Plaistow, N.H., Police Chief Stephen Savage described the emotional impact of the investigation into the alleged physical abuse of a 3-year-old boy. (Sarah Schewitzer/Globe Staff)
PLAISTOW – Rockingham County Attorney Jim Reams said today he was stunned to learn that the Plaistow couple who went on the run after being charged with abusing the woman’s son were captured at a Florida theme park watching a parade.
“It’s almost disbelief,’’ Reams said at an afternoon press conference this afternoon. “You couldn’t write these things up. It was incongruous that they would end up there. Not that they would end up in Florida but at a theme park.’’
Reams was reacting to the arrest by US marshals Wednesday night of Roland Dow, 27, and Jessica Linscott, 23, at Universal Studios in Orlando.
The couple face multiple criminal charges for allegedly physically assaulting Linscott’s 3-year-old son, James Nicholson, so severely that Plaistow police have said doctors feared the child might have cognitive damage or lose his eyesight.
James Nicholson has since improved physically, but concerns about his health continue, according to his paternal grandmother, Helen Nicholson.
“I’m just glad they caught him,’’ Helen Nicholson said today, referring to Dow, whom authorities have alleged delivered the most serious physical blows to the child. “But my whole concern is for my grandson.’’ Nicholson, who lives in Melrose, declined further comment.
Dow and Linscott are currently being held in Orange County Jail and are now expected to appear in a Florida court Friday, where they will decide whether to be returned to New Hampshire immediately or to fight extradition, officials said.
Reams said today that regardless of what decisions the couple make, they will be brought back to New Hampshire as soon as possible. If they voluntarily agree to return to New Hampshire, he said they could be back within the week; it will take longer if they fight extradition.
Authorities allege that Linscott and Dow dropped the child off at Exeter Hospital on Nov. 14. Medical staff quickly discovered signs the boy had been abused and alerted Plaistow police, who filed charges two days later.
But instead of meeting with police, the couple went on the run, triggering a nationwide manhunt amid a vow from Reams that law enforcement would go anywhere in the world to bring the couple to justice.
Reams, Plaistow Police Chief Stephen C. Savage, and the US marshal for New Hampshire, David L. Cargill Jr., all said that public outrage over the allegations against the couple led to an outpouring of tips that sometimes overwhelmed law enforcement but also provided the key that started marshals looking for Dow and Linscott in Orlando, and then at Universal Studios.
“It was due to the public response that we were able to round them up,’’ Reams said.
Savage said the public has also offered emotional support to his officers and that a number of items for James Nicholson have been dropped off at the police station. He urged members of the media to pay attention to their own children today.
“I want each of you to go back to your homes tonight and I want you to give hugs and kisses to your children,’’ said Savage, whose voice choked with emotion.
New Hampshire Deputy US Marshal Jeffrey White said investigators believe the couple quickly fled New Hampshire and New England because of the widespread publicity given to the case.
“The public outrage was definitely mounting,’’ White said. “The public was pretty irate, and I think that might have really put the pressure on them.’’
White said investigators believe that once out of New England, the couple made their way to “New York for a little while and down to Atlantic City for a while and then ended up down in Orlando.’’
White said marshals went to the Universal Studios park Wednesday night, where the couple was spotted walking away from a parade. They were arrested without incident, he said.
Reams, the prosecutor, said law enforcement was confident that it would be only a matter of time before the couple was tracked down.