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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Father of convicted murderer from Merrimack convicted of sexually assaulting her

NASHUA – This time, Molly Martel heard the guilty verdict she was hoping for.

Twelve jurors returned that verdict against Harvey Martel on Friday afternoon on a single count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. Just a few seconds later, Molly Martel, a 26-year-old convicted murderer, was embraced by Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karinne Brobst, both in tears. ...

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NASHUA – This time, Molly Martel heard the guilty verdict she was hoping for.

Twelve jurors returned that verdict against Harvey Martel on Friday afternoon on a single count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. Just a few seconds later, Molly Martel, a 26-year-old convicted murderer, was embraced by Assistant Hillsborough County Attorney Karinne Brobst, both in tears.

“Every case is personal,” Brobst said. “This one is just more personal. I spent a lot of time thinking about how Molly’s life could have been different. She’s
really a nice person and a good person.”

Jurors deliberated for nearly six hours before rendering their verdict. Harvey Martel was placed in handcuffs and led away by sheriff’s deputies 12 years after sexually assaulting his daughter. He showed no visible reaction as the verdict was read.

A second prosecutor, Kent Smith, has known Molly Martel since she was 14 and accused her father of sexually assaulting her on Nov. 14, 2002. He said justice was done, just too late.

“I wish it had been done a little sooner,” he said. “Maybe things could have turned out a little different for Molly.”

Molly Martel was convicted of
second-degree murder in the 2010 stabbing death of Stephanie Campbell in
Manchester. Before Harvey Martel’s trial began Tuesday, Hillsborough
County Superior Court Judge Charles Temple banned prosecutors from arguing the decade-old sexual abuse had any connection to the killing – something Molly Martel’s defense attorneys argued at her sentencing hearing two years ago.

“I always praise the courage of any victim to come forward and testify against, in this case, her father,” Hillsborough County Attorney Patricia LaFrance said, adding she hopes cases such as Molly Martel’s encourage other victims to come forward.

“No matter who the victim is, we can get justice for them.”

Molly Martel’s testimony took up most of the first day of the trial this week, and she told jurors she was on the phone with her then-boyfriend, Christian Dupont, when her father knocked her onto a bed in their Merrimack home and sexually assaulted her.

Public defenders Ed Cross and Steve Rosecan, along with questioning DNA results and changes in Molly Martel’s statements to police, questioned how Dupont could have failed to hear something going on while he was on the other end of the line. Dupont testified he was distracted by a group of friends and wasn’t listening closely to the phone call.

After her testimony, Molly Martel spent the rest of the trial in the back of the courtroom, where she was escorted by sheriff’s deputies who placed metal cuffs around her ankles – out of the view of jurors – and seated her separated by a row of seats from her family.

Smith admitted he was concerned about the jurors’ deliberations.

“We knew it would be a tough case,” he said. “We were very worried throughout the whole trial.”

LaFrance said sexual assault charges, already considered difficult to prosecute because of a lack of witnesses and physical evidence, are all the more difficult when the assault occurred so many years before.

“These types of cases are always difficult because of the very nature of the crime,” she said. “They’re not like bank robberies that occur in broad daylight in front of witnesses. They’re secret.”

Cross said the lingering tragedy is the fact that half of the Martel family is now incarcerated.

“We gave the jury all the evidence we could,” he said. “The ultimate tragedy is the Martel family. … Two of them are in prison. It’s a tragedy that I hope the family can deal with.”

Molly Martel, who is serving a sentence of 20-40 years at the New Hampshire State Prison for Women in Goffstown, first accused her father of assaulting on Nov. 14, 2002, but prosecutors dropped the charges just before a trial in 2008 when she disappeared.

That was after 17 delays, and Cross argued before the trial this week that the charges should be dismissed because Harvey Martel had suffered undue “emotional and psychological impact” as a result
of prosecutors reindicting him in 2012.

During his closing argument, Cross told jurors there were too many inconsistencies in Molly Martel’s statements to police over the years to believe. He said the fact that she maintained some contact with her father over the years was evidence he never assaulted her.

“You don’t need a degree in psychology to know if someone sexually assaulted you, you keep them at a psychological distance. You keep them at arm’s length,” Cross said. “Molly didn’t do that, and it undermines her claim that her father sexually assaulted her.”

Smith said Harvey Martel’s defense essentially amounted to his lawyers “nitpicking” 12-year-old statements given to police. But while details may have been forgotten over the years, he said, the heart of Molly Martel’s accusations –
that her father sexually assaulted her – has never wavered.

“What’s the one thing that’s going to be consistent in your story? It’s going to be what’s important,” Smith said. “That’s something that’s clear to her, and she’s never varied on that.”

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