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Dow allegedly found questions from state about toddler's well-being as unwelcome

Union Leader Correspondent

June 11. 2014 9:25PM
Roland Dow, 28, speaks his lawyer during his trial in Rockingham County Superior Court on Wednesday. (JAMES A. KIMBLE)

BRENTWOOD — When a child-advocacy worker had her first face-to-face meeting with a Plaistow mother about the welfare of her 3-year-old son, Roland Dow allegedly hovered nearby, peppering her with questions.

Dow, the mother’s boyfriend, kept asking “Why do you have to come back?” Melissa Bermette, a Department of Children, Youth and Families employee, testified on Wednesday. “He made a statement to me that child abuse is disgusting.”

Testimony about how Dow reacted to people concerned about the well-being of James Nicholson reached a critical point in court late Wednesday afternoon.

Dow, who is on trial for allegedly battering and burning Nicholson, got to see his former girlfriend for the first time since their Nov. 28, 2012 arrest in Orlando, Fla., when she stepped into the courtroom.

Wearing a jail jumpsuit, Jessica Linscott, 24, of Plaistow shuffled to the witness stand with her ankles chained, but her presence was short-lived.

Questions about her expected testimony against Dow quickly set off an argument by defense lawyers.

Defense lawyer Scott Gleason protested Linscott being allowed to testify about a video that Dow allegedly recorded secretly while Bermette visited his home to look into allegations of abuse.

“The government cannot tell this court where that recording was for a period of months,” Gleason said. “The issue is: is that a fair and accurate representation of what happened?”

Gleason also quizzed Bermette about a report she made after a follow-up visit at Dow’s home on Main Street, which did not make any observations of wrongdoing.

Linscott’s brother had filed a complaint with DCYF, saying he was concerned his sister was being abused, and feared for the safety of his nephew, according to court testimony.

“Nothing in your training told you anything was askew. There didn’t appear to be anything jumping out,” Gleason said. “Your report was silent relative to any concerns that there was anything going on.”

Bermette acknowledged that Gleason was correct. Nicholson appeared physically fine at the time.

She nearly broke down and dabbed at tears when asked by prosecutors about how Nicholson looked the next time she saw him a month later — in a hospital bed at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Hospital in Lebanon.

“He had bruising and swelling all over his face and his hands,” Bermette testified. “He had significant bandaging on his head. He had burns on his hands.”

Linscott’s mother, Debra Mullen, testified Nicholson would become visibly agitated whenever the two of them drove along Route 125 at the intersection where Sanborn Candies is located. Dow lived in a residence on Main Street right behind the business.

“He would get extremely distraught,” she said.

Mullen recalled to jurors how she went to Dow’s home once because she was worried about her daughter’s well-being. Dow came to the front door and told her that she was unwelcome, Mullen said.

“He was screaming and yelling at me,” Mullen testified. Dow called the police, and Mullen asked the police officers to do a well-being check on her daughter and grandson.

A female police officer spoke to Mullen sternly telling her that she was trespassing on the property, and shouldn’t be getting DCYF involved in the situation, Mullen testified.

“She said I should not be contacting DCYF, because I did not know what it would do to my daughter,” Mullen testified. When she saw her grandson again, in a hospital room in November, “his head looked like there was spaghetti coming out of it,” Mullen told jurors. “There were so many wires coming out of it. His eyes were all messed up.”

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