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Hometown prosecutor gets paid, and now awarded, for doing ‘the right thing’

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin speaks with the media after the video arraignment of Shawn Carter at the Franklin District Court in Franklin on July 10, 2013. Strelzin was recognized by the New Hampshire Bar Association for outstanding service in public sector/public interest law.  

(ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin speaks with the media after the video arraignment of Shawn Carter at the Franklin District Court in Franklin on July 10, 2013. Strelzin was recognized by the New Hampshire Bar Association for outstanding service in public sector/public interest law. (ANDREA MORALES / Monitor staff)

For nearly a decade, Jeffery Strelzin has been the state’s legal point man on some of its most unsettling crimes. As the chief of the Department of Justice’s homicide unit, Strelzin, a senior assistant attorney general, is the first person police officials contact when investigating suspicious deaths. He has prosecuted several high-profile cases, including that of convicted cop killer Michael Addison and of Christopher Gribble and Steven Spader, the young pair found guilty of brutally murdering a Mont Vernon mother in her home in 2009.

It’s a demanding job, made increasingly so in recent years as budgets have contracted. But Strelzin, who is the state’s longest-serving homicide chief, seems to find more pride than stress in the work.

“I get paid to do the right thing,” he said.

Now he is being recognized for it in another

way. On Friday, the New Hampshire Bar Association announced that Strelzin has been selected as the recipient of its 2014 Outstanding Service in Public Sector/Public Interest Law Award.

The award, which Strelzin will formally receive in March, is bestowed annually to an attorney in the public sector who demonstrates a strong commitment to advocacy, mentorship or legislative change.

In announcing the award, the association noted Strelzin’s commitment to mentoring younger attorneys and his dedication to “protecting the rights and safety of New Hampshire citizens and to ensuring that victims of violent crime receive justice in the courtroom.”

Jay Surdukowski, an attorney at Sulloway & Hollis in Concord, described Strelzin as “one of the hardest working public servants in New Hampshire.”

“Jeff faces the worst in our state and society and he keeps the moral conscience of New Hampshire burning when he goes from crime scene to investigation to trial,” Surdukowski wrote in a letter nominating Strelzin for the honor. “It is grueling work, and he has done it for years without complaint and for pay that pales in comparison to his peers who litigate in private practice.”

Strelzin, 52, graduated from Franklin Pierce Law Center (now University of New Hampshire School of Law) and worked for 3½ years in the Merrimack County attorney’s office before joining the attorney general’s office as a prosecutor in its criminal division.

A Concord native, Strelzin said he has always harbored great respect for the state’s tightly knit legal community.

Lawyers here “treat each other differently,” he said. “There’s real collegiality and professionalism that doesn’t exist in other places. I think that makes practicing in New Hampshire very special.”

Also honored by the group was Heather Krans, an attorney with the Stein Law Firm in Concord who specializes in domestic relations and appellate law.

Krans, a former president of the state Women’s Bar Association and chairwoman of the New Hampshire Bar Association’s Family Law Section, has been awarded the Philip Hollman Gender Equality Award.

In addition to her work with both bar associations, Krans serves on the boards of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England and the Women’s Fund of New Hampshire.

The group has also chosen Jonathan Frizzell, a North Country attorney, for its Vickie Bunnell Award for Community Service, and Gordon MacDonald, a partner at Nixon Peabody in Manchester, for its Distinguished Service to the Public Award.

(Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, jblackman@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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