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Verdict upheld in N.H. murder

Inmate testimony OK, court rules

Robin Knight was sentenced to life in prison in 2009. Robin Knight was sentenced to life in prison in 2009.
By Lynne Tuohy
Associated Press / January 14, 2011

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CONCORD, N.H. — The state Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a coconspirator in the murder-for-hire killing of a handyman that was orchestrated by a wealthy contractor.

Lawyers for Robin Knight, 58, said his conviction should be reversed because his right to counsel was violated when prosecutors used his conversations with an inmate informant to convict him of conspiracy to commit murder and being an accomplice to murder.

Knight lured Derry handyman Jack Reid to a Deerfield horse farm June 27, 2005. Coconspirators Michael Benton and Joseph Vrooman beat him to death with a sledgehammer. The men then drove Reid’s body and his truck to a Massachusetts shopping plaza and left them there. The body was found nine days later.

The high court upheld use of the testimony by inmate Henry Bellemare, to whom Knight had made numerous statements about the killing while both were at Rockingham County House of Correction.

On the eve of jury selection, lawyers for Knight filed a motion to suppress Bellemare’s testimony, even though they had had reports of his statements for more than a year. The trial judge denied the motion because it was filed months after the filing deadline.

The Supreme Court also rejected Knight’s argument that the jury should have been given a special instruction regarding the credibility of inmate-informant testimony.

Prosecutors argued that Knight, of North Hampton, participated in the plot to kill Reid to help underwrite his lavish Las Vegas lifestyle.

Brooks paid Knight $167,000. Knight maintained it was the proceeds from a real estate venture, but prosecutors persuaded jurors the money was payment for Reid’s murder.

Knight was convicted in 2009 and sentenced to life in prison.

Contractor John Brooks plotted and participated in the killing of Reid because he thought the handyman had stolen from him. He was convicted of capital murder in 2008. He was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

Benton and Vrooman each cut plea deals and testified against Knight and Brooks. Benton is serving a sentence of 33 years to life for second-degree murder and Vrooman was sentenced to 17 to 35 years for conspiracy to commit murder.