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N.H. top court upholds convictions

Woman killed two boyfriends on her horse farm

In 2008, Sheila LaBarre unsuccessfully invoked an insanity defense and was sentenced to life in prison. In 2008, Sheila LaBarre unsuccessfully invoked an insanity defense and was sentenced to life in prison.
(Associated Press/File)
By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / March 26, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously upheld yesterday the murder convictions of a woman who, professing to be an angel sent by God to punish pedophiles, killed two boyfriends at her horse farm.

A March 2006 police search of Sheila LaBarre’s property in Epping was justified, the court ruled, because authorities had more than ample reason to be concerned about the safety and well-being of her most recent boyfriend, Kenneth Countie.

At her 2008 trial, LaBarre unsuccessfully invoked an insanity defense, admitting she killed Countie in 2006 and a former boyfriend, Michael Deloge, the year before that. She was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

The legality of the search was at the center of her appeal, but the high court determined that the search was justified “by the police’s community care-taking function and the defendant’s consent.’’

Countie’s family had made numerous calls to police to express concern that LaBarre might be harming him.

The week before the search, Epping police had been called to a Walmart on a disturbance complaint. They found LaBarre pushing Countie in a wheelchair and ordering him not to talk with the officers. The officers reported that Countie’s skin was ashen, he had numerous cuts, and one hand was swollen.

About 1 a.m. on March 24, 2006, LaBarre called Epping police Sergeant Shawn Gallagher and played a tape on which she identified herself as a justice of the peace and was heard interrogating Countie on whether he was a pedophile. Police could hear Countie in the background crying hysterically and vomiting.

Gallagher and Epping detective Richard Cote went to LaBarre’s home that day, concerned about Countie’s safety. They found a burnt mattress in the front yard and a burn pile nearby that contained a knife with a melted blade, tree limb clippers, a partially burnt chair, and a piece of bone with fleshy material attached to it.

LaBarre came home just as they kicked in the back door, the court recounted in its ruling. She gave them permission to search the house and explained that the bone they saw in the burn pile belonged to a rabbit she had cremated. When the officers observed the bone was too large to have come from a rabbit, LaBarre became agitated and said it was from “either a rabbit or a pedophile.’’

The Supreme Court justices determined that the search was justified. “The police had reason to believe that Countie could be injured,’’ Associate Justice James E. Duggan wrote for the five-member panel. “The officers’ concerns for Countie’s well-being, and the likelihood he was still at [LaBarre’s] home, outweighed the intrusion onto the . . . property.’’

At trial, psychologists testified that LaBarre was obsessed with pedophilia, though investigators presented no evidence indicating the two murder victims had abused children.