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Teen comes forward to testify in Wolfeboro Great Dane abuse case

  • Annie-Rose Newell, 17, looks at photos as she testifies Monday, Oct. 17, 2017,about her experience working at Christina Fay’s mansion in Wolfeboro. In the foreground are, from left, Christina Fay and defense attorneys Jim Cowles and Kent Barker. Fay faces animal abuse charges after dozens of Great Danes were found in what police and Humane Society officials described as disgusting conditions. RAY DUCKLER / Monitor staff

  • Marilyn Kelly testifies about her experience working at Christina Fay’s mansion in Wolfeboro. In the foreground are, from left, Christina Fay and defense attorney Kent Barker. Fay faces animal abuse charges after dozens of Great Danes were found in what police and Humane Society officials described as disgusting conditions. RAY DUCKLER / Monitor staff

  • Annie-Rose Newell, 17, looks at photos as she testifies about her experience working at Christina Fay’s mansion in Wolfeboro. In the foreground are, from left, Christina Fay and defense attorneys Jim Cowles and Kent Barker. Fay faces animal abuse charges after dozens of Great Danes were found in what police and Humane Society officials described as disgusting conditions. RAY DUCKLER / Monitor staff



Monitor columnist
Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The high school girl – a 16-year-old dog lover – thought she had the perfect job last May.

She’d care for Great Danes, lots of them, in a Wolfeboro mansion.

“A grand white house,” she called it, before going inside.

She’d feed the giant dogs, 75 of them, with their tails whipping like windshield wipers. She’d play with them, love them, get to know them. Plus, she’d get paid for doing so, probably becoming the envy of her friends.

Soon, though, Annie-Rose Newell realized her days would be filled with feces and urine and an ammonia smell in the air. She’d see dogs she was sure were sick. She’d need soap and hot water to clean the uncleanable, and she’d move from room to room to see and smell the unthinkable.

“Shocking,” Newell said Monday in Ossipee’s district court. “I felt horrible for the dogs, that they had to live in those conditions.”

The state says those conditions were illegal, the fault of Christina Fay, the mansion’s owner who’s charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty. The charges are just misdemeanors, but stories about abused animals always strike a chord with the public, and this chord had the impact of a heavy metal song.

This was the first day of what is expected to be a three-day trial. Testimony continues Wednesday, before final arguments on Friday. Fay, who’s 59, declined comment, but thanked me for giving her a voice after a preliminary hearing two weeks ago.

That was then, though, and this was now, the start of the trial and testimony from two witnesses who, while working for Fay, used their cellphones to document what they’d seen. The other witness was Marilyn Kelly, who works for the Conway Area Humane Society.

In other words, Fay may not like this column as much as my last one, because Newell’s and Kelly’s description of what they saw and photographed portrayed Fay as a monster.

Kelly said she saw feces waist-high on the walls.

“One person could never clean it all,” she said in court. “It was horrendous. There were no open windows, no water.”

She said she used foam insulation and a fan to block the smell from seeping into her apartment on Fay’s estate, given to her as part of the job. She said she saw dogs with puncture wounds. She said she saw Fay staple a wound closed.

Kelly has gone on the record before, with me and other journalists.

But until now, Newell’s name was unknown, left out of the affidavit filed in June because she was a minor. But she’s since turned 17. She was the first witness on the first day of a trial that has attracted national attention.

Newell had long hair, parted on the right side and swept to the left, draped over her shoulder. She had dangling oval earrings and a sadness to her eyes that turned hard during cross-examination by defense lawyer Jim Cowles.

Her testimony throughout was graphic, disgusting and disturbing. Most of it detailed her memory from May 2, her first day on the job.

And her last.

Newell spoke about dogs slipping and sliding on floors that were wax-like from the coating of dog waste. In fact, Newell said, she had a hard time staying upright herself.

She spoke about oozing juice from rotting chicken, about maggots spilling from the bottom of a refrigerator, about a smell made worse from a lack of ventilation and hot, humid weather outside.

“Maggots just poured out from the door and down onto the ground,” Newell told the court. She said the smell hit her “in the face,” that it got “in your nose.”

With those in the courtroom – allies of Fay and representatives of the Humane Society – already wincing from talk of ooze and ammonia, prosecutor Simon Brown asked if Newell had been offered a lunch break during that first work day.

“They offered to let me eat with them in the kitchen,” Newell said, referring to Fay, her son, kennel manager Julia Smith and Kelly. “But I decided to go to my car.”

Did she eat? Brown asked.

“No, I could not eat anything that day,” Newell continued. “I had to do all I could to help with the dogs.”

So she took photos, and not secretly. “They told me it was fine to take pictures that day,” she recalled.

She and Kelly gave their photos to police and Tona McCarthy, director of field services at Pope Memorial SPCA in Concord, and the investigation was on.

Defense attorney Cowles fought back, in ways that irked Brown and created a granite-vaporizing stare from Newell.

He cited the word “ostentatious,” which Newell had used to describe Fay’s mansion, asking if she’d learned it from studying for the SATs.

He felt compelled to ask about Newell’s religion, confirming that she was a Jehovah’s Witness and wondering if that was somehow connected to why she was a home-schooled student.

“No,” said Newell, who gave a series of terse responses during a confrontational exchange.

Did she really know how old the trash she saw was, or how old the “poop” she saw was? Had she actually seen Fay feed her dogs maggot-infested food? Did she know how a raw-food diet was prepared?

Newell stayed calm, but her displeasure with Cowles was clear. For the first time, she was part of a story that will continue Wednesday. The defense got a break when Judge Charles Greenhalgh agreed to allow a veterinarian of Fay’s choosing examine the dogs in the future.

But Newell’s testimony no doubt resonated. She left the courtroom with her mother, telling me, “I’m not interested in making a comment at this time.”

But her words on the stand spoke volumes when she recounted leaving Fay’s home that day.

“I am not a person who’s prone to crying or emotions,” Newell said. “But I immediately just started crying. I couldn’t breathe.”

Then she drove home, her dream job done after just one day.

(Ray Duckler can be reached at 369-3304, rduckler@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @rayduckler.)