Hampton's Top Stories of 2012

Year Was Marked by Triumph and Tragedy

Staff Reports

Hampton Union, Friday, December 28, 2012

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

HAMPTON -- News stories in 2012 brought us drama and tragedy. There was the sale of a Hampton landmark, a hepatitis C outbreak caused by a "serial infector," and the tragic loss of Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney, who was killed in the line of duty just weeks before retirement.

It was also a year of many triumphs, such as the groundbreakings for both the new Seashell Stage at Hampton Beach and the new home of Smuttynose Brewery at Towle Farm.

Today, we look back at the Hampton Union's most notable stories of 2012.

Chief Maloney shooting

Early in the evening of April 12, Cullen Mutrie, 29, shot and killed Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney and seriously wounded four other officers of the N.H. Drug Task Force. Not long after, Mutrie would kill his girlfriend and accomplice, Brittany Tibbetts, 26, before taking his own life.

Local police and the Drug Task Force officers had gone to Mutrie's Post Road residence to deliver a search warrant as part of an investigation into Mutrie and Tibbetts' alleged sales of oxycodone.

It was the story of the year and one that had close ties to the Hampton area.

Maloney was a North Hampton resident and a Winnacunnet High School graduate.

His funeral was held on the same ball field at the high school where he played football.

He started his career as a part-time police officer in North Hampton in 1984 and worked his way up the ranks until 1997, when he was named the town's police chief.

Subsequent investigations, while honoring the heroism of the officers involved, question the approach and effectiveness of the failed raid.

The N.H. attorney general's report provides a harrowing look at what seems more like a violent movie script than reality.

Hepatitis Outbreak

Another story that had close ties to the Hampton area was the hepatitis C outbreak at Exeter Hospital.

David Kwiatkowski, 33, a traveling technician at Exeter Hospital, is accused of stealing syringes filled with the powerful pain medication fentanyl, then using saline to refill the tainted syringes that were subsequently used on patients in the cath lab.

Soon to be labeled a "serial infector," Kwiatkowski allegedly infected 32 patients at the hospital with hepatitis C, an infectious disease that primarily affects the liver and can be fatal.

As a traveling technician, he worked in at least 17 other hospitals across the nation from 2003 to 2011.

Kwiatkowski's alleged trail of infection includes patients in Maryland and Kansas, and it is still growing. Just last week, Maryland health officials announced four new cases of the same strain of hepatitis C that Kwiatkowski carries involving patients at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he worked from July 2009 to January 2010. Another case was also confirmed last week at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania.

Kwiatkowski is charged with seven counts of tampering with a consumer product and seven counts of illegally obtaining drugs. He pleaded not guilty to the charges and is being held at the Strafford County House of Corrections awaiting trial, which likely won't occur until late 2013.

WHS state champion

For a region that endured plenty of tragic and disheartening news this year, the high school football season was a breath of fresh air.

On one Saturday in November, the dramatic fall season hit its apex when an unprecedented four local teams played in state title games.

Three of those teams — Exeter, Portsmouth and Winnacunnet — came home as champions. The fourth, Marshwood, fell just short in a championship thriller.

On Nov. 17, Winnacunnet was a 21-13 winner over Bedford in the Division II final, claiming its first state title in 12 years

Sale of Hampton Beach Casino property

A big story of 2012 was the sale of the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

As the new majority owner of the Hampton Beach Casino property, pizza mogul Sal Lupoli said he's already spent a half-million dollars aimed at breathing new life into the century-old Hampton Beach landmark and plans to invest more dough in 2013.

"This is the beacon of Hampton Beach," said Lupoli, real estate developer and owner of Sal's Pizza. "The beach exists because of the Casino. This is about how we enhance that, not alter it."

Lupoli said he has no desire to tear down the building, but hopes to enhance the local icon, keeping the local businesses in place but also bringing in new attractions.

The site where he sees future redevelopment is the property he owns north of the Casino building that encompasses the Water Slide Park.

But, he said, no definitive plans are yet on the table.

Local beach officials say if Lupoli can do for Hampton Beach what he did for Lawrence, the future of Hampton Beach looks bright.

Lupoli also owns the Riverwalk Properties, 1.4 million square feet of business property along Interstate 495 and Merrimack Valley in Lawrence. When Riverwalk Properties was purchased in May 2003, the complex had fewer than 35 businesses and 300 workers. By the end of 2007, Riverwalk Properties had grown to more than 200 companies, employing more than 2,000 people.

Changing of the guard in Seabrook

Former Seabrook Town Manager Barry Brenner is gone and along with him goes $129,675.69 from the town.

