Hampton Union's Top Stories of 2011: Year Marked by Triumph and Tragedy

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Friday, December 30, 2011

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- News stories in 2011 brought us drama and tragedy. There was a murder, a drowning at Hampton Beach and an attempt to dump Fred Welch as Hampton's town manager.

It was also a year of many triumphs, such as local resident Ralph Fatello catching his 365th wave in his quest to surf for an entire year to raise money to fight cancer, the Winnacunnet High School girls basketball team winning its fifth consecutive state title and the Stanley Cup visiting Hampton.

Today, we look back at the Hampton Union's most notable news of 2011:

Winnacunnet girls win fifth straight state title

The Winnacunnet High School girls basketball team celebrates after winning the program's fifth consecutive state title in March. The Warriors are off to a 3-0 start in Division I in the 2011-12 season, extending their winning streak to 73 league games and 82 overall, including holiday tournament contests. [John Carden photo]

Winning a high school state championship is special. Winning five championships is extremely rare, and that is exactly what coach Ed Beattie and the Winnacunnet High School girls basketball team accomplished on March 12.

The Warriors, led by Kirsten O'Neil's game-high 17 points, defeated Londonderry 55-46 at Southern New Hampshire University and ended the season with a 22-0 record in Division I. Some opponents may have thought (or hoped) the Warriors would slip a bit after the 2010 graduation of Tiffany Ruffin, who moved on to Boston College after leading WHS to four championships and winning three New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year awards. It turned out the Warriors' talent pool was plenty deep enough to win another title in 2011.

The winning has continued in the early part of the 2011-12 season. Winnacunnet has won 73 straight Division I games, including a 3-0 start in league play this season. The Warriors have now won 82 straight games overall, including holiday tournaments, after a pair of victories in Portland, Maine, this week. One of those wins came over defending Maine Class A champion McAuley.

Fatello catches wave 365

With support from his good friend Buck Rowlee, at right, Ralph Fatello, left, completed a quest to "Catch a Wave for Molly: every day for a year, raising money for cancer research through the Molly Fund. Fatello surfed daily at North Beach in Hampton, through the cold winter months and completing his quest on July 26, 2011. [Rich Beauchesne photo]

Ralph Fatello finished his quest in 2011 to surf every day for an entire year in memory of Molly Rowlee, a 5-year-old girl from Hampton who died after a battle with cancer.

He has surfed through a recurring back injury, a concussion, snowstorms, torrential downpours and an arctic chill that made water on his wetsuit immediately turn to ice — all to raise money for the Molly Fund.

Fatello started the Catch a Wave for Molly journey on July 26, 2010. He completed wave 365 on July 26, 2011 with a party at North Beach surrounded by family and friends.

He took on the challenge 10 years after he completed a similar feat, raising $33,000 for the American Diabetes Association in memory of his father, who died from complications of the disease.

Girl's body found off shore of Hampton Beach

The start of the summer season at Hampton Beach got off to a somber start when a 12-year-old girl drowned on Memorial Day.

The body of Nayelin Encarnacion, of Lawrence, Mass., was found 16 hours later on June 1 in the same area where she was last seen swimming after an extensive search by the Coast Guard and local authorities.

Encarnacion had been swimming with her 20-year-old brother, Walter Maldonado, at the beach across from K Street when both swimmers became distressed shortly before 8 p.m. Monday. A bystander, later identified by authorities as Richard White, helped Maldonado out of the water shortly after.

Encarnacion's death was believed to be the first drowning at Hampton Beach since July 4, 2005, when Carlos Reyes, 35, of Marlboro, Mass., and Alex Tapia, 26, of Worcester, Mass., drowned after they were caught in a rip current.

Texas mother kills son in Hampton

The death of Camden Pierce Hughes — a 6-year-old, blond-haired, blue-eyed Texas boy — at the hands of his mother sent shock waves through Hampton.

The boy was suffocated by his mother Julianne McCrery, 42, at the Stone Gable Inn on Route 1 in Hampton. McCrery — who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Nov. 4 — stayed at the hotel, killing her son and dumping his body in South Berwick, Maine, on May 14.

McCrery traveled from Texas to New Hampshire in an apparent murder-suicide plot, but the poisonous Castor bean she took didn't end her life.

She was arrested at a Chelmsford, Mass., rest stop, where she told police she went to Maine to kill herself and "didn't want her son to live without her."

She admitted to police that gave her son some NyQuil and laid on top of him while he was face-down on some pillows. Prosecutors said Camden struggled, while flailing his arms and legs, for three to four minutes before dying.

