Teen describes alleged sexual abuse by former Dunbarton selectman

  • Merton Mann —Courtesy

  • Former Dunbarton selectman Merton Mann stands trial on sexual assault charges in Merrimack County Superior Court on May 20, 2019.

Monitor staff
Published: 5/20/2019 4:05:53 PM

The boy, now 17, can picture scenes from the movie Shrek and recall moments roughhousing with friends on the afternoon of April 4, 2007, more than 12 years ago.

But what began as a typical day of Kindergarten activities, followed by a play date, would take a dark and scary turn for a 5-year-old boy. He would later disclose to his mother how Merton Mann – one of three Dunbarton selectman at the time – had inappropriately touched him and made him do things that caused him to feel confused, uncomfortable and scared.

“I remember not knowing what to feel, finding it really confusing and not knowing how to process what happened,” said the now-teenager accusing Mann of sexual assault.

The teen was the first witness to testify against Mann during what will be a multi-day trial in Merrimack County Superior Court in Concord. Mann, 75, of Dunbarton faces nine counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and seven counts of felonious sexual assault. The majority of those charges stem from April 4, 2007, when the now-teenager and another boy say they were molested by Mann at the same time.

“After today, you’ll never think of a ‘play date’ the same way,” Assistant County Attorney Carley Ahern told the 12 men and four women chosen last week as jurors.

During opening statements, Ahern painted Mann as deceitful and dangerous. She accused him of previously grooming one of the boys, who has yet to testify, by showing him a pornographic film immediately preceding the abuse and then “replicating” the acts. For that child, she said, the abuse wasn’t isolated to one spring afternoon in 2007; rather, it began months earlier, including in an office, in an attic and on car rides between Dunbarton and Hooksett.

The two boys who say they were sexually assaulted by Mann haven’t talked to each other since at least fifth grade after moving on to different New Hampshire schools. And yet, both will tell jurors similar stories from what they remember about April 4, 2007, including how Mann covered them both in baby powder and touched their genitals.

The information the boys disclosed in 2007 did not ultimately lead to criminal charges that year. One of the boys was re-interviewed in 2010 but Mann remained free. However, the case took a turn last year when a trained forensic interviewer at the Merrimack County Advocacy Center spoke with the boys about what happened more than a decade ago. Their disclosures last year include vivid details of sexual abuse by Mann, who has been in custody pending trial.

While one of the boy’s parents filed the initial report with Dunbarton police, the case was ultimately transferred to the Merrimack County Attorney’s Office for further review. Former Dunbarton police Chief Christopher Connelly testified in a deposition tapped and shown to jurors that Mann’s position on the board of selectmen meant the town’s police department couldn’t investigate without a perceived conflict of interest.

Defense attorney Jaye Ann Duncan told jurors Monday that they’ll have to listen closely to the boys’ testimony this week and sort “perception from reality.” She said there are “glaring differences” between what the boys first told authorities in 2007 and what they said in interviews in 2018.

“They’re different from the original stories and they’re different from each other’s stories,” she said.

“Ask yourself, is it reasonable that a 5-year-old would be able to remember intricate quotes 10 years later? Would they be able to remember graphic details all the way down to what movie was on television? Or, could this be part of a story that was concocted and has grown over the years by people who don’t like Merton Mann?”

Conversely, Ahern asked jurors to consider what disclosure might look like to a child and how that child may feel more comfortable confiding in family members than complete strangers in uniform, including, as happened in one case, with Mann in the next room. Further, she asked them to think about how a 5-year-old versus a now-17-year-old might use different words to articulate what happened to him.

The trial will continue Tuesday in Concord.

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


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