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Regular newspaper feature gave Abby 'hope'

Sunday News Correspondent

August 02. 2014 9:20PM
State police crime units are seen in front of Nathaniel E. Kibby's Gorham home. (JOHN KOZIOL/Sunday News Correspondent)

GORHAM - Abigail Hernandez had access to her hometown newspaper during the time she was held against her will, according to her mother.

Zenya and Abigail Hernandez stopped by the Conway Daily Sun on Thursday and thanked the paper for running a box on Page 2 every day Abigail was missing that told readers how long she had been gone and asked them to contact the FBI if they had any information about the case, the Sun said Friday.

Zenya Hernandez said her daughter had seen the daily box "off and on," albeit not "every day," but whenever she did see it, "it gave her hope that people were looking."

Abigail, now 15, disappeared Oct. 9, 2013, while walking home from Kennett High School, where she was a freshman. She returned home July 21.

On July 29, she and her mother attended the arraignment of Nathaniel E. Kibby, 34, of 4 Brookside Drive, Gorham, who authorities say kidnapped Abigail and held her against her will.

Late Saturday morning, crime tape was still up around Kibby's unit in the Gateway Trailer Park while representatives of several agencies, among them the New Hampshire State Police Major Crime Unit, searched the area.

Last Monday, law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, arrested Kibby and began to search his property. They were still there Saturday, even though Gorham Police Chief PJ Cyr said they had been expected to be done by Friday.

The search at one point was concentrated on a sizable metal storage container.

At the time of his arrest, Kibby was known to have in his possession 11 firearms. He had lived in the Gateway Trailer Park since 2009 and owned his trailer, according to Wallace Corrigan Jr., son of the park owner.

Court records show that Kibby, who had worked in Conway until his employer downsized, had previous run-ins with the law in Conway, where he grew up, and Gorham.

Kibby had been convicted of several misdemeanor offenses and felony possession of marijuana, according to court records.

But at Kibby's arraignment, Senior Associate Attorney General Jane Young offered no basis for Kibby being charged with Class B felony kidnapping, which upon conviction carries a prison term of between 3½ and seven years in prison. The charge against Kibby can be upgraded or amended and new charges added depending on what investigators find.

Kibby is being held on $1 million cash-only bail at the Carroll County Jail pending a probable-cause hearing on Aug. 12 in Conway District Court.

The Class B felony charge is somewhat unique. The underlying statute says it can be levied only when "the actor voluntarily releases the victim without serious bodily injury and in a safe place prior to trial...."

Young and other investigators have been mum on details of Abigail's disappearance, her reappearance and the content of a letter they say Abigail wrote last Oct. 22 to her mother. Since her daughter's return, Zenya Hernandez has twice spoken publicly.

On July 28, Zenya Hernandez went on NBC's "Today Show" to refute rumors that Abigail had been pregnant during her disappearance. She also reaffirmed that her daughter did not run away and did not know the person accused of taking her.

Unique legal case

Mark Fischler, the chairman of the Criminal Justice Department at Plymouth State University and a former criminal defense attorney with the state Public Defender Office, said the Kibby case is being watched by court observers because it is unique in terms of the circumstances as well as the high bail.

Although 90 percent of criminal cases nationwide end in a plea agreement, Fischler said on Wednesday that it was possible Kibby might ultimately face a jury owing to possible pressure on prosecutors to seek a conviction.

Fischler suggested that by the time the state finishes executing the search warrant at Kibby's residence, it could have enough evidence to strengthen its Class B felony kidnapping charge to file new charges.

If Kibby does accept a plea agreement, Fischler said, it would have to be ratified in open court and at the subsequent sentencing could include statements from both Abigail and Kibby.

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