Hampton area's top stories of 2013

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A year steeped in tragedy

By Nick B. Reid

Hampton Union, December 31, 2013

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

 HAMPTON — When we scan back over the events that made news in Hampton in 2013, our vision is halted by a black mark of tragedy that spanned a month between September and October.

As a banner summer for Hampton businesses wrapped up, a fatal fall began.

First it was the bodies of two men found floating in the Hampton River on Sept. 20. Hampton police called a press conference at the Police Department to explain that a member of the Hampton River Boat Club had seen a body floating in the water, and they'd found another while retrieving the first man.

The state medical examiner ruled that Mark E. Classen, 57, and Bruce W. Menezes, 53, both of River Avenue in Hampton, drowned. But police didn't know exactly how.

The next day, tragedy struck again when a motorist collided with a group of bicyclists participating in a charity ride. The accident became increasingly complicated since late September as details surfaced that the teenage driver was unlicensed, was stopped for speeding hours before the crash and allegedly took drugs before choosing to drive again.

Darriean Hess, 19, of Seabrook, was indicted by a Rockingham Superior Court grand jury this month on charges as serious as manslaughter in the deaths of Pamela Wells, 60, of South Hamilton, Mass., and Elise Bouchard, 52, of Danvers, Mass., as well as the serious injuries she caused to Uwe Uhmeyer, 60, of Essex, Mass., and Margo Heigh, 54, of Danvers, Mass.

If she's convicted of the strictest theory against her, manslaughter, plus two charges of second-degree assault for the injured riders, Hess could serve more than 40 years in prison. In case the state can't prove the recklessness necessary for the manslaughter charge, Hess also faces lesser charges of negligent homicide while driving while intoxicated and negligent homicide.

The Sept. 21 crash occurred on the Underwood Bridge between Seabrook and Hampton as 1,500 cyclists were participating in the Granite State Wheelmen's 40th annual Tri-State Seacoast Century charity ride at about 8:30 a.m.

Going south, Hess' vehicle allegedly crossed the center line and went into the northbound lane, according to David Kelley, a retired State Police major who witnessed the crash and was interviewed by Hampton police. While on the wrong side of the road, Hess allegedly crashed into a group of bicyclists, who were "tossed from their bicycles" as Hess' vehicle continued in the wrong lane, then cut back across the street into the southbound breakdown lane and wrecked the "Welcome to Seabrook Beach" sign some 100 feet down the road.

Kelley said he approached Hess' vehicle after the crash and she admitted to "taking her eyes off the road for a few seconds."

Hess was driving a 2002 Honda Civic owned by her fiancé, who was charged with allowing an unlicensed person to drive. She was driving the same vehicle around 1 a.m. in almost the exact same spot when she was stopped for traveling 59 mph in a 30-mph zone and cited for driving without a license and speeding. She wasn't arrested since those are violation-level charges, but she was required to call a friend to drive her car away.

Police allege the friend she called was 48-year-old Ocean Boulevard resident Cindy Sheppard, who was previously described as "a significant source of heroin in the beach area" and had several drug possession charges pending against her. Sheppard was charged with giving the prescription painkiller fentanyl to Hess. According to the indictments against her, Hess took fentanyl, klonopin and Percocet before causing the fatal crash.

Posts on Hess' Facebook page revealed the seemingly carefree life of a teenager who laughed about speeding and drug possession.

Since the crash, Renny Cushing, a Democrat who represents Hampton in the state House of Representatives, has filed a bill that will lead to a discussion about changing the penalty for driving without a license. The current law only allows a driver without a license to be charged with a misdemeanor if they've previously been convicted of the same. Cushing said he's hoping to change the law so anyone driving without a license who also commits another moving violation can be charged with a misdemeanor, and therefore can be arrested if the officer sees fit.

State Sen. Nancy Stiles, a Hampton Republican, renewed an effort to improve pedestrian and bicycle access on the Underwood Bridge, urging that a project to expand the bridge be included in the state's 10-year transportation plan.

Hampton selectmen have also said they'll have stricter requirements for allowing foot and bicycle road races in town to ensure safety and well-drawn courses.

But it didn't stop there.

Two weeks after the crash, police were called to a bloody scene at an apartment on M Street after a man found his roommate, Robert Roderick, dead on the living room coach.

Roderick's other roommate, Peter Bartoloni, was arrested days later and charged with second-degree murder for allegedly bludgeoning Roderick with a sledgehammer.

Deeper investigation revealed that Bartoloni is also a sex offender with a number of violent offenses in his background, while his alleged victim, Roderick, was a "gentle giant" who had many friends throughout the beach area.

