Prosecutor says tot was told to stay mum in abuse video
By JAMES KIMBLE Union Leader Correspondent
Jessica Linscott (right), of Plaistow returns to court on Wednesday to argue that she should be freed on bail. Prosecutors say Linscott is expected to testify against her boyfriend Roland Dow, who is charged with abusing Linscott's 3-year-old son.
BRENTWOOD - A video allegedly recorded by Roland Dow has led to him and girlfriend, Jessica Linscott, being investigated for felony witness-tampering after prosecutors said they coached Linscott's 3-year-old son in what he could say about being abused by the pair.
Assistant County Attorney Michael Zaino said police found the computer video file while executing a search warrant on a home computer. The video was recorded just moments before a worker from the state Department of Children, Youth and Families arrived at the home Oct. 23 for a well-being check on the toddler, Zaino said.
About 20 minutes of the video shows Dow and Linscott speaking to James Nicholson. The camera, hidden under a couch, stayed on when the DCYF worker arrived and secretly recorded her visit, according to Zaino.
"Roland Dow and Jessica Linscott are speaking at different times," Zaino said. "The conversation ranges over lots of topics, but (includes) very specifically what he is allowed to say, what he is not allowed to say. He is not allowed to say he knew she was coming. It ranges from whether he gets bloody noses; whether he gets spanked, this takes up a span of 20 minutes."
The couple fled to Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., after dropping off the severely injured boy at Exeter Hospital in November, sparking a national search over two weeks. Their latest troubles came to light during a bail hearing for Linscott Wednesday in Rockingham County Superior Court, where the young mother sought permission to call and write her son. Prosecutors argued against Linscott, 23, of Plaistow having any contact with Nicholson, and revealed they are pursuing felony witness-tampering charges against her and Dow.
The case will likely go before a Rockingham County grand jury.
Public defenders cast Linscott on Wednesday as a victim of abuse herself - claims that were supported by Linscott's uncle, and Nicholson's maternal grandmother.
Public defender Deanna Campbell said Linscott had a black eye when she was apprehended alongside Dow at Universal Studios on Nov. 28.
"It wasn't until later that she reported the abuse," Campbell said. "These allegations are extremely serious. Extremely disturbing. She is not the same person she was when she was in that relationship."
Campbell said Linscott is now taking parenting classes and working with a domestic violence counselor while being held on $100,000 bail at the Strafford County jail in Dover. Linscott's goal is to have a relationship again with her son, Campbell said.
Zaino argued that James Nicholson could be called as a state witness during the trials of his mother and Dow, and that contact with his mother could taint his potential testimony. He said that the video demonstrated that Linscott has been willing to coerce her son in the past. Linscott now faces the prospect of state prison time after first being charged with six misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of a child.
Dow, her 27-year-old boyfriend, is headed to trial next month on charges of first- and second-degree assault for allegedly striking Nicholson in the head and burning the boy's wrists and fingers.
Part of Wednesday's hearing was determined to be non-public by Judge Marguerite Wageling. State law allows for matters concerning the Division of Children, Youth and Families to be shielded from the public. Afterward, Wageling said she was not assured by the defense on whether Nicholson would be protected from any kind of coercion.
"I have concerns about the nature of the supervision - with no disrespect to state agencies involved," she said. "This case needs to be further down the road and Miss Linscott needs to be healthier," Wageling added. "I am not assured at this point."
Wageling decided that Linscott will be able to write letters to her son, but they first must be sent to county prosecutors before being passed on to the boy's therapist.
Linscott and Dow are expected to each face two counts of witness tampering for the computer video recovered by investigators. Each charge is a Class B felony, punishable by 3½ to seven years in state prison.