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Salem wants to keep dead man's seized weapons

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 06. 2017 8:54PM
Police say Charles Hill set fire to his house at 20 Irving St., then shot and killed himself. (Courtesy Salem PD)

SALEM — The town is seeking ownership of a cache of seized weapons to cover back taxes owed by Charles Hill, the man who set fire to his 20 Irving St. home and committed suicide in its basement Monday night.

An AK-47, two shotguns, a pair of pistols and a rifle were among items taken from Hill in July 2015 when he was facing a criminal-threatening charge that prosecutors dropped a few months later.

Hill, 55, never tried to recover the guns, police said.

Hill’s family has contacted police about claiming the seized property to pay for his funeral expenses, according to the motion filed Wednesday in Salem District Court,

“Law-abiding taxpayers of the town of Salem have been harmed as a result of the actions,” the motion for forfeiture filed by police states. “Forfeiting this seized property to Salem Police Department/the town for use or sale would be a step toward offsetting losses/expenses.”

The dilapidated Irving Street property had been a point of contention for years. The town’s health officer condemned the house in 2015, declaring it “unfit for human habitation.” The home had no running water or electricity and was littered with human waste, rotting food and other garbage.

According to town records, Hill owed more than $15,000 in back property taxes.

Although it had been condemned, neighbors said Hill had recently return to the home and had been spotted walking around the neighborhood with a gun.

Police responded Monday evening to a call at Hill’s address about a dispute between neighbors.

Officers got no response when they knocked at Hill’s door, Capt. Joel Dolan said, then noticed the smell of gasoline and heard a hissing sound. The officers retreated shortly before an explosion blew out the home’s windows and part of the roof.

State and local fire investigators are looking into what caused the fire and explosion.

Hill’s body was found in the basement the next day. According to police, he was surrounded by firearms; investigators found more than 1,700 rounds of ammunition in the home.

An autopsy determined that Hill died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

Authorities said they found evidence that Hill was fortifying the home to keep out intruders. Police said Hill also set up tree stumps and logs as barricades outside the home.

According to the motion, police told Hill’s brother that he would have to file a request with the court to pursue a claim on the seized weapons. No new motions had been filed before the clerk’s office closed at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Police have not yet estimated the value of the weapons still sitting in an evidence locker since 2015. In addition to the AK-47, shotguns, pistols and rifle, police also seized ammunition, an ammo belt and BB guns from Hill.

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