A week after Bartoloni was arrested, police were called to another accident on Oct. 13, where a pedestrian was hit by a car at the intersection of Ocean Boulevard and Highland Avenue. The driver, Danielle F. Kooyoomjian of Hampton, was charged with driving drunk when she struck the victim, who died the next day.

In addition, police investigated two suicides and five unattended deaths involving people who died from natural causes during the same time period.

Police Chief Jamie Sullivan said he's seen a lot during his career but never experienced the number of significant critical incidents in such a short period of time. That's why tragedy is the story of 2013.

Let's not forget the good news stories of 2013

Hampton Union, January 3, 2014

It's hard to believe that another year has come and gone. We are so grateful for the opportunity to serve Hampton, Hampton Falls, North Hampton and Seabrook, and to share your stories.

Looking back at all the 10,000 plus stories that we wrote about last year, there were a few that really touched us and put smiles on our faces.

In March, Facebook fans rallied behind Hampton Falls Village Market owner George Privé, whose wish of reaching 1,000 Likes on his store's page before retiring was granted.

Stalling at 968 Facebook Likes, Privé urged market customers to Like the market's page, saying, "Once he has 1,000 likes, George can retire!"

The next day, the page had more than 1,115 Likes, and more than 80 people shared the request.

In April, James Desrosiers worked to get his Eagle Scout badge by installing an outdoor classroom at Winnacunnet High School as a tribute to slain Greenland Police Chief Michael Maloney.

John Pickering, a New Hampshire state trooper who knew Maloney from working in the area and helped found the Michael Maloney Memorial Fund, said the project — 12 concrete benches in two semi-circles funded by local organizations — would have been well received by the chief.

Maloney was a Winnacunnet High School graduate and the new benches overlooked the football field where he used to play.

"I know that Michael is looking down and very, very pleased that something like this would be made in his honor," Pickering said.

In June, the Winnacunnet High School Chamber Singers got the opportunity of lifetime when they performed with Foreigner at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom.

The teens sang "I Want To Know What Love Is" with the 1980s rock band.

In July, Allie O'Sullivan went to great lengths to improve the life of her deformed cat, Little Bear, and thousands rallied to support her effort.

Little Bear — who was born with hockey-stick shaped legs that forced him to walk on his elbows — garnered more than 25,000 Likes on Facebook, and his fans raised the complete amount for two extensive surgeries at Tufts to correct his deformity.

Also in July, we got to meet Mario Pimental, a 14-year-old from Seabrook, and hear about how he overcame the physical challenge of being born without fingers on his left hand to become a high-caliber athlete, not just in baseball but basketball and soccer, too.

In August, a decorated, nationally syndicated cartoonist with long standing ties to Hampton unveiled a huge lithograph highlighting some of Hampton Beach's most prominent landmarks.

From the new Seashell Stage to the Lady of the Sea Memorial and everything in between, Frank Galasso, 52, of Warwick, R.I., designed one heck of a tribute to the beach, which he described as "like a heaven on Earth" to him and his family.

In September, we saw how the community came together to give one last send off to Dick Ray, who is one of the founding member of The Spectras.

He played his final show with the band at the Casino Ballroom at Hampton Beach, a fitting end as the group used to be the house band there in the 60s opening for such acts as Janis Joplin and the Beach Boys.

After the show, Ray, who is terminally ill, said "it's good to be a rock star for one more day. This brings back a lot of good memories."

In December, the Dawe family of Hampton Falls said goodbye to its 32-foot-tall evergreen tree as it was selected by Macy's Department Stores to become the official Christmas tree at their Downtown Crossing store in Boston.

Over the years, the tree served as a backdrop for many family activities and pictures, but Chris Dawe said he felt the time had come to let it go. He quoted something his father-in-law once said, that "all trees live to be the ultimate tree... the Christmas tree."

A look back at the 2013 sports landscape

By Steve Craig

Hampton Union, January 3, 2014

HAMPTON — From individual success stories to an unexpected team championship, the Hampton-area sports scene experienced its share of memorable moments and captivating storylines in 2013.

Taken as a whole, the ten top stories of 2013 seem to express a theme of moving on and moving forward.

Several Winnacunnet athletes took the next step to play collegiately.

Area baseball squads advanced beyond the state borders to test their young and developing skills.

A high school basketball team adapted after the resignation of its legendary coach.

And an entire region learned it could get past a life-jarring tragedy.

Marathon strength

Every year a few hearty, determined souls from the Hampton area tackle the challenge of the Boston Marathon, the world's most famous 26.2-mile race.

This year all New Englanders felt the shock, fear and then anger of having "our marathon" marred by the terrorist bombing attack. Three dead, more than 250 wounded, the region traumatized.

