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Judge to decide if former Litchfield principal is competent to stand trial

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent

August 23. 2017 9:45PM
Shannon Dannible grabs her head during a competency hearing Wednesday at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua. (Kimberly Houghton/Correspondent)

NASHUA — The former principal at St. Francis of Assisi School in Litchfield who is accused of embezzling thousands of dollars from the private facility wept throughout a lengthy court hearing on Wednesday to discuss her mental health.

Shannon Dannible shook her legs continuously, played with a stress toy and occasionally grabbed her head during the court proceeding to determine whether she is competent to stand trial.

It has been four years since Dannible, 40, of Amesbury, Mass., was indicted on a felony count of unauthorized taking or transfer in connection with the alleged embezzlement; she has been free on bail since her arrest several years ago.

Dannible allegedly stole $152,468 from the Catholic school’s bank accounts by issuing herself checks, withdrawing cash for herself and directing school funds to pay off personal debts during a four-year period when she was an administrator at the Litchfield school from 2007-2011.

“My opinion is that she is competent to stand trial,” testified Dr. Albert Drukteinis, a forensic psychologist. “ … The symptoms and the presentation have a very dramatic and exaggerated feature to them, and that is selected.”

Dannible is highly intellectual, according to Drukteinis, adding that despite her emotional appearance at times, it is very inconsistent.

Although he has diagnosed her with major depressive disorder, severe psychotic issues and anxiety disorder, the state’s expert said she is still able to function at a job, promote cosmetics online, attend sporting events with her daughter and understand the court process and discussions with her attorneys.

“I think day-to-day is just real difficult for her. She is depressed,” said Dr. Dennis Becotte, a licensed psychologist and expert for the defense. She said that Dannible is tearful, depressed and extremely anxious, adding she stays in bed, isolates herself from others, needs assistance traveling, cannot hold a full-time job and has suicidal thoughts.

Becotte believes that she is not competent to stand trial, and that despite four years of intense treatment, she still blacks out at times and has not properly been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder related to an alleged sexual assault from a priest when she was 7.

“She mentioned a few times that again she feels like she is reaching the end of what she can tolerate,” said Becotte.

Last August, Judge Jacalyn Colburn of Hillsborough County Superior Court found that Dannible was incompetent to stand trial, but said at the time that if Dannible continued attending psychotherapy and treatment, her competency may potentially be restored within the year.

Now, a year later, Colburn is charged with determining whether Dannible should face trial. If found guilty, she could face 7 ½ to 15 years in prison.

Colburn expects to make a ruling on Dannible’s competency in the next few weeks.


Courts Crime Litchfield Nashua