Former Pembroke Academy dean accused of returning to drugs

  • Rekha Luther walks at one of her favorite spots at Lake Massabesic near her home in Manchester on May 31. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 12/17/2018 5:32:04 PM

A former Pembroke Academy dean convicted in March of felony drug charges is accused of violating her probation by using heroin, fentanyl, and methamphetamine in recent months.

Rekha Luther, 39, of Manchester also failed to undergo an evaluation by a licensed alcohol and drug counselor and was suspended from the Aware Recovery Program due to “disengagement,” according to documents filed by the state’s department of probation and parole.

This spring, Luther was working for an area painting company and attending regular meetings to further her recovery. Nine months sober, she reflected in an interview with the Monitor about the day she hit rock bottom while incarcerated pretrial at the Merrimack County jail, a time that forced her to get clean and reevaluate her future.

After a 20-day stint in jail, she was transferred to a 28-day inpatient treatment program at the Phoenix House in Dublin to begin her recovery prior to her sentencing.

“Just the relief of that burden alone allowed me to start to be myself and to heal,” Luther said in May. “If I’d left jail and come home, I would have returned to the same pressures.”

Luther was scheduled to face a judge Friday in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord for a hearing regarding non-payment of attorneys fees but she failed to appear. She owes more than $800 for past representation by the New Hampshire Public Defender’s office, according to court records.

A warrant for her arrest is pending. Judge Richard McNamara signed off on the warrant in late November after Probation/Parole Officer Irena Catovic submitted documents in support of the probation violations. The warrant sets bail in the amount of $5,000 personal recognizance.

As of Monday morning, there was no warrant pending in connection with Luther’s failure to appear in court Friday.

Luther previously told the Monitor her multiple failures to appear in the two years following her February 2016 arrest were cries for help.

When Luther agreed to a sit-down interview at her home this spring, she recognized the difficult journey still ahead of her to achieve long-term sobriety but appeared determined to push forward and succeed.

“I feel like I have to fight even harder sometimes to stay in recovery because my family says, ‘Okay, jail is behind you, court is behind you, so you’re cured. You’re recovered.’ And it’s like, ‘Oh no, no. I am still very sick.’ I have to say, ‘Do you not see that I got into this addiction when I was doing what looked like the right thing,’ ” Luther said. “Social acceptability does not equal recovery. Let’s face it, I was socially acceptable. I had a career in a very public area and I was still an addict.” 

Luther was at the height of her career as the newly-appointed dean of students for Pembroke Academy in February 2016 when police arrested her on school grounds for having fentanyl in her desk and testosterone propionate in her car. She was immediately placed on paid administrative leave and later resigned.

Luther initially told school administrators she had found a small plastic bag containing hypodermic needles in a hallway. She said she secured the needles in her makeup bag, continued on to the restroom to apply makeup and then returned to her classroom to secure the makeup case in her desk before going to a meeting. After the meeting, she found the items missing and filed a report with the school’s headmaster.

During the police investigation, blue pills, a prescription bottle, a white powdery substance and cigarette filters were found in her desk, as well as additional drugs in a consent search of her vehicle, prosecutors said.

The Merrimack County Attorney’s Office ultimately resolved its case against Luther with a plea deal. Luther pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled drug and possession of a narcotic drug, both in a school zone. In turn, McNamara sentenced her to three months in jail, suspended prison time and two years probation.

This spring, she acknowledged how widespread addiction is in her home community and how it doesn’t discriminate.

“This could be someone in your family,” Luther said. “You never know who addiction is going to hit next.”

If found guilty of violating her probation, Luther could return to jail.

A judge imposed a seven-day jail sanction in late September after Luther failed to report to her probation officer and admitted to using drugs, court records show. But just days after her release, Luther told her probation officer she had again used fentanyl.

A date for the violation of parole hearing has not yet been set.

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)


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