Chris Flagg, 51, of North Hampton had just finished his first-ever marathon, happy with his time, proud of the more than $13,000 he'd raised for the Mass General Hospital, and anxious to meet his wife Sue at the finish. Then the bombs, first one, then a second, exploded.

Flagg said he knew it was bad as soon as he heard it and his joy quickly went to confusion then sorrow.

"The pendulum swing from the emotional high to the emotional low, it just fell right of the bottom and everything was stripped away," Flagg said.

Flagg, the other Hampton-area runners and their families escaped the carnage physically unharmed.

But the story did not end with the destruction of life and property, nor when suspected bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed and his brother Dzhokhar apprehended.

Through the summer Boston Strong turned from a slogan to a mindset. Boston Strong helped buoy another favorite New England institution, the Boston Red Sox, all the way to an improbable World Series title and helped us all heal emotionally.

From anonymous to champions

That Winnacunnet's girls cross country team would win the school's first Division I championship in the sport the season after its best-ever runner Lexi Pelletier graduated was quite a story.

But it was really only half the story. Just three seasons before the Warriors finished the year with six active runners and placed 16th in the 17-team Division I championship meet.

"Somehow in four years — that's not a long time — we've managed to work our way all the way to the top," said co-captain Alexis Moser.

This season the Warriors had six runners place in the top 20 at Derryfield Park and a roster of 28 girls. Senior Delaney Burns switched from soccer to cross country and became the Warriors' top runner in her first season. Talented young runners like freshman Kelly Arsenault and sophomores Mercedes McCoy and Molly Power added high-quality depth and at its core the team's overall improvement was epitomized by the continued improvement of veterans like Alli Scibisz, Amanda Cestrone and Kat Dumore.

After advancing to the New England Championships for the first time, the girls' team also received postseason accolades as Burns was named to the All-Division I team and Coach Jay Damren was honored as the Coach of the Year.

Summer success for Seacoast stars

The summer of 2013 showed that baseball still has the ability to capture a young boy's time, energy and passion in such a way they are willing to dream of future glory.

Two separate all-star teams from the Hampton-based Seacoast Cal Ripken league filled a summer's worth of memories, hustling on diamonds across the state and eventually winning state championships to advance to the New England Region championships

The Seacoast 10-year-old all-stars managed by Stephen Elbeery and coached by Scott Bullard and Dave Loffredo already knew the drill. They had gone through it as 9-year-olds all the way to the New England Region final.

"It feels really good and it's even bigger than last year," said second baseman Henry Pallatroni after the team had won the state championship.

This year the Seacoast 10s won both district and state titles and took their first two games at the New England tournament before being eliminated.

The one-two starting pitching combo of Jake Bullard and Jake Elbeery was even more composed and confident, backed by a full complement of players who played defense, knew how to get on base and were especially aggressive with the running game.

The league's abundance of young talent was shown when the 2013 9-year-old all-stars won its state tournament in late July, rallying from six runs down to beat pitching depleted Exeter, 8-7, in the championship game.

"It's an amazing accomplishment for the youth program from our town to make it two years in a row and speaks highly of the program and some of the parents volunteering their time to get quality play from the kids," Seacoast 9 Manager Tom Fredericks said.

The 9-year-old stars won two games at the regional to finish its all-star season with a 14-4 record.

Warrior football: The year after; moving up

One of the biggest state-wide sports stories — one that will likely continue to play out over the next few years — was the decision of the NHIAA Football Committee to revamp its divisional format for high school football.

In 2013 the defending Division II champion Winnacunnet football team found itself in the new 20-team Division I, which was broken into four smaller geographic conferences. Playing in the East, the Warriors competed against familiar foes Exeter, Dover, Spaulding and Timberlane. One big difference? The Exeter game was back to being a game that counted in the standings.

It turned into a wild shootout that will be remembered for its own excitement and big plays; with Exeter winning in overtime despite the late-game dramatics supplied by Warrior quarterback Ing Hao Veasna and top receiver Alec Boucher.

For the season the Warriors went 5-4, bouncing back from a mid-season struggle with injuries and trying to find consistency with so many new and young players, particularly in the offensive and defensive fronts.

While they did not make the playoffs, they were still alive mathematically until the final quarter of the final regular season game at Nashua South.

Winnacunnet field hockey still a force

The Warriors had to replace key graduated seniors across the field and it was reasonable to think the team might slip from its status as an elite Division I squad, earned with championships in 2010 and 2011 and a finals appearance in 2012.

Instead the team quickly showed it had even more firepower on offense. Keyed by senior leaders Liz Auffant as a do-it-all midfielder, defender Ashley Harnum and high-scoring forward Mimi MacLeod, the Warriors rolled to a 14-0 regular season record.

The season ended with an emotional semifinal loss, played at lower-seeded Exeter's home field because the Blue Hawks annually host the state semifinal games. Exeter would prove its mettle by winning the school's first-ever field hockey title.

