Mont Vernon police chief prepares to retire
MONT VERNON - Although Police Chief Kyle Aspinwall witnessed Mont Vernon's darkest hour, he has also had the opportunity to watch the community rise up and come together in the face of horror. And now as he prepares to retire from law enforcement, Aspinwall said it's the people of Mont Vernon he will miss the most.
Aspinwall, 46, began his career in Waterville Valley, served as an officer for 10 years in Amherst and then as a state trooper until he was hired as chief in Mont Vernon in 2008. Within the first few months of becoming chief, Aspinwall was faced with his first major challenge when he learned that Ray Fournier, a man deemed a "sexually violent predator" who had been jailed for child sexual assault, was being released back into the community due to a clerical error on the state level.
"That was really uncharted territory. He was the first sexually violent predator in the state of New Hampshire to get out on a clerical error," said Aspinwall. The chief faced an ongoing internal debate over how to ease the fears expressed by residents when they learned a convicted sex offender was moving into town, while trying to protect the rights of Fournier, who has since passed away.
"Nobody could tell me how much information I could release, or what I could say about him," said Aspinwall. "Nothing like this had ever happened before."
But six months later, the concern over the presence of Ray Fournier would be overshadowed by the brutal attack on Kimberly Cates and her daughter, Jaimie, on Oct. 4, 2009. The random attack, perpetrated by local men armed with knives and a machete, left Kimberly dead and Jaimie seriously injured. Aspinwall was among the first wave of law enforcement to arrive on the scene and witnessed firsthand the brutality done by Steven Spader, Christopher Gribble, William Marks and Quinn Glover.
"It was simply the most horrific thing I have ever experienced," said Aspinwall.
Although as a seasoned police officer, he said he was cognizant of the reality that anything can happen anywhere, "never in a million years would I have anticipated that something like that could happen in Mont Vernon," he said.
In the days and weeks following the attack, Aspinwall said, he watched a community transformed. Although the initial reaction was fear, he was amazed at how friends and neighbors stepped up to support Jaimie Cates and her father David, and each other. But Aspinwall said he was awed by David and Jaimie's strength and resilience, from the morning of Oct. 4 through the trials of the four perpetrators.
"Jaimie is probably the most courageous person I have ever met," said Aspinwall, "and Dave is the personification of dignity in the face of tragedy."
Aspinwall will retire at the end of May and will take a job in the private sector working for a major firearms manufacturer. But he said he leaves behind a police department and officers that he's very proud of, and a community of people he admires and respects.
"I made a lot of friends in Mont Vernon," he said. "Though my rank is chief, most people are comfortable calling me Kyle."
Lt. Rainsford Deware of the Lyndeborough Police Department said Aspinwall "will be missed dearly in the Souhegan Valley."
"Kyle's a true mentor and friend that I looked up to and learned a great deal from," Deware said.
Wilton Police Chief Brent Hautanen said he's sad to see Aspinwall go.
"He's a very good police officer," said Hautanen. "I am sure the town of Mont Vernon will miss him. He helped shepherd that community through some extremely difficult times during his tenure.