Police working with newly-sworn county attorney to improve prosecution, sentencing outcomes

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Manchester Police Headquarters

MANCHESTER, NH – Steps are already underway to ensure solid communications between newly elected Hillsborough County Attorney John Coughlin and the Manchester Police Department.

Police Chief Allen Aldenberg, at a meeting Wednesday of the Manchester Police Commission at the Manchester Community Resource Center on Lake Avenue, said police have already talked with Coughlin, who has 40 years of legal experience and served for 14 years as a New Hampshire Circuit Court judge. For 14 years, he also was a member of the NH Human Rights Commission.

Coughlin was sworn in Wednesday as the county’s chief law enforcement official.

Aldenberg said an assistant county attorney now will be working out of the police department three days a week to help with cases and ensure successful prosecutions.

“This is a step in the right direction,” Aldenberg said.

Coughlin defeated incumbent Michael Conlon, whose tenure as county attorney was embroiled in controversy.  Communication between his office and Manchester police, as well as police departments across the county, was strained.

For nine months, beginning in September 2019, the NH Attorney General took control of the county office after police decried what they viewed as lenient sentences negotiated by Conlon’s staff.

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Hillsborough County Attorney John Coughlin/Courtesy Photo

Attorney General Gordon MacDonald asked the embattled Conlon to resign that September after Manchester police were angered on learning from social media about the sentences negotiated for the parents of a 20-month-old toddler, who died after ingesting cocaine in the couple’s Hevey Street apartment.

Joshua Garvey, the father, pleaded guilty to negligent homicide and was given a 10- to 20-year sentence, with five years suspended if he successfully completes a specific self-help program.  If he does, he will serve only five years.

Christen Gelinas was not charged in connection with her child’s death. Instead, she was charged with trafficking cocaine and fentanyl, and common nuisances.  She received a total sentence of 8 1/2 to 17 years and forfeited $12,423 to police.

Police learned of the negotiated pleas on social media which infuriated then Manchester Police Chief Carlo Capano.

Another case that caused outcry was that of Damien Seace, 35, a self-described Nazi, arrested in the July 23, 2019 beating death of Jennifer Burpee, 45, inside her apartment at the Henry J. Pariseau hi-rise.

Nine months earlier, on Oct. 29, 2018, Seace was arrested for second-degree assault after, with his handsaround Burpee’s neck choking her, he yelled he was going to murder and bury her, according to court documents on file in Hillsborough County Superior Court Northern District. The charges were later dropped by Conlon’s office after Burpee recanted.

Seace is serving a life sentence without possibility of parole after he pleaded guilty to first-degree murder.

In other business, commissioners were informed of three more resignations of officers with a total combined service of 64 years to the police department.

They include Capt. Joseph Mucci, commander of administration which includes communications, crime analysis, recruitment and training, who has 23  years on the police force.   Mucci, whose last day is Feb. 16, is taking a job as a training officer with Sig Sauer.

Also retiring are Lt. Paul Thompson, a 21-year-veteran, and Officer Edward Devereaux, who has 20 years with the department.  Thompson’s retirement is effective Jan. 29 while Devereaux’ last day is Feb. 1.

About this Author

Pat Grossmith

Pat Grossmith is a freelance reporter.