RANCH TERRORIZED

FBI offers $10k reward

The FBI has offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to a blackmailer who has killed animals, set vehicles ablaze and left bizarre, rhyming extortion notes for a local farmer.

Gary and Diana Bergeron, the owners of Rickety Ranch in Hollis, have been terrorized over the past two years by multiple extortion letters seeking $250,000, and experienced repeated acts of vandalism and violence.

The odd extortion letters drew the attention of the FBI to the case, according to an agent. The FBI hopes the release of the blackmailer’s letter and riddles will lead to his capture.

“The whole thing is just unfortunate, but I think the FBI has a good handle on it,” said Gary Bergeron, who declined to comment further on the extortion Tuesday.

“The vicious shakedown of this family and the use of violence to intimidate them will not be tolerated,” Harold H. Shaw, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Division, said in a statement.

Anyone with information can contact the FBI Boston Division at (857) 386-2000. Tips may also be submitted at tips.fbi.gov.

GOVERNMENT

Fish & Game still struggling

A slight hike in the rooms and meals tax, a $1 million increase in support from the state general fund, and a mandatory registration fee for canoes and kayaks are among the recommendations to emerge from yet another study on the future of the Fish and Game Department.

The 12-member commission, comprised of lawmakers, agency personnel and stakeholders, has submitted its final report to the Legislature with this caveat: “It’s time for New Hampshire to realize what outdoor recreation means to the quality of life and the economy of this state.”

Underlying the report is a recurring theme: New Hampshire’s spectacular wildlife and outdoor resources are essential to the success of the state’s tourism industry, yet the funding for the agency charged with managing those resources does not reflect that reality.

As revenue from hunting licenses declines and demands on the agency increase, the self-reliant funding model has been stretched to the breaking point.

Since 2014 nearly $4.2 million has been allocated to Fish and Game from the state’s general fund to shore up its wobbly finances, with little likelihood that the agency will ever be fully self-funded again, absent some major changes.

ROCHESTER

Skydiver’s death ruled suicide

The death of a skydiving instructor from Rochester who became separated from his student during a tandem jump in Lebanon, Maine, has been ruled a suicide.

Brett Bickford, 41, worked for Skydive New England. On Sept. 27, he and a student jumped from a plane about 2 p.m.

The student called police after he landed safely and could not find Bickford.

A search team located Bickford’s body the next day about 750 feet from the Lebanon Airport runway. An investigation into his death has been underway ever since.

“State police interviews with other skydivers and industry officials concluded that no experienced skydiver would loosen a parachute harness by mistake,” Public Information Officer Stephen McCausland said in a statement last Monday. “Investigators concluded that Bickford loosened his harness in midair and it was an intentional act.”

EPPING

Burger joint’s latest location

The husband-and-wife team behind Lexie’s is bringing “peace, love and burgers” to Epping.

The popular burger joint, which has been expanding since the first location opened in Portsmouth in 2010, officially opened its new Epping restaurant last Wednesday. Lexie’s Epping is located inside the new indoor facility at the Seacoast United Sports Complex at 88 Shirkin Road.

It’s the sixth location for the growing company, which opened restaurants in Newington and Newburyport, Mass., a few years after seeing success in Portsmouth.

In 2016, Lexie’s opened additional locations in Durham and Exeter and put a food truck known as the Burger Bus on the road to cater parties, weddings and corporate events.

Known for its classic American burgers, fries and hard ice cream milkshakes, as well as its “Peace. Love. Burgers.” slogan, Lexie’s new 88-seat restaurant will serve sports complex visitors, but will also be open to the public.

“I think as Lexie’s grows we’ve learned how to do things and how not to do things. This is our first build-from-scratch Lexie’s,” said owner KC Cargill, who runs the company with his wife, Lexie.

CDC REPORT

OD deaths predicted to drop

The rate of drug overdose deaths rose nationwide last year, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New Hampshire had the sixth-highest rate of fatal overdoses in 2017 — 37 for every 100,000 residents — accounting for 467 deaths. But based on the numbers so far, state officials are projecting that 2018 will mark the first time since 2012 that the number of overdose deaths will decrease compared with the previous year.

In its latest report, which includes data through Nov. 15, the New Hampshire Drug Monitoring Initiative projected that the fatal overdose rate for 2018 will be 31 per 100,000 residents.

BEER BOOST

Brewers step up for fire victims

The Schilling Beer Co. of Littleton has joined craft breweries around New Hampshire and the United States in a fundraiser for victims of Northern California’s wildfires.

Schilling Beer and more than 1,100 other breweries will brew and sell Resilience Butte County Proud IPA per the recipe of Chico, Calif.-based Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Opened in September 2013 in a former grist mill on the northern bank of the Ammonoosuc River, Schilling Beer has been a runaway success.

In June, the company completed construction next door of a 7,500-square-foot building that features a tasting room and more space for brewing, retail and packaging.

Because Schilling trademarked the name “Resilience,” Sierra Nevada Brewing needed its permission to allow Resilience Butte County Proud IPA to be brewed. Schilling was very happy to give it, CEO and co-founder Jeff Cozzens said last Wednesday.

First and foremost, the cause — raising money for the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Camp Fire Relief Fund — is a great one, Cozzens said. Once the Camp Fire is extinguished, the fund will distribute all donated money to partner organizations “that are dedicated to rebuilding and supporting the communities that have been affected.”

New Hampshire brewers joining Schilling in the fundraiser are Out.Haus Ales of Northwood; Cisco Brewers, Portsmouth; Great North Aleworks and Backyard Brewing, Manchester; Monadnock Brewing Company, Langdon; the Copper Pig Brewery, Lancaster; Bad Lab Beer, Somersworth; and Deciduous Brewing Company, Newmarket.