As part of negotiated plea deal, McCrery will spend the next 45 years to life in a state prison.

The Fred Welch controversy

The selectmen's deadlock vote on whether to retain Fred Welch as town manager, caused much turmoil in the later half of 2011. Whether he stays on the job won't be decided until after the March 2012 election.

Selectmen approved a three-month extension for Welch after being deadlocked on offering him a new one-year contract when his pact expires March 11, 2012.

All five selectmen said they supported the extension from a timing standpoint. A new Board of Selectmen, they said, would be coming on after March elections, about the same time the town manager's contract would have ended.

The deadlock vote arose because Selectmen Bill Lally and Rick Griffin were in favor of keeping Welch, while fellow board members Jerry Znoj and Michael Pierce were opposed.

Selectmen Chairman Richard Nichols said he abstained because at the time he had an interest in the town manager's position.

Znoj and Pierce have been mum on their reasoning for voting against renewing Welch's contract, calling it a personnel issue. They said their decision was based on a selectmen review of the town manager that was conducted in February.

Sewer disks, seals land on beaches

Millions of sewer disks washed ashore along the Seacoast beaches in 2011. [Rich Beauchesne photo]

In March, close to 4 million small plastic disks landed on beaches in the Hamptons and Seabrook, and other beaches in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts. The disks were accidentally released from the Hooksett wastewater treatment plant, necessitating a massive clean-up.

The disks were used to treat bacteria in the sewage treatment process and were discharged in a water overflow as a result of heavy rains and melting snow, according to Hooksett officials.

The disks, slightly larger than a half-dollar, were carried down the Merrimack River, into the ocean and onto beaches north and south. Initial reports carried concerns about the possibility of contamination and warnings were issued for beachgoers to avoid touching the disks unless gloves were worn.

The washing up of dead harbor seals in September at Hampton and other local beaches also drew much attention. At least 162 seals washed up from southern Maine to northern Massachusetts. Necropsies on five seals revealed they died from a new strain of influenza.

1988 rape suspect charged

Days after the anniversary of a decades-old cold case, Hampton police announced they had found the man wanted in connection with 1988 kidnaping, rape and attempted murder of a Massachusetts woman. The attacks, authorities said, were committed in both the Bay and Granite states.

Valentine Underwood, 49, of Tehachapi, Calif., was charged with the crimes by both Massachusetts and New Hampshire police. DNA evidence was credited for identifying the California inmate serving two life sentences for the 1991 rape and murder of two women.

Massachusetts authorities said DNA from Underwood matched DNA collected during the crime's investigation, leading to his arrest.

Police said that, on May 19, 1988, a woman driving in Andover, Mass., was kidnapped, raped, stabbed and left for dead on May 20 off Interstate 95 in Hampton.

Underwood is accused of stabbing the woman in the side, perforating her liver, and attempting to cut her throat, the indictments say.

The then-24-year-old woman — who was discovered by a passer-by and taken to Exeter Hospital — survived the attack.

WHS core subjects controversy

The Winnacunnet School Board came under fire this year after they took a vote to implement year-long courses in core subjects, beginning with English and math for all freshmen and sophomores in September 2012.

The board created its core subjects mandate, in part, because the school is ranked 63rd among 81 New Hampshire high schools in New England Common Assessment Program testing and is listed as a "school in need of improvement."

Many students and teachers, including the two Marine Corps Junior ROTC instructors who resigned form their positions, feared the changes would result in a loss of elective courses.

While the administration and teachers said they were not opposed to core subjects being taught year-round, they opposed the implementation time line outlined by the board. Teachers made their frustrations public, releasing to the media their no-confidence vote in the board and asking parents to get involved.

The board finally reversed its decision on Dec. 14, ending months of controversy — at least for a while.

The issue, however, is not dead.

The board voted to go along with Winnacunnet High School Principal Bill McGowan's plan to study the issue and report back in May with a plan that would be implemented in the 2013-14 school year.

Seabrook residents stand up

Twenty members of the Seabrook community, including members of the town's Police Department, met at the Seabrook Library on June 20. By fall, more than 100 volunteers were participating in the Seabrook Watchdogs program. According to Kiki, a founding member who declines to give her last name for publication, the effort is "growing every day."

"Anonymity is paramount," said Kiki, who has followed that philosophy since the group's inception.

"People are afraid of retaliation," she said. "Living in fear is not an option."

