More than a decade ago, a Keene man was convicted of brutally assaulting and killing his girlfriend’s 21-month-old daughter in York, Maine.
Chad E. Evans, now 43, has maintained his innocence and has appealed his conviction in the courts, but the matter is now being taken up by the N.H. House Judiciary Committee. On Thursday, the committee will consider a resolution that, if passed, would urge the N.H. Attorney General’s office to reopen the case.
Evans was a former Keene Board of Education member who was living in Rochester with his girlfriend, Amanda Bortner, for about three months before the death of her daughter Kassidy.
A state representative from Seabrook who is sponsoring the resolution said he and others believe Evans is innocent, but a representative from the Attorney General’s Office is adamant that the verdict should stand.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said a representative from his office will attend Thursday’s hearing to take a position on the resolution. Though Strelzin said he couldn’t elaborate on what that position would be, he said his office has considered the case before, coming to the same conclusion.
“The case has been litigated many, many times,” said Strelzin, who is the chief of the department’s homicide unit.
Evans lost an appeal to overturn his conviction at the N.H. Supreme Court in 2003, when that court ruled the original jury that convicted Evans was correct in doing so.
Evans’ defense had argued throughout his trial and appeal that Kassidy’s babysitter Jeffrey Marshall, a relative of Amanda Bortner, was responsible for the child’s death.
“I know he’s trying to re-create history a little bit, but that’s not uncommon for people who are convicted of murder,” Strelzin said.
State Rep. Max Abramson, R-Seabrook, said he has doubts about the state’s case against Evans and wants it looked into again. Abramson said he first came across Evans’ case after he lost his own self-defense case following a brawl at his house in 2010.
“We’re trying to get him out of prison so he can be with his family,” Abramson said, adding he believes there’s an “enormous preponderance of evidence in favor of Chad not committing a crime.”
Abramson said after researching the case, he believes Evans’ defense team made the correct argument that either Marshall committed the crime or Kassidy died from a medical condition.
Linda Dalessandri, a longtime friend of Evans who lives in Lebanon, Maine, says after all these years, she is convinced of her friend’s innocence. She said she is optimistic the Legislature will look into this case and others.
“I believe New Hampshire is one of the few states that’s really taken an active aggressive look into wrongful convictions,” Dalessandri said. “I think we can win the support, but I think there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
But Strelzin said his office has already done one “significant review” of Evans’ case after the original conviction, and still determined he was guilty of Kassidy’s murder.
“He’s had multiple chances to overturn his conviction,” Strelzin said.