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Keene man sentenced in city resident's fatal overdose

A Keene man pleaded guilty Tuesday to obtaining and providing the fentanyl that caused the overdose death of city resident Jeffrey J. Allen last year.

Warren Clark, 53, admitted to a charge of dispensing a controlled drug with death resulting during a hearing in Cheshire County Superior Court. He was sentenced under a plea agreement to one to four years in N.H. State Prison.

Allen, a longtime Keene resident, died of an overdose at age 50 in April 2018.

“He loved everyone, especially his family,” his obituary says. “He loved to be in the woods calling owls, which gained him the name Owl Whisperer.” He could also be a “jokester.”

Family members said he struggled with alcoholism and homelessness, but had been living with a friend in Keene at the time of his death.

On the evening of April 6, 2018, that friend found Allen unresponsive in the basement, according to an affidavit written by Keene police Detective Joel Chidester.

In a later interview with police, Clark said he had bought some kind of opioid drug and given a portion to Allen the day of his death, according to the affidavit.

According to an offer of proof filed by Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Keith Clouatre, Clark texted Allen on April 6 to say he was buying a “dose.” He asked if Allen wanted any and offered to front him the money for it. They arranged to meet in front of a local convenience store, where Clark gave Allen the drugs, Clouatre wrote. Allen died later that day.

In October, a Cheshire County grand jury charged Clark with providing Allen the fentanyl that caused the fatal overdose.

Laura Madden of Walpole, Allen’s sister, addressed Clark in court Tuesday.

“I just want Warren to know that — you had a hand in my brother’s death. We miss him every day,” she said. “… I know he had a part in his death, as well. But this drug thing has gotta stop.”

She said she hopes the sentence is a chance for Clark to put his life together.

“I don’t think you intentionally wanted that to happen to my brother,” she said. “But I just want you to get on your feet — and don’t ever, ever, ever sell drugs to anybody again.”

Richard Guerriero, Clark’s attorney, said his client struggles with substance use issues. Guerriero read a statement on Clark’s behalf in which he apologized. “I didn’t intend for Jeff to overdose and die,” he read.

Under New Hampshire law, someone convicted of dispensing a controlled drug with death resulting can be sentenced to up to life in prison.

In practice, the sentences in death-resulting cases vary widely depending on the situation, lawyers and Judge David W. Ruoff said at Tuesday’s sentencing.

“It covers the head of the cartel in Mexico who sends drugs here, and it covers the fellow addict who also happens to just provide drugs,” Guerriero said in court. “… And in my research, the sentences range from, in one case in Rockingham, no time, all the way to decades.”

Prosecutions for death-resulting charges are relatively rare. Overdoses believed to have happened in Cheshire County caused 32 deaths in 2018, according to state data, but the county had only two indictments on death-resulting charges that year.

Clouatre said Clark’s sentence is appropriate given that Clark didn’t intend to cause Allen’s death or profit from a sale.

“It should still be a prison sentence, as whenever you hand over drugs,” it’s a risk, he said. “Here, it ended in Mr. Allen’s death.”

Those seeking recovery resources in Cheshire County can visit the The Doorway at 640 Marlboro Road in Keene (the Curran Building on Route 101) Monday through Friday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., or seek support through the state’s 24/7 hotline by calling 211.

This article has been updated to include additional details about how Clark provided Allen with drugs and to correct a quote by Laura Madden.

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Monadnock school district again considering resource officer

SWANZEY CENTER — The Monadnock Regional School Board is considering adding an armed school resource officer to the district’s payroll, reviving a discussion that fizzled a few years ago after a measure to add such a position was voted down by district residents.

The district has employed a school security officer, who cannot carry a gun on duty or make arrests, since 2013, according to a previous report in The Sentinel. It previously had a school resource officer until voters rejected a warrant article to fund the position for the 2013-14 school year. That officer was stationed at the middle/high school for 11 years.

In May, the school board directed administration to explore options for law enforcement services through the Swanzey Police Department, the Cheshire County Sheriff’s Office and N.H. State Police. But according to Superintendent Lisa A. Witte, the sheriff’s office declined because Swanzey police have expressed interest in providing an officer.