Class of 2013 takes collective skills to college

On an early spring day three very different athletes shared a special day. Petite cross country champion Lexi Pelletier, fiery and outspoken field hockey captain Taylor Blood and affable but physically imposing football captain Christian Dyer sat together in the conference room at the Winnacunnet Physical Education Building and signed national letters of intent to participate on college athletic teams. In terms of stature and outward demeanor it would have been hard to find three more disparate individuals within the Warrior athletic family but they obviously shared the traits of excelling in their sport. Pelletier signed with Rhode Island, Blood with Boston University and Dyer with Stonehill College. While Pelletier spent her fall healing an injury and beginning her training, Blood and Dyer stepped right in and contributed to successful programs.

Those three were far from the only Class of 2013 athletes who finalized plans to continue with a sport in college.

Warrior two-sport star Carly Gould started almost every game this fall for the Brown University women's soccer team. Football captain Jordan Cutting went from a summer spent being a captain in two all-star games to stepping right into the starting lineup at Plymouth State College.

Nyles Makarewicz-Connor, another standout on the 2012 WHS championship football team, went to Assumption College and spent his freshman season as a red-shirt linebacker, not playing in games but practicing with the team.

Four members of the boys' lacrosse team — Mike Karpel, Brandon Gnecco, Sam Bonsaint and Matt Ikawa — announced their plans to play lax in college, while former Winnacunnet girls' lacrosse captain Hannah Gasperoni intends to play this spring at Wheaton College after missing most of her senior season due to injury.

Transition success for basketball teams

As 2013 opened, the Winnacunnet High School girls basketball team was still in the early stages learning in the LAB (Life After Beattie). First-year head coach Cassie Turcotte had inherited two starters and a bunch of varsity newbies in her step from long-time assistant to Ed Beattie, who had directed Winnacunnet to five straight championships and a 119-3 record in his final six seasons.

As it neared midseason, the girls' basketball team was muddling along at 4-4 in Division I. Keyed by the veteran presence of senior Carly Gould and junior Mimi MacLeod, the squad got on a roll that took it to its seventh straight semifinal appearance at Southern New Hampshire University.

On the boys side, coach Jay McKenna directed an undersized squad that emphasized transition opportunities, three-point shooting and maximizing its depth. With a roster full of returning players, the team improved by improved by four wins in Division I to post a winning record of 10-8. Counting its Oyster River holiday tournament victory posted an overall 13-9 record.

Checovich wins N.H. Heptathlon

That Emma Checovich would be competitive and could possibly win the 37th New Hampshire heptathlon was not a surprise. The Warrior junior had already proven she was among the state's best jumpers and had high-quality speed.

But it was what she did in her unproven events that propelled Checovich to the title at Nashua South the first weekend of June. She had never competed in the hurdles or the shot put and rarely run a race longer than 400 meters.

But she exceeded expectations in the hurdles and shot and ran the fastest time of the year by any Warrior in the 800 to jump from third place to the championship in the competition's seventh and final event.

"It was nice to see because I think Emma surprised herself with what she's capable of," Warrior girls track coach Tina Fowler said. "It was her first time doing the shot and the hurdles and her first-ever heptathlon."

It won't be her last. Checovich will compete at the University of New Hampshire and expects to specialize in multi-event competitions in the winter and spring track.

Ashante Little: National champion

Coming out of Winnacunnet High in the class of 2010, Ashante Little was a very good intermediate hurdler. As a junior at Wheaton College in 2013, Little became a Division III national champion.

Competing in the 400 meters at the outdoor championships this past May in La Crosse, Wisc., Little won her first individual NCAA title, clocking a personal-best time of 54.79 seconds. She was also third in the 100-meter hurdles.

Those efforts came on the heels of an indoor season that saw her place second in the 400 at the national championships. She begins her senior seasons at the small Norton, Mass., campus as a nine-time All-American.

Shining at the Shrine Game

For two seasons at Winnacunnet High, Jordan Cutting and Christian Dyer had lined up side-by-side on the Warriors' offensive line, leading the way for runners and protecting quarterbacks.

The pair did it two more times in the summer of 2013, first as part of the East team that lost in overtime at the second annual CHaD all-star game held at the University of New Hampshire and then at the Maple Sugar Shrine Game held in August at Dartmouth.

Cutting was a captain in both of his all-star appearances, showing the passion for the game and his teammates he'd always displayed in Hampton.

"The team picked five captains and it's an honor that kids around the state would feel that I'm a leader and I tried to lead this team the best I possibly could to get a victory," Cutting said.

New Hampshire beat Vermont, 43-0, the largest margin of victory in the 60-game history of the event.

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