NEWPORT — A New Hampshire man who prosecutors stated was the brains behind a plan to heist a high-end automobile out of a historic barn in Plainfield that went up in flames and burned to the bottom shortly after he and his confederate fled the scene will spend greater than three years behind bars.
Thomas Hamel, 31, previously of Lebanon, pleaded responsible to a single felony rely of theft in Sullivan County Superior Courtroom in Newport and was sentenced to 3½ years to fifteen years in state jail — much less the 181 days he has been in jail with out bail since his arrest. Hamel additionally was ordered to pay restitution of $2,500 to the proprietor of the property the place the greater than 200-year-old barn burned down.
Arson fees in opposition to Hamel have been dropped as a part of his negotiated plea deal filed in Sullivan Superior Courtroom in Newport, in response to court docket information.
Nonetheless pending are theft and arson fees in opposition to Jesse LaFlam Jr., 31, Hamel’s alleged confederate within the April 2, 2023 scheme to steal the 2001 silver Audi TT convertible that was being saved within the barn together with two different high-end automobiles — a Porsche Boxster and a Mercedes van. Each the Porsche and Mercedes have been destroyed within the blaze.
The comparatively fast disposition of Hamel’s case — he was indicted on the costs lower than 4 months in the past in October and wasn’t arraigned till December — nonetheless nonetheless leaves unresolved the origin of the blaze that left the barn — which was simply seen from Route 120 — in a smoldering heap of ashes.
Sullivan County Lawyer Marc Hathaway, the prosecutor within the case, declined to remark. Ben St. Pierre, Hamel’s protection lawyer, didn’t reply to an inquiry by way of electronic mail.
Though each defendants have been charged with arson, the state Fireplace Marshall’s Workplace by no means performed an investigation of the scene as a result of investigators have been tied up that weekend with hearth investigations elsewhere within the state and an excavator introduced in by the Plainfield Fireplace Division to maneuver particles had disturbed the construction’s stays.
The barn hearth broken the almost adjoining residence by which Judith Belyea, the house’s occupant, was sleeping on the time. Belyea solely escaped after a neighbor from throughout the street noticed the conflagration and known as to alert her to get out of the home.
When firefighters sifted by way of the barn particles they found the charred stays of the Porsche and Mercedes however didn’t study of the theft of the Audi till they contacted the proprietor of the automobiles, a Plainfield resident who spends the winters in Florida. The person knowledgeable police that there was a 3rd automobile additionally being saved within the barn.
That revelation launched a police investigation to search out the lacking car.
Hamel was tied to the automobile’s theft a pair days after the fireplace when Plainfield police acquired a tip that the Audi was at his residence on Financial institution Road Extension in Lebanon.
When police arrived at Hamel’s residence, he initially denied them permission to examine his property however later relented and advised police that the car was “sizzling” and had been pushed there by LaFlam Jr. On the time, police charged Hamel solely with trying to falsify proof as a result of he tried to smash his telephone when police requested him at hand it over.
However investigators later decided that it was Hamel who had hatched the plan to steal the Audi and enlisted LaFlam Jr.’s assist into the scheme by having him drive Hamel to the barn after which act as a lookout scout whereas Hamel went contained in the barn to grab the car and drive it again to his residence in Lebanon.
Jury choice within the case in opposition to LaFlam Jr., who additionally has a quite a few prior felony convictions in Sullivan County Superior Courtroom, is scheduled to start March 4, in response to court docket information.
Belyea, 81, a widely known Plainfield resident who had served on the Selectboard for greater than 30 years and continues to be the city’s timber tax agent, advised the Valley Information on Tuesday that she is within the strategy of changing her former workplace area within the south facet of her residence, which had been broken by the fireplace, right into a single-car storage.
However she has no plan to rebuild the barn.
“You possibly can by no means change it,” Belyea stated. “The barn was in-built 1815, and it was simply so stunning. You possibly can by no means change that, and I’m not going to.”
Nonetheless, Belyea notes, the barn web site is memorialized by a pure shrine.
“I’ve a giant flower backyard in entrance of it, and I at all times did,” she stated. “I’m leaving it there.”
Contact John Lippman at email@example.com.