An infant had frozen to death in its crib.

The young parents were shivering when Gemmell arrived. Their breath was visible in the frigid air. In the corner, a dog and her puppies huddled together to stay alive.

“That dog could take better care of its puppies than the couple could take of their child,” Gemmell said. “It was indescribably awful.”

Then drift from that hellish place to a celebration, a wedding.

Gemmell is marrying two young people, perhaps future parents. He sees them staring into each other’s eyes, envisioning their futures entwined.

“Sometimes I see things that are so holy,” Gemmell said, “that I think I must divert my eyes.”

For Gemmell, now 87, there is no such thing as a literal heaven and hell. But he says there are glimpses of each during our waking lives.

“I don’t believe in heaven and hell concepts. I believe I’ve had heavenly moments and hellish moments,” Gemmell said while sitting with his dachshund on a leather couch at Langdon Place of Keene one recent afternoon.

“Sometimes right here in this place, some little old lady or little old man will say something to me with a smile on their face that’s so sublime,” said Gemmell, his grayish-blue eyes lighting up. “To me, that is heavenly.”

The son of Nebraska farmers, Gemmell spent his childhood in a “little house on the prairie.” It was a lonely and contemplative life, he said, but one that fed his rampant imagination.

“Early on I learned to draw something from the immenseness of the prairie,” Gemmell said. “I think the rim of the prairie was the end of the world for my parents. As a child, I was always curious about what was over that horizon.”

It was the loneliness of life in the flatlands that led Gemmell to his local church. The congregation would become his extended family. And a succession of young ministers would lead him to his calling, however reluctant he was.

“One minister who was very friendly told me that I should be a minister,” Gemmell said. “I said, ‘Yes, I agree … but I don’t believe in all that stuff.’ ”

And he still doesn’t.

Gemmell’s struggle with religion and some traditional Christian beliefs, such as the concept of an afterlife, has consumed him for decades.

“I have real arguments in my soul about religion, especially fanaticism,” he said. “Some of the evil that has been caused by religion tears and rips at me. Sometimes I’m ashamed of religion.”

Religion, though, has been an endless source of fascination for the curious Gemmell.

As a young man, he pursued a bachelor’s degree in humanities from Nebraska Wesleyan University, and then he left the prairie to seek out a master’s degree in theology from Boston University.

Coming to New England was initially an unpleasant experience.

The mountains made Gemmell feel claustrophobic. He longed for the wide-open expanse of the prairie.

“And then I saw the ocean,” he said. “And I saw the prairie in the ocean. I was okay.”

In Boston, Gemmell studied alongside a man who would later become the most famous human-rights activist in American history.

His classmate was Martin Luther King Jr.

“I remember those days as I watched him grow into fame,” Gemmell said. “I had no idea of the greatness that would come to him, but you couldn’t help but notice him. He had amazing courage. He spoke out from the beginning.”

Gemmell also spoke out, though not as loudly or famously as his classmate. He became a minister free of orthodox ties. Not a “pulpit-pounding preacher,” but a free thinker who encouraged others to do the same.

“I’m not orthodox anything,” he said. “I’m not a literalist. I wouldn’t think about cramming my views down other people’s throats. What really matters, the only thing that matters, is that you are nice and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Gemmell spent 30 years as a minister in various parishes in New Hampshire and Massachusetts before founding the campus ministry at Keene State College in 1963. He was the campus minister and counselor for 24 years.

“He’s ministered to the whole community in Keene. He’s been the older brother, the father figure for the whole community,” said Paul E. Cullity, the current campus minister and Gemmell’s longtime friend. “I think he’s more known and widely loved as a minister than anyone’s ever been in this area. He’s just incredible.”

Inside their rambling house in Keene, Gemmell and his wife, Charlotte, raised four children.

They enjoyed writing and art. They had countless discussions on religion and theology.

For more than two decades, Gemmell wrote a homespun philosophy column, “Proxy Pulpit,” for The Sentinel.

“It was just one man’s opinion about things great and small,” he said.

The Gemmells were also avid and talented gardeners.

Five years ago, Charlotte died. It happened just a few months before the Keene State College ministry building was dedicated to her and her husband. They had been married for 59 ½ years.

“I always stress that half a year proudly, like a boy when he says he’s 3 ½,” Gemmell said.

Charlotte suffered greatly before her death. Her stomach was removed because of the cancer. She lost a lot of weight. In the final days, she had dementia.

“It was a strange place to be … being relieved that she was gone. That the suffering was over,” said Gemmell, his head tilted up toward the ceiling of his small room. “People would say, ‘Aren’t you looking forward to seeing Charlotte again?’

“In one way, of course I would, but what Charlotte?” he said. “The 60-pound emaciated one? The beautiful girl at our marriage? Or the strong and vibrant 40-year-old pregnant woman?”

Then last September, death dealt another blow to Gemmell. His 61-year-old son Jon, an elementary school teacher, succumbed to complications from rheumatoid arthritis.

“It was a great loss and there was a great sadness,” Gemmell said. “I had to bury my son, a wonderful man.”

The minister who believes in neither heaven nor hell, who admits to being somewhat afraid of both, said he still enjoys entertaining the thought of an afterlife.

