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Press contact: Amanda Grady Sexton, 603-548-9377
Amanda Grady Sexton, Director of Public Affairs, NHCADSV:
"The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence calls on the Executive Council to deny the request of convicted murderer Gary Place for a hearing on his pardon petition, which will be an item on their agenda at this Thursday’s Governor and Council meeting.
In 1984, Gary Place was tried and convicted of the first-degree murder of his fiancée, Wanda Olsen. Gary Place had a documented history of domestic violence in previous relationships, and when Ms. Olsen tried to end their abusive relationship, Gary Place strangled her with his hands, then with an electrical cord, and then he stabbed her seven times in the heart to ensure that she was dead.
Despite current claims by Gary Place and his attorneys that he no longer poses a risk to the community, he exhibited a longstanding pattern of violence and may very well still be a danger to the public. Further, his attorneys and supporters have provided letters supporting the assertion that he has suffered from mental health issues, and that those issues played a role in his vicious murder of Wanda Olsen. The issue of Gary Place’s potential mental health issues, and whether they were to blame for his violent crime, were thoroughly examined at the time of his trial. A jury of his peers heard the evidence that was presented regarding his mental health and rejected this as an excuse, or even mitigating factor, for his murdering Wanda Olsen. It is an insult to every veteran or person suffering from PTSD to insinuate that they are dangerous, family-killing murderers.
Domestic violence is a serious social and legal problem here in the Granite State. In the last year alone, NH crisis centers served over 15,000 victims. Domestic violence homicides account for 62% of all homicides in New Hampshire, with the victims of these crimes predominantly being women. In the face of this stark reality, our focus should be on working together to find ways to prevent these crimes and to stop domestic violence in the Granite State.
Wanda Olsen’s life was deliberately, heinously, and with premeditation, taken from her at the hands of Gary Place. Granting this hearing request would set a dangerous precedent for other violent offenders and send a devastating message to all victims of domestic violence. Allowing Gary Place the opportunity to justify and minimize his crime will undoubtedly have an impact on future reporting by showing that offender accountability is not a priority for New Hampshire leaders—and that even when a finding of guilt for first-degree murder and a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole are handed down, offenders will not ultimately be held accountable.
NH leaders should not be diminishing accountability for those who have been found guilty of committing the ultimate act of domestic violence just because time has passed. Wanda Olsen will never be pardoned from the death sentence given to her by her killer.
The Coalition calls on the Executive Council to swiftly deny Gary Place’s request. We cannot afford to take such a significant step backwards in working to combat the pervasive crime of domestic violence in the State of New Hampshire."
About the Coalition
NHCADSV is a statewide network of 13 independent member programs committed to ending sexual violence, domestic violence, and stalking, through direct services to victims, community education, and public policy advocacy. The NHCADSV and its 13 member programs do not discriminate based on gender, age, health status (including HIV-positive), physical, mental, or emotional ability, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, socio-economic status, race, national origin, immigration status, or religious or political affiliation. For more information visit www.nhcadsv.org
lyn schollett, executive director for nhcadsv, statement at on nh Department of Justice's agreement with st. paul's school
September 13, 2018
Lyn Schollett, Executive Director of the NH Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence:
The New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence applauds the Attorney General for this comprehensive settlement agreement, which focuses on creating lasting change for the community of St. Paul’s School.
This agreement is truly groundbreaking. The scope of this settlement reflects how pervasive the problems at St. Paul’s School are. We believe this agreement will have far reaching implications and become a model for schools throughout the country seeking to create safer and more responsive environments for students who are sexually assaulted.
This settlement became a reality because of the tremendous commitment Attorney General MacDonald and his team have demonstrated to victims of crime. Soon after he was appointed, the Coalition brought concerns about St. Paul’s to them, and they listened. And then they acted.
This intensive investigation involved the investigators, prosecutors and advocates you see here today and literally thousands of hours of work – hard work that involved unearthing the experiences of victims long overlooked or even silenced. Through it all, the Attorney General’s Office was undeterred from its ultimate goal: ensuring the safety and well-being of St. Paul’s students.
The Attorney General’s Office could have taken a more traditional approach and charged the school with criminal offenses. This would have likely resulted in the school merely having to pay a fine, if found guilty. That limited accountability would have been a blip on the screen and a day in the media, yet would have resulted in minimal change for the children who live, work and study on St. Paul’s campus every day.
Today marks a change. After decades of perpetuating the abuse of children, the standard formula for an institution’s “accountability” can no longer be taking a hit in the media, offering an apology, or writing a check.
Instead, the people you see here today invested in monumental change. The Attorney General’s Office prioritized student safety above all else; recognized the need for large-scale, institutional change; and refused to let St. Paul’s School get away with a mere slap on the wrist for failing its students and its community for decades. The message to St. Paul’s and institutions across the country is clear: the systemic discrediting and minimizing of victims will no longer be tolerated or swept under the rug.
In particular, we are encouraged that an overseer will be in place long enough to not only create policies that protect students, but to implement them. Education aimed at preventing future abuse will be prioritized. Guaranteed access to confidential, victim-centered support services will break down the shame and isolation often felt by victims, and insure that they are aware of all of their options after an assault. As you have heard in recent years from students who were victimized at St. Paul’s, how an institution responds to a victim has an enormous impact on how that victim moves through the world after an assault. With evidence-based, trauma-informed training, we are hopeful that St. Paul’s leadership will move from blaming victims to believing them.
Thank you, Attorney General MacDonald and your team, for your vision and leadership in reaching this unprecedented agreement. The Coalition is prepared to help in any way we can. We stand with survivors who have named the violence they experienced at St. Paul’s School and those who have never felt that they can do so. Our hope is that this agreement is a first step to creating an environment where any student who is assaulted is provided the support and services they need and deserve.
NHCADSV and Response Domestic and Sexual Violence Support Center Joint Statement on Domestic Violence Related Berlin Homicide