International story upends small town life for a day

  • SMALL TOWN ON THE SPOT: Joseph Torro speaks with media on the steps of the Bradford Village Inn on Thursday. Torro was among the area businesses that were contacted to provide context to an international story that unfolded in the rural town. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Sarah Henderson talks about the capture of Ghislaine Maxwell, who was arrested in New Hampshire Thursday morning on multiple sex abuse charges including conspiracy to entice minors to engage in sexual acts. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Joseph Torro of the Bradford Village Inn on Friday, July 2, 2020. Ghislaine Maxwell was arrested in the small town Thursday morning on multiple sex abuse charges including conspiracy to entice minors to engage in sexual acts. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bradford Police Lt. Ed Shaughnessy at the town police department on Thursday. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor columnist
Published: 7/2/2020 5:15:30 PM

The national and international media scrambled to get the scoop connected to the day’s biggest crime story.

The scoop we already had.

The Miami Herald called businesses in town. So did the Baltimore Sun, and others newsrooms from New York to London. Media and TV entertainment outlets called the Granite State media, searching for background, information, history, something that would shed some light on something very specific. 

They called the local police and they called a nearby hotel and inn. The individuals who descended on the federal courthouse on Pleasant Street hoping to catch a glimpse, hours after the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, had their feelers out as well.

Bradford? Bradford, New Hampshire? That’s where the woman who allegedly recruited underage girls for Jeffrey Epstein’s pleasure was living? 

“You see it here,” Lt. Ed Shaugnessy of the Bradford Police Department said, leaning out the door at the station Thursday and nodding toward the rural space. “It’s small-town New Hampshire. We’re a community of 1,700 people. You know, the last reporter asked, ‘does this happen every day?’ Obviously, it does not.”

Shaughnessy was the lone local officer present during the bust, which was led by the FBI. He said there were about two dozen law enforcement officials at the site.

In a statement, FBI New York Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr., said, “We’d been discretely keeping tabs on Maxwell’s whereabouts as we worked this investigation, and more recently we learned she had slithered away to a gorgeous property in New Hampshire, continuing to live a life of privilege while her victims live with the trauma inflicted upon them years ago.”

Gaps in the story remained. Who tipped off the FBI? What’s Maxwell connection to us, to the Granite State, to Bradford? What’s her life been like?

Sarah Henderson, sitting in her truck sipping an iced coffee topped with whipped cream, said she saw a large law enforcement presence near her home, meaning she suspected that she lived near the “gorgeous property” and home that housed Maxwell. She heard low-flying planes for hours, then came the helicopters. She said it drove her nuts.

“Yes, it’s a nice property, like you said,” Henderson said.

She continued: “You definitely would not expect this, in small-town USA. But it’s a nice town, everyone knows everyone for the most part.”

We’ve been through this before. Bernard Goetz, who shot four black teens on a New York City subway in 1984 after they approached him, surrendered, in all places, in Concord, after a nationwide manhunt.

But Concord, of course, was a bigger stage, the center of government, a golden-domed state house giving off a vibe of leadership.

But Bradford? Maxwell was caught there after a year out of the limelight. She’s a British socialite who traveled the world, rubbed elbows with our president and wore expensive clothing.

Her alleged crimes moved her from the biggest townhouse in Manhattan, to the biggest ranch in New Mexico, to a pair of private islands in the Caribbean.

And, ultimately, to an estate in Bradford?

“Bradford is a quiet little community, sort of central to a number of locations,” said Erik Pickhhardt, who’s lived in town for eight years. “There aren’t that many people who come to Bradford as a destination. But a lot of people pass through it on their way to New London or someplace like that.”

And sometimes, they stop and stay awhile.

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