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Concord woman pleads guilty to helping torture cousin, sentenced to up to 10 years

Amy Nason

Amy Nason

A 29-year-old Concord woman who was accused of helping her aunt and a man repeatedly torture her 18-year-old cousin, leaving him burned, bruised and emotionally shattered, pleaded guilty yesterday to her role in the abuse and was sentenced in turn to five to 10 years in state prison.

The woman, Amy Nason, had been charged with three felonies in the incidents, which took place in early April: one of being present as the man, Daniel Cantrell, strangled her cousin with a scarf; one of directing Cantrell to twist his ankle until it cracked; and one of pushing the cousin to lie to investigators that he inflicted his own wounds.

She had also faced two misdemeanor counts of simple assault, which were voided under the terms of the plea bargain, according to attorneys on both sides. Other previous allegations – that she forced the cousin to ingest worms, feces and liquid dish detergent, and insert vegetables into his anus – were not addressed in the state’s charges.

Just before Nason was sentenced, the cousin, who is now 19 and living with relatives in Massachusetts, addressed her in a brief handwritten statement, which he read before the court.

“What you did to me was really unforgivable,” he said. “At first I thought I had a long-lost cousin back in my life. Instead, it was disappointment and shame for you.”

“For now, prison should give you time to think about what you did to me and this family,” he added later. “Goodbye and good riddance.”

Unlike her aunt, Christine Gelineau, who began weeping after she pleaded guilty two weeks ago to her role in the torture, Nason showed little emotion yesterday inside Merrimack County Superior Court. She declined when asked by Judge Larry Smukler if she’d like to make a statement.

In fact, few people in the courtroom seemed interested in elaborating on the details of the charges, including Smukler.

“Okay, Ms. Nason,” he said, after hearing from the victim and agreeing to the sentence. “I’m not going to say much more. State prison is certainly an appropriate sanction for you. If anything, this is on the lenient end of the range, but it is within the range so I’m not going to upset the apple cart.”

“I believe this sentence will offer some measure of justice for (the victim), and is an appropriate balance,” he added later.

Nason’s attorney, Jonathan Cohen, was equally terse.

“All I can say is I don’t have a lot to add on what the prosecutor has already said about the appropriateness of this sentence,” he said. “I think it’s obviously a significant sentence for her.”

The victim had initially told officers that his wounds were self-inflicted, but eventually changed his story, admitting he had lied after being directed to do so by Nason and the other two, according to an April 19 police affidavit. He disclosed then that Nason had abused him on several occasions in recent weeks – he couldn’t recall exact dates – having thrown a cell phone at his head, punched him in the stomach and nose, and forced him to eat and drink unsanitary items. In one instance, the affidavit states, she directed him to stand all night and said if he failed, Cantrell would “twist both of his legs until his heels pointed where his toes were supposed to be.”

Cantrell, 20, who had only recently moved in with the family when the abuse began, is scheduled to stand trial later this month on several related felony charges, including punching the victim in the face, burning off his nipples with a lighter and pressing a lit cigarette onto the back of his head.

The deadline for Cantrell to reach a plea deal with the state is today. No agreement had been reached as of yesterday afternoon, according to prosecutors and Cantrell’s attorney, John Draghi.

Assistant County Prosecutor George Waldron said his team had yet to decide whether they planned to call Gelineau and Nason as witnesses in that trial, should it take place. Neither would have been eligible to testify in it had they not pleaded out prior to its start, Waldron said, unless the state granted them immunity.

County Attorney Scott Murray acknowledged after the hearing yesterday that Nason’s sentence was not as heavy as some may have wished. But he said it would have been difficult to secure a lengthier prison term, given that she had no previous felony record and that there was no evidence she directly injured the victim.

“You can only sentence for what you can prove,” Murray said, adding: “She certainly contributed to the conduct, there’s no doubt about that.”

In addition to the victim and his family, several Concord police detectives attended the hearing yesterday. Lt. Timothy O’Malley said afterward that this case had affected several officers in unprecedented ways.

“We’ve had homicides and more serious chargeable offenses, but in terms of the cruelty and the breadth of it done to this kid was overwhelming,” he said. “A lot of the detectives were very passionate and very upset about it, more so than they might ordinarily be.”

“We’re not done yet,” he added. “But we’re happy with the outcome so far, and we’re also glad to see the victim is doing well, in spite of what has happened.”

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

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