Former Pembroke Academy dean jailed until she gets drug treatment

  • Rekha Luther, the former Pembroke Academy dean of students charged with bringing heroin into the school, waived her probable cause hearing at Hooksett District Court Monday. Luther waited in court with her lawyer Michael Iacopino, seated to her right. (GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff)

  • Rekha Luther breaks down while listening to her father testify at her bail hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rekha Luther breaks down while listening to her father testify at her bail hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. Luther, a former dean at Pembroke Academy charged with bringing drugs onto campus, will remain in jail while she seeks inpatient drug treatment, a judge said Tuesday. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rekha Luther’s father, Neville Pereira, breaks down while testifying at her bail hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Rekha Luther arrives for her bail hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 7/18/2017 1:07:22 PM

Rekha Luther sobbed Tuesday as she watched her father testify about how heroin had taken control of her life – a life that was rich with accomplishments and pride.

“This drug does not discriminate,” Neville Pereira, Luther’s father, told the court during his daughter’s bail hearing. “She is highly educated. She is a productive community member. She has done wondrous things in her community. The drug comes, it takes control.”

Seventeen months ago, Luther, a former Pembroke Academy dean, was arrested and charged with having fentanyl and testosterone propionate in her possession at the high school. For the first time since her arrest, she sat in a Concord courtroom Tuesday wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and handcuffs.

Police had arrested Luther on Thursday after she failed to appear in Merrimack County Superior Court three days earlier for jury selection in the felony drug case. Her trial was scheduled to begin Monday, but was canceled following the missed hearing.

Now, a judge says, Luther will remain incarcerated until she is accepted into an inpatient drug treatment program where she can get the help she needs.

Luther has had a string of nonappearances in court, including on June 23 when she told her attorney she was at an inpatient drug treatment facility in England. The court learned Tuesday that Luther had lied about her whereabouts.

“She did not travel abroad or leave the state of New Hampshire to receive treatment,” her public defender Julia Pothen said.

Pothen added that the family had made plans for Luther to travel, but that those plans fell through at the last minute.

Pereira agreed to testify under oath to explain in further detail why his daughter had sought treatment for a heroin addiction outside the United States. He said Luther had done extensive research on a form of treatment – approved only in Europe, Canada and Mexico – that resets the receptors in the brain, which are disrupted by drug use.

Initially, a counselor had requested $5,000 up front from the family, then doubled the cost to $10,000, Pereira said.

“We don’t have that kind of money,” he said. “We ended up abandoning it and looking for treatment in the United States.”

Luther began receiving treatment at Serenity Place in Manchester on July 11, the day after she failed to appear in court for jury selection, her attorney said.

Given the unique facts of the case, Pothen said, she understood that the court would likely not grant Luther’s release from custody on personal recognizance or a low cash bail. But that’s okay, she noted – the family was not after leniency from the court.

Instead, Pothen recommended the court set bail at $10,000 cash only to start, and then reduce Luther’s bail to $10,000 personal recognizance at the time of her acceptance into an inpatient program. Pothen said the county’s pretrial services program would supervise Luther, who would wear an electronic monitoring device and forfeit her passport to the court.

“We’re asking for a long-term plan,” Pothen said.

The state, however, called for a harsher sanction.

Assistant Merrimack County Attorney Susan Venus requested the court revoke Luther’s bail, pending the resolution of the drug possession case. In addition to Luther’s failures to appear in court, she also attempted to evade arrest by running from a sheriff’s deputy Thursday in Manchester, Venus said.

“It appears to this day that the defendant will do whatever it takes not to come to this court,” she said.

Judge Richard McNamara, who presided over the bail hearing, said he was extremely concerned that Luther had lied to the court and misrepresented to her attorney that she was in England.

“Either she’s in the terrible throes of an addiction or she doesn’t care,” he said.

McNamara agreed with Luther’s family that drug treatment must be a priority. He ordered that Luther be held on $40,000 cash bail until she is accepted into a program, at which time her bail will be reduced to $10,000 personal recognizance. During her time in rehab, she will be supervised by the county’s pretrial services program and wear a monitoring anklet, he said.

If Luther leaves the treatment facility without completing the program, she will be arrested and her bail revoked, McNamara said.

“You’ve got to get that drug problem treated,” he told Luther. “At the same time, you have to take responsibility for your actions – when you’re supposed to come to court, you have to come to court.”

A grand jury indicted Luther more than a year ago on four charges. She faces two Class B felonies – each of which could carry up to seven years in prison – and two “enhanced felonies” for the charges of possession of a narcotic in a “safe school zone.”

Luther has not worked at Pembroke Academy since resigning March 22, 2016.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @_ADandrea.)

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