October 22. 2013 8:14PM

Colebrook gunpowder trial heading to jury

Special to the Union Leader

LANCASTER — The jury is set to begin deliberations today in the manslaughter and negligent homicide trial of the former owner of a Colebrook gunpowder manufacturing plant where a powerful explosion in the spring of 2010 left two workers dead.

Mark Sisti, the attorney for Craig Sanborn, the Maidstone, Vt., man who owned the plant when it was destroyed in the explosion and fire, rested his case mid-afternoon Tuesday in Coos County Superior Court.

Judge Peter H. Bornstein said Sisti and Coos County Attorney John McCormick would present their closing arguments starting at 9 a.m. today, and then the nine women and five men on the jury, including two alternates, would get the case, which entered its third week Monday.

Over the objection of Sisti who wanted McCormick to present a case of either manslaughter or negligent homicide in the deaths, Bornstein ruled that the jury would be able to consider all four charges.

“How can you convict a guy of killing somebody twice?” Sisti argued.

While the state went through a multi-page witness list, the defense called only two people to testify, including Sanborn’s wife, Lori Sanborn. Her husband did not take the stand.

Prosecutors say it was Craig Sanborn’s negligence and failure to heed even the most basic safety precautions that created an extremely dangerous situation at the downtown Colebrook plant that had been operating only about a month when the blast occurred.

After firefighters spent hours combating the ensuing fire that day, investigators entered the badly damaged building and found the bodies of Donald Kendall, 56, of Colebrook and Jesse Kennett, 49, of Stratford. The two men had been running industrial mixing and grinding machines in the factory’s production room prior to the first explosion.

Testifying via video from Concord Tuesday, New Hampshire Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval, who performed the autopsies, said the men suffered major traumatic injuries from the explosion, from flying debris, and from having their bodies thrown by the force of the blast. She said the fire that followed left their remains unrecognizable by visual means, and they were identified through medical records.

With the jury out of the courtroom earlier, Duval said toxicology tests revealed that Kennett had a blood-alcohol level of .11, “a little bit more” she said, than the .08 legal New Hampshire limit for driving.

Sisti and McCormick argued for and against, respectively, allowing jurors to hear that evidence. Sisti wanted to establish that Kennett’s alcohol level “cannot be eliminated as a cause of some type of problem” in the plant the day of the explosion, and Bornstein allowed him that question.

With the video screen placed facing the jury, Duval said she could not rule that out.