“It’s hard to conceive that my 87 years would be the end of it,” he said. “But the last thing I would fear would be oblivion. That would be better than some alternatives.”

Leaving his home for Langdon Place, an assisted living facility, was a heart-wrenching chapter in Gemmell’s life.

He left behind truckloads of memories. He threw away reams of his writings.

“What you bring is a few of your favorite things,” Gemmell said. “It’s very hard. Everything becomes a little more precious.

“It’s a dignified way of giving in and giving up, but not with great negativism,” he said. “It’s knowing what’s to come is the other side of life, more great experiences.”

As Gemmell speaks, his African grey parrot, a gift from friends, rocks back and forth on a perch in its cage.

Prince has a 100-word vocabulary. Each day after the sun sets, the bird mimics Gemmell’s habitual phrase, taken from an old children’s prayer, before the two go to bed.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,” Prince says.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,” Gemmell says.

When Gemmell drifts off, he’s already thinking about the next sunrise, the new light coursing over a distant prairie, moving toward the horizon.

“Each day when I wake up,” he said, “I think about what amazing thing is going to happen to me today.”

New England Press Association: Second place, human interest category.

Read Full Post »

By PHILLIP BANTZ
Sentinel Staff

The Keene Sentinel: Saturday, December 20, 2008

She was a young, aspiring teacher jogging along a quiet stretch of road in Keene when a heroin addict fell asleep at the wheel and changed her life in a flash of violence.

The Chevrolet Beretta veered off North Lincoln Street and plowed into Jenna Lydon, then 25, launching her over a chain-link fence, its jagged top edges tearing her skin. Her broken body landed in Woodland Cemetery.

The driver, 20-year-old Addison Southwick, a Swanzey man with a debilitating drug addiction and a criminal record, was given a chance at redemption Wednesday in Cheshire County Superior Court.

In exchange for what Judge John P. Arnold described as an “unreasonably light” jail sentence, Southwick agreed to assist Lydon and her family in a civil suit that could help put the young woman’s life back together.

Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed acknowledged the uniqueness of the case, saying it was the first time in his career that a pending lawsuit influenced the terms of a plea negotiation.

“This combines a criminal component with a civil component that will actually be helpful to the victim,” he said.

Southwick pleaded guilty to one count of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon — the car he was driving — and was sentenced to a year at the Cheshire County jail in Westmoreland followed by up to five years of probation. He must also enroll in a drug treatment program.

As part of the plea negotiation, Southwick is obligated to help Lydon’s attorneys — Lawrence G. Slason of Bellows Falls and Holly B. Haines of Manchester — obtain his medical records from the Keene Metro Treatment Center in Swanzey. The clinic was giving Southwick methadone treatments before the crash.

Slason and Haines said they are contemplating a lawsuit against the clinic, but without Southwick’s medical records, which are protected by federal privacy laws, their case would crumble.

Southwick also agreed to provide taped statements detailing his treatment at the clinic and the events preceding the crash.

Southwick told police investigating the crash that he smoked marijuana the evening before he received his methadone treatment, Haines said. He later fell asleep behind the wheel, she said.

Slason and Haines said they were still building the civil case, which they declined to discuss after the hearing.

If Southwick backs out of the deal with Slason and Haines, a judge could order him to serve a one- to three-year stint in New Hampshire State Prison on a conviction for heroin possession.

The sentence could also be imposed if Southwick gets into any more legal trouble in the next four years.

The conviction stems from a traffic stop in November, when Southwick, who was a passenger in the car, was caught with a heroin needle. He pleaded guilty to the charge during Wednesday’s hearing.

Southwick also pleaded guilty to one count each of marijuana possession and carrying a pistol without a permit during another traffic stop in February. He received two concurrent and suspended six-month jail sentences for those convictions.

A victim advocate speaking for Lydon said she and her family supported Southwick’s negotiated sentence, as it was their only chance at recovering more than $350,000 in medical bills and other financial losses tied to the crash.

Once an avid soccer player and jogger in training for a triathlon, Lydon said in court that she now struggles to walk normally, even after eight months of painful physical therapy.

Lydon was airlifted to a hospital after the collision and underwent numerous surgeries to repair her broken jaw, fractured leg and a shattered knee and eye socket.

She said she’s grappled with stress, anxiety and depression and has defaulted on her student loans because she can’t work.

“No matter how hard I try, I know words will never be able to describe the physical, emotional and financial harm Addison’s actions have caused me and my family,” Lydon said in her victim impact statement.

Lydon was two weeks from graduating with a master’s degree in education at Antioch University New England in Keene when the crash put her life on hold.

She planned to begin teaching elementary school full-time after graduation, but now lives with her parents in Milford and cannot care for herself.

At the conclusion of the emotional hearing, Southwick stood in court and faced Lydon and her family.

“I just want to apologize and say there hasn’t been a day that’s gone by that I haven’t thought about it and regretted it,” he said.

Southwick said he tried to visit Lydon in the hospital, but was turned away, and unsuccessfully attempted to call her after the incident. He said he left flowers and letters at the crash site.

“It’s been horrible for me,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “I apologize.”

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts