Paul Rathe enters a courtroom

Paul Rathe enters a courtroom for sentencing Wednesday in Rockingham County Superior Court.

BRENTWOOD — A Nottingham man was sentenced to at least 5½ years in state prison for vicious attacks on a woman that included burning her with a blowtorch, beating her with a chain, and choking her.

Paul Rathe, 33, pleaded guilty Wednesday to first- and second-degree assault charges and criminal threatening related to the assaults in 2018 and 2019.

As part of a negotiated plea deal with county prosecutors, Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Steven Houran agreed to sentence Rathe to 5½ to 15 years in state prison. He received an additional 15- to 30-year suspended sentence.

In addition to the domestic violence-related assaults, Rathe also pleaded guilty to striking a correctional officer in the chest while he was being held in jail.

County Attorney Patricia Conway described the assaults as a “serious” case of domestic violence.

“In this case there are multiple instances of strangulation. When you start to see that in a domestic violence case, it generally means that it’s pretty serious. Many times victims don’t disclose the entire history. They’ll disclose one piece of it and that’s all we see,” she said.

The victim told authorities that she thought she was going to die and that Rathe claimed he was going to kill her and use an excavator to bury her body.

Rathe could get one year off his minimum sentence if he completes a substance abuse treatment program. He must also participate in a batterer intervention program.

The charges relate to four incidents that happened between February 2018 and September 2019.

Police began investigating the assaults after the victim ended up in the hospital and wanted to report the domestic violence.

Conway said a Nottingham officer responded to the hospital on Sept. 22, 2019, and noticed several scratches and bruises, a bump on her forehead and a burn mark on her collarbone.

The victim told police that she went to Rathe’s apartment to remove some belongings and was forced to stay. Conway said Rathe locked the door.

“They argued at one point and eventually the defendant struck her repeatedly with a chain. He also burned her ... with a mini blowtorch. He also strangled her with two hands to the point that she was having a hard time breathing,” she said.

Conway said the domestic violence had occurred often. She told the court how on another occasion the victim was pushed into a pellet stove, choked and pinned onto the floor.

He also threatened her with an excavator, Conway said.

“While she was trying to leave in a car, he was screaming that he was going to kill her and drove an excavator in her direction,” she said.

Rathe threatened her with a knife during another incident and prevented her from leaving his apartment by standing in front of the door, Conway said.

Before the sentence was handed down, Conway outlined his criminal history, which included convictions for simple assault and resisting arrest in 2006, drug possession in 2008, domestic violence-related criminal threatening in 2009, drug possession charges in 2015, two driving while intoxicated convictions in 2015, and probation violations in 2015 and 2016. She said he also has additional domestic violence charges pending in Derry.

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