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Former Litchfield principal gets 5-15 years in prison for stealing $152K from school

Union Leader Correspondent

October 10. 2018 4:32PM

Handcuffs are placed on Shannon Dannible after she is sentenced Wednesday to 5 to 15 years in prison for stealing more than $150,000 from St. Francis of Assisi School in Litchfield while serving as principal there from 2007 to 2011. (Kimberly Houghton)

This photograph of Shannon Dannible appears in court records on file at Hillsborough County Superior Court.

NASHUA — For stealing more than $150,000 from a private school in Litchfield during her tenure as principal, Shannon Dannible was sentenced Wednesday to 5 to 15 years in prison. 

Using the stolen money to purchase jewelry, computers, trips to Disney World, Turks and Caicos and more, Dannible has been ordered to pay the full restitution of $152,467.65 to St. Francis of Assisi School.

"She put her leisure and her luxury above all others … this is truly a story of greed," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati. 

Dannible pleaded no contest to a felony charge of unauthorized taking or transfer for stealing the funds between 2007 and 2011 when she was principal. 

Although she has been free on bail since her arrest five years ago, Dannible was handcuffed and transported to state prison on Wednesday. 

Judge Jacalyn Colburn sentenced her to 5-15 years for the offense, with 3 1/2 years suspended for 10 years pending good behavior and full restitution. Dannible could potentially be free in 1 1/2 years.

"She engaged in a complex transfer of the money, bouncing back and forth from one account to another," said Agati, adding four school accounts were compromised, including a fundraising account, lunch account, operating account and payroll account. 

Dannible took money raised by the school during Bingo night events, cookie walks and raffles, according to Agati, and used it to pay for her daughter's dance lessons and her son's indoor baseball clinics. 

Nearly $4,000 in jewelry was purchased in less than a month, along with a treadmill, hotel stays, airline tickets, pet store charges and day spa purchases, he said. 

"That is what the defendant's greed bought," said Agati. 

Dannible, 41, of Amesbury, Mass., apologized for her actions and stressed her previous diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder. 

"I do genuinely and sincerely apologize," she told the court. And while she cannot erase the damage, Dannible said she will work to pay back what she stole. 

Dannible said she is constantly haunted by her demons and trauma she sustained allegedly at the hands of a priest when she was younger. She described her mental illness as a silent disease.

Dannible said that if justice means that she will be revictimized and retraumatized in prison, it is her wish that people take the time to listen to those struggling with mental illness, keep an open mind and not judge them. 

"My heart truly aches at the unknown of my future," she said. 

Her defense attorney, Roger Chadwick, recommended that the court not order any prison time, or at the most a six-month sentence. 

"Shannon does not need rehabilitation, she needs therapy," said her husband, Peter Dannible. 

Agati disagreed, saying the case is not about mental health or her past. 

"It is about holding people accountable for their actions, not their trauma," said Agati. 

Judge Colburn said Dannible betrayed the school and its students, saying the thefts were an incredible and prolonged violation of trust. She also acknowledged Dannible's mental health history and said there needs to be a balance while considering punishment and deterrence. 

"There is a real dichotomy for me," Colburn admitted before sending Dannible to prison.

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