BRENTWOOD — Prosecutors described 3-year-old James Nicholson as a happy, articulate child who turned fearful and quiet as he suffered through weeks of abuse so severe that hospital doctors had to bore holes in his head to relieve building pressure on his brain.
New details about the tot’s injuries came out Tuesday during opening statements at the trial of Roland Dow, 28, of Plaistow, who is accused of abusing James between September and November 2012.
“He went from a healthy little boy to a child who couldn’t see due to the blood in his eyes,” Assistant Rockingham County Attorney Kirsten Wilson told jurors during opening statements.
Dow is facing 10 charges, including first- and second-degree assault, witness tampering and endangering the welfare of a child.
Jurors are expected to see graphic videos that will show an injured Nicholson being coached by Dow to say that he didn’t get nose bleeds or get spanked, if questioned by child advocacy workers.
“He is very thin. He is covered in bruises and his eyes are completely dilated and he has trouble keeping his balance,” Wilson said. Dow is also charged with illegally recording a meeting at his home with a child advocacy worker using a computer camera hidden under a couch. The video is now being used to prosecute him.
The defense accused James’ mother, Jessica Linscott, of beating and burning her son then blaming Dow as a way to avoid facing assault charges.
Linscott, 25, is serving a 2 ½ to 7 year prison sentence for felony witness tampering and failing to report the alleged abuse. She is expected to be the state’s star witness.
Wilson acknowledged Linscott failed as a mother, “by letting the defendant treat her son like the pet that no one wanted.”
Defense lawyer Tom Gleason cast Linscott as an absentee mother who routinely had fallouts with her family and accused them of abusive behavior.
Linscott and Dow went on the run soon after they brought Nicholson to Exeter Hospital in November 2012. They hid out in Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York before they were arrested at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., on Nov. 28, 2012.
Gleason said Linscott was told by a Plaistow police detective who interviewed her in Florida that she would not face assault charges if she offered up information on Dow.
“She throws the last person close to her in her life under the bus,” Gleason said.
Linscott’s uncle, Joe Mullen, of Seabrook, testified that he cared for James and saw him transform from a happy, easily-pacified child to one that would wet the bed at night, and wake up “screaming, crying and being afraid in the middle of sleep.”
While visiting a relative’s house in Kingston — where he would sometimes live — James would have temper tantrums, try to hide and even locked himself once in a bathroom to avoid going to Dow’s house, Adam Mullen, Linscott’s younger brother, testified.
“When he would come back, he would have bruises on him,” Mullen testified. “He behaved differently. He was quieter.”
Of the 15 jurors selected for the trial, 12 are women. A drawing by the judge at the end of the case will determine who will serve as alternates.
Dow, dressed in a dark suit, took notes during opening statements. At one point on Tuesday, he opened his suit jacket while Adam Mullen was being asked to identify Dow in court by what he was wearing.
Linscott is expected to take the stand on Wednesday. Prosecutors expect Linscott to not be a likeable witness.
“Despising someone and not finding them credible is two different things,” Wilson said to the jury.