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Nashua mother charged with manslaughter after son dies in hospital

Union Leader Correspondent

May 13. 2013 1:05PM
Unique Gould of Nashua sits with her attorney, Anthony Sculimbrene, during a court appearance on Monday. She is charged with manslaughter in the death of her son, 2. (Kimberly Houghton/Union Leader Correspondent)

NASHUA - The mother of 2-year-old Devon Gould called 911 after roommates and family members threatened to do the same because the boy, who eventually died of a catastrophic brain injury, was not waking up after 18 to 20 hours of sleep, according to prosecutors in court this morning.

Unique S. Gould, who is now charged with manslaughter in the death of her young son, also placed the child in the shower and shook him in an attempt to wake him April 26, said Karinne Brobst, assistant county attorney.

But those efforts were too late, according to court documents, which indicate the alleged beating occurred the day before Gould sought medical assistance for her son.

Gould, 21, of 8 Ash Court, was initially facing a charge of first-degree assault against Devon, alleging she repeatedly hit the boy on the buttocks and head April 25. However, those charges were upgraded Monday after the boy died Friday at a Massachusetts hospital. A family member said Devon was removed from life support exactly two weeks after being admitted.

Gould was arraigned Monday in 9th Circuit Court, Nashua District Division, now charged with manslaughter, three counts of second-degree assault and one count of first-degree assault.

According to the charges, Gould allegedly caused a catastrophic brain injury to the boy when she struck him with her hand. Gould is also accused of hitting the boy on the face and both sides of his buttocks, causing three separate bruises, according to court records.

Gould's public defense attorney, Anthony Sculimbrene, described this as a "very sad case."

In a statement, Sculimbrene said his client asserts her innocence. "She is devastated by the child's death. We will litigate every aspect of the case," he said outside of the courtroom.

Gould arrived in court wearing an orange jumpsuit and shackles. Her bail remained set at $100,000 cash despite a plea from the defense counsel to reduce the bail to personal recognizance.

Attorneys argued whether a prosecutor's synopsis detailing the newest charges, including testimony from undisclosed witnesses, should be sealed in the case. Sculimbrene contended that it would now be untimely to seal the records since a police affidavit previously filed at the courthouse was already reviewed and reported by the media. Judge Thomas Bamberger was taking the matter under advisement, and no decision was immediately made on whether to unseal the additional information about the case.

According to Sculimbrene, Gould has no prior criminal convictions. However, the attorney says he has represented Gould in the past, but he did not elaborate on those cases. "We understand that these charges are very serious," he told the court, suggesting that Gould is not a flight risk since she has lived in New Hampshire the majority of her life, and called 911 seeking help for her son.

Brobst argued that Devon was put to bed and stayed there for nearly 20 hours before 911 was called, stressing that call only took place because roommates and family members said they would call themselves if Gould didn't take action.

A group of about 10 relatives was in the courtroom Monday, but they refused to comment after the hearing.

"This case is still evolving. This is an ongoing case," said Brobst, who was joined by John Harding, a prosecutor with the Hillsborough County Attorney's Office. "We need to protect the integrity of the investigation going forward."

The boy's father, whose name has not yet been identified, decided to remove Devon from life support Friday, according to a family spokesperson. The child, who turned 2 years old in March, had suffered a serious brain injury, significant head trauma and intracranial bleeding, according to court records.

After the assault, Gould was interviewed by two detectives, at which time she allegedly acknowledged spanking her son on April 25, the day before emergency crews arrived at her home, court documents indicated.

"She admitted that she struck (him) numerous times on his buttocks, and confirmed that she also struck him in the head with her hand. Gould made admissions that she 'blacked out' at one point, and admitted to hitting (him) very hard," said a police affidavit filed by Detective Marc Anderson.

Police have refused to comment on whether Gould may have been impaired at the time of the alleged assault. She will be back in court on May 23.

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