Selectmen announced in September they had parted ways with the town manager after placing him on paid administrative leave in May without giving a reason.

Brenner had two years remaining on his contract. As part of the separation agreement, Brenner received payment of $110,080.08 in salary plus $19,595.61 in retirement pay.

But that wasn't the only major change in Seabrook in 2012.

In July, Everett Strangman was named the new fire chief, replacing Jeff Brown who retired in April.

Lee Bitomske was officially sworn in as the town's new police chief in November.

Bitomske had been filling the roles of acting chief and interim chief during the absence of Chief Patrick Manthorn, who had been out for medical reasons since April.

Carlson recipient of 2012 Milken Educator Award

Hampton has many great educators, but they don't always get the recognition they deserve, especially on the national level.

But this year, one of them did.

Marston music teacher Gus Carlson was named a 2012 recipient of the Milken Educator Award.

The Milken Educator Award is given to as many as 40 elementary and high school teachers nationwide every year who fit the criteria, according to Dr. Jane Foley, vice president of Milken Family Foundation, who presented Carlson with the award and the accompanying $25,000 check.

"We look for someone who represents the future of our profession," Foley said.

For Carlson, the award was a nice bonus for a job that he loves.

"I love teaching the kids, having a positive approach, making them enjoy school," Carlson said. "To me, it's such a big statement that the kids want to come to school and find education fun. I love hearing that they're singing my songs on the bus on the way to school in the morning."

Latin King drug ring broken up at Hampton Beach

Hampton police made a big dent in the local war on drugs after breaking up a significant supplier of drugs to the Hampton Beach area.

The May 4 raids at two homes in Hampton Beach and one in Seabrook, and the subsequent arrests, were the result of a yearlong investigation by multiple agencies. Search warrants were executed at about 8 that morning at 7 I St. and 7 Perkins Ave. in Hampton and at 71 Washington St. in Seabrook.

Authorities said they seized an unspecified amount of marijuana and cocaine from the three homes, along with several firearms, including one that was reported stolen.

Arrested during the raids were Jimmy "Jayda" Ambrosi and Andrew Wojtowicz, 24; Vicki Powell, 31; James Neptune, 27; and David Briere, 28.

Another, Reinaldo "Chooki" Ruiz, 24, was arrested May 7 on a warrant alleging possession of cocaine and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

According to the affidavit for a search warrant, Hampton police believe Ambrosi had a leadership position with a local chapter of the Latin Kings, and if he didn't meet his drug-selling quota, he would suffer consequences.

Smuttynose Brewery Groundbreaking

It was a long time coming, but Smuttynose Brewing Co. will soon have a new home.

The company took the first step in the construction of its new facility in August, with the formal groundbreaking on the future home of its state-of-the-art brewery on Towle Farm Road.

"This is thrilling; it really is," said Smuttynose President Peter Egelston.

Discussions about a new brewery began seven years ago and sites in Portsmouth, Newmarket and Kittery, Maine, were up for consideration. Once the best site for the project was discovered on the historic Towle Farm, it took several more years to secure financing for construction.

Multiple loans, including one from the Small Business Administration and a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant, finally made the goal of relocating the brewery from Portsmouth to Hampton a reality.

Construction on the new facility is expected to be complete in the fall of 2013.

New Seashell Stage at Hampton Beach

The new era at Hampton Beach began this summer with a ribbon-cutting ceremony making the recent completion of the $14.5 million renovation project that includes a new state-of-the-art Seashell Stage.

Gov. John Lynch cut the official ribbon on the new stage on June 1, saying the hard-fought project is only the start of changes at the beach.

"I truly believe this will continue to revitalize the entire beach for several years to come," Lynch said.

The new Oceanfront Pavilion complex, which features a new visitors center, function hall and stage with seating for 750, was the last of five new buildings completed as part of the project, which was funded in the state capital budget in 2009.

The redevelopment project also includes two new bathhouses, more organized parking, better marked streets and pergolas for shade.

Stiles vs. Hollingworth

It was the state Senate race between two Hampton icons, both boasting deep ties to the community and long lists of political achievements.

But in the end, the hometown showdown went to the incumbent. Nancy Stiles won a second term in the state Senate on Nov. 6, while challenger Beverly Hollingworth — whose long legislative history includes a stint as Senate president — has said a future run is "highly unlikely."

Stiles said she was thrilled by results, especially being the top vote-getter in all 11 towns comprising the district including Hampton.

She won Hampton by a vote of 4,803 to 4,435.