“The Swanzey Police Department is capable of handling the needs of the [Monadnock Regional High School], as they have done before, and I would support using them again,” Sheriff Eliezer “Eli” Rivera wrote in a June email to Witte. “I’ve spoken to [Swanzey] Chief [Thomas] DeAngelis about my position and I will support and partner with him as needed to meet the needs of your school.”

Swanzey police Lt. Joseph DiRusso, who was formerly a troop commander for N.H. State Police, gave the board an overview Tuesday night of State Police’s agreement with Fall Mountain Regional High School to provide law enforcement services, which was established during his tenure in the department.

DiRusso said that under the agreement, different troopers were assigned to the school in Langdon each day, and the district reimbursed the state for the associated overtime costs. To his knowledge, the district still uses this system today, he said.

But much like the sheriff’s department, DiRusso said it’s unlikely State Police would pursue providing officers if Swanzey has shown interest.

“I can’t speak for Col. [Christopher] Wagner, but from my experiences with State Police, [they] wouldn’t just come into a town unless [they] were invited,” DiRusso said, “and in a case like this, if the chief of Swanzey wanted that school resource officer, I can’t see the State Police wanting to come in and do that without getting a request.”

Witte told the board she will continue working with the Swanzey Police Department to hash out the particulars of a part-time or full-time position. The proposal would then need to go back before the board for a vote, and, if approved, funding for the new position would likely be built into the 2020-21 school budget.

The board would not have to request the funding through a separate warrant article to include it in the budget, she said.

A few board members questioned whether a position could be added this year, but Witte said it’s not yet clear if there is money available in this year’s budget.

School resource officers must also go through 40 hours of specialized training before they can begin work, DiRusso said, and finding an officer who already has that training is rare.

It may be possible if the board opts to go with a part-time officer, Witte said, but the district would still need to be sure there are sufficient funds before moving forward. Based on board discussions, the idea would be to keep the current school security officer on staff as well, she said.

Nicholas Mosher, the board’s representative from Roxbury, advocated for retaining the current officer, Frank J. DeTurris of Swanzey, who was hired in 2015. DeTurris is a retired New York City Police Department detective.

“As long as we also incorporate Frank into our plans, I’m definitely in favor of a part-time SRO. I think it would be a great addition to the district, but I’d also like to make sure that we’re not compromising other areas of education,” Mosher said. “I want to make sure that it’s built into the budget properly and that we have the funds to do it.”

Board member Elizabeth G. “Betty” Tatro of Swanzey cautioned against basing the decision on current staffing.

“I absolutely endorse Frank. But we shouldn’t be building something around a person,” Tatro said. “We should be building that around a position.”

The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 17 at Monadnock Regional Middle/High School.

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AG's office probe into Keene dentist closed with no charges

The N.H. Office of the Attorney General closed its investigation of local pediatric dentist Dr. Blake Wullbrandt without finding evidence to support criminal charges, a spokeswoman for the office confirmed.

The office’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit launched the investigation by the fall of 2017, according to letters it sent to parents of children who had gone to Children’s Dental Care in Keene, Wullbrandt’s practice.

“The investigation did not find probable cause to support charges of Medicaid fraud with respect to billing practices,” Kate Spiner, the spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office, said in an emailed response to an inquiry from The Sentinel. “However, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit referred this case to the Board of Dental Examiners.”

The N.H. Board of Dental Examiners issued a notice last month accusing Wullbrandt of professional misconduct, claiming that he overused restraints and nitrous oxide, performed unnecessary dental work and did not fully obtain informed consent for some procedures, among other allegations.

The board received a complaint about Wullbrandt through the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit in March 2018 and, two days later, a complaint from a former employee of Wullbrandt’s, according to its notice.

A hearing on the allegations is scheduled Nov. 8.

Wullbrandt was previously sanctioned by the dental board for practicing while impaired, resulting in a one-year suspension of his license that ended August 2018.