Judge says kidnapping suspect’s property stays put
CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A judge has ordered investigators to leave in place a trailer and a large storage container belonging to a man charged with kidnapping a 14-year-old girl who disappeared while walking home from school but returned home nine months later.
Nathaniel Kibby is charged with kidnapping Abigail Hernandez on Oct. 9 and holding her against her will. Abigail, a student at Kennett High School in Conway, returned home on July 20, but investigators have not revealed details of how she went missing or how she returned.
Prosecutors wanted to move the trailer and the storage container from Kibby’s property in Gorham, about 30 miles north of Conway, to a secure location to ward off damage and intruders. They also cited the costs of posting a 24-hour guard or fencing at what they refer to as a crime scene.
Kibby’s lawyers say moving the trailer and container would deprive them of their chance to investigate what neighbors and others could see and hear on the property and to photograph and diagram the scene.
Judge Pamela Albee ruled Friday the property will remain where it is until Kibby’s lawyers can investigate and prepare a defense strategy. She also sealed search warrants turned over to Kibby’s lawyers to expedite their investigation.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jane Young argued at a hearing on Wednesday that the 34-year-old Kibby owns the trailer but not the land it’s on and that the landlord could move the property if Kibby doesn’t pay his rent. The judge ordered the state to pay the rent for now.
Kibby was arrested on July 28 and is being held on $1 million bond. He missed the Aug. 1 payment.
The judge also flatly rejected the state’s suggestion that defense counsel share the cost of a round-the-clock police guard or fencing around the property.
“This is simply not a viable option,” the judge wrote.
Defense attorney Jesse Friedman said he is happy with the ruling “for the time being.” He would not comment on when he would likely be able to get full access to photograph and diagram the property.
Young did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Kibby’s defense team was permitted to visit the property twice but was not allowed to take notes or photographs, the judge wrote. The state has had “unfettered access” to the property since a search warrant was issued the day Kibby was arrested, she added.
The judge said she would revisit the state’s bid to move the trailer and the container after the defense has had a “meaningful opportunity” to conduct its investigation.
While Abigail was missing, her friends released a video and letters pleading for her return. The community rallied around her family, holding vigils, helping to search for her and printing posters seeking information. Residents who searched and prayed that she would return have been looking for answers about where she was and how she got back home.