Money was raised to purchase 50 neighborhood watch signs that have been posted around town.

Mackensen stays on as financial adviser

Former trustee of the trust funds member Warren Mackensen opted not to run for re-election in order to remain on as the board's financial investment adviser, overseeing the town's $15 million Hampton Beach real estate fund.

The trustees of the trust funds voted 3-2 in April to give the contract to Mackensen & Co. after interviewing eight finalist firms that wanted to take over the account.

The Hampton-based company has been executing trades on behalf of the fund since November 2010, when the trustees voted 3-2 to terminate the board's contract with TD Wealth Management.

The trustees were forced to go out to bid in March 2011 after the attorney general's office ruled there was a conflict of interest because at the time, Mackensen, was a trustee.

While Mackensen claimed there was no conflict because he was not charging the town for his services, the attorney general's office ruled his firm received an indirect benefit by overseeing a trust of this magnitude because it could be used in his company's promotional materials.

Seabrook Police Sgt. arrested for DWI

The career of a 30-plus veteran of the Seabrook Police Department, who is also a former state representative, came to an end after he was arrested and charged with driving while under the influence.

Preston, 51, pleaded guilty Tuesday, Dec. 13 in Newburyport (Mass.) District Court to driving while intoxicated, agreeing to a plea deal that results in him losing his driver's license for 90 days and being placed on probation for 18 months.

Preston was off duty July 31, when Salisbury, Mass., police charged him with driving while under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene after property damage and a marked-lanes violation.

After his arrest, Preston was put on paid administrative leave by Seabrook Police Chief Patrick Manthorn. Days later, Preston tendered his resignation.

Hayride accident at Applecrest

The community came forward in October to aid the family of Joan Perkins, who was seriously injured when she tried to stop a runaway horse carriage at Applecrest Farm in Hampton Falls.

Applecrest owner Peter Wagner and at least one witness lauded Joan Perkins' actions on Sept. 25 as "heroic" as she stepped in front of a team of Belgian horses in attempt to control them after being spooked by a mechanical malfunction on one of the hay wagons at the farm. She owns the horses with her husband, Lloyd.

According to N.H. State Police, troopers responded to Applecrest Farm at 133 Exeter Road (Route 88) at about 2 p.m. to assist Hampton Falls police with an incident involving two carriages.

Wagner said he believes the accident could have been worse if it wasn't for Perkins stepping in to gain control of the horses.

North Hampton voters reject school additions

Voters at North Hampton School District election in March turned aside a proposal to build a $2.5 million four-room addition to the North Hampton School.

The article that asked voters for permission to bond the money for the addition needed a three-fifths positive vote to pass. Not only did the article fail to get the required vote, it failed to pass entirely.

The addition had called for two new classrooms, two science laboratories, six handicapped-accessible bathrooms and more additional storage/instructional spaces.

School Board Chairman David Sarazen said at the time he has every intention of resubmitting this addition plan or a similar one to voters in 2012.

"The issues haven't changed." Sarazen said. "It's fair to say that in New Hampshire it takes two to three years to get something like this passed."

Stanley Cup comes to town

Danielle Kooyoomjian of Hampton rushes to pose for a photo with the Stanley Cup as it travels along Lafayette Road on Dec. 3 during the Experience Hampton Christmas Parade. [Ioanna Raptis]

Boston Bruins fans around New England were ecstatic in June when the team won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1972. Hampton-area Bruins fans were thrilled again when the NHL's top prize, known as the most famous trophy in sports, came to town Dec. 3 for the Experience Hampton Christmas Parade.

The gleaming trophy, which traveled the parade route accompanied by both former Bruins and current hockey players from Winnacunnet High School, was displayed in the uptown fire station for a couple hours after the parade. Some die-hard fans, though, got off to a much earlier start.

"We got here at 11 this morning. We aren't missing it — no chance," said Ryan Turcotte, who along with his father, Ron, and friend Glen Suchocki, were the first in line to see the cup.

"I've been waiting 39 years," the elder Turcotte said, referring to when the Bruins last captured the NHL title.

People were admitted in several groups at a time, taking a moment to give a $2 donation designated for the Hampton Community Coalition and Hampton Youth Association. The HCC and HYA received $6,750 each in proceeds from the cup's appearance in town, which included a $100-per-person breakfast event at the Galley Hatch.

"We have been waiting our whole lives," said Linda Marshall of Hampton. Her sister Lauren Kenney, who has been waiting "since Bobby Orr," compared being in the presence of the cup to "a religious experience."

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