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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Convicted murderer and former Merrimack resident testifies against father in his sex assault trial

NASHUA – A former Merrimack high school athlete and convicted murderer spent hours on the witness stand in a Nashua courtroom Tuesday, testifying against her father in a sexual assault trial more than a decade in the making.

Molly Martel, now 26 and an inmate at the New Hampshire State Women’s Prison in Goffstown, told the 10 women and four men on the jury that on Nov. 14, 2002, her father, Harvey Martel, pushed her onto a bed in their Merrimack home and sexually assaulted her. He is charged with one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. ...

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NASHUA – A former Merrimack high school athlete and convicted murderer spent hours on the witness stand in a Nashua courtroom Tuesday, testifying against her father in a sexual assault trial more than a decade in the making.

Molly Martel, now 26 and an inmate at the New Hampshire State Women’s Prison in Goffstown, told the 10 women and four men on the jury that on Nov. 14, 2002, her father, Harvey Martel, pushed her onto a bed in their Merrimack home and sexually assaulted her. He is charged with one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault.

Harvey Martel was first charged in 2004 and was about to stand trial in 2008 when prosecutors dropped the charges after Molly Martel disappeared. He was re-indicted in 2012. Molly Martel is serving a 20- to 40-year prison sentence after a jury convicted her of second-degree murder in the stabbing death of a woman in Manchester in 2010.

Just before the jury was admitted into the courtroom, Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple granted a defense motion barring prosecutors from suggesting there was any causal link between the murder and the sexual abuse Molly Martel accuses her father of. Temple said any discussion of the murder would be limited to issues around Molly Martel’s credibility as a witness.

Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karinne Brobst said in her opening argument that in 2002, Molly Martel had a great life. She was close with her parents and, as a freshman at Merrimack High School, was a star softball pitcher.

“She lost everything that mattered to her because her father, Harvey Martel, sexually assaulted her,” Brobst said.

Molly Martel told her boyfriend the same night the alleged abuse happened and then told the police later that night. It would be years before she committed the murder that presents credibility issues now, Brobst said.

“I’m going to ask you to focus on 2002 because Molly is not on trial today,” she said. “Her father is.”

Public defender Steve Rosecan said Molly Martel’s story simply doesn’t make sense. She was on the phone with her boyfriend when the alleged assault began, he said, but her boyfriend didn’t hear anything that alarmed him until meeting up with her later that night. Male DNA on some of Molly Martel’s clothes cannot be trusted because of problems with the test performed at the state crime lab, Rosecan said.

“Forensic testing has limits. Science has limits,” he said. “The forensic analysis does not fix Molly’s story.”

Molly Martel, wearing a blue-and-white patterned dress and a blue sweater, spent most of Tuesday on the stand. When she finished testifying, sheriff’s deputies escorted her to the rear of the courtroom, separated by a row of seats from her family.

She testified that the assault was interrupted by her mother returning home from work and that Harvey Martel said they would “finish up” later when her mother went for a walk.

“I thought that he could potentially rape me,” Molly Martel said.

She said later she didn’t tell police about an argument she and her father had the day before that frightened her because she was young and nervous and just answered the specific questions police posed.

“I was just nervous so I just let them ask the questions, and all I did was just answer them,” Molly Martel said. “At 14, I didn’t really want to be in an interrogation room.”

Merrimack police Lt. Denise Roy, then a patrol officer, later testified she interviewed Molly Martel at the police station and that the same case now would have involved the Child Advocacy Center in Nashua, which didn’t open until 2007.

Molly Martel was convicted of stabbing Stephanie Campbell in Manchester in November 2010. She was arrested in Kerhonkson, N.Y., two days after the murder

Her lawyers argued she stabbed Campbell in self-defense. They said at that trial that Molly Martel had a history of family sexual abuse that was a contributing factor in the crime.

“She wasn’t born to be defended in a murder case,” attorney Eric Wilson told the court. “You’ve got to wonder why. What happened in the last 23 years that put Molly Martel in that chair?”

Harvey Martel’s trial was delayed 17 times before prosecutors dropped the charges in 2008, according to his second lawyer, public defender Ed Cross.

He argued last week that the charges should be dismissed because Harvey Martel has suffered undue “emotional and psychological impact” as a result of prosecutors dropping the charges six years ago and re-indicting him in 2012.

“There has to be limits,” he said.

Temple denied that motion.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Cote on Twitter (@Telegraph_JoeC).