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February 12. 2014 11:40PM

Women describe ex-New London police chief's behavior


DAVID SEASTRAND 

One of the victims accusing former New London Police Chief David Seastrand of sordid behavior allegedly had an affair with him, riding in his cruiser so often that it reeked of perfume, according to investigative files released by the Attorney General's Office.

The chief's wife even found the woman's earrings in his cruiser, according to an interview in 1,547 pages released in a Right-to-Know request by the New Hampshire Union Leader.

The case file further details accusations from the woman, and three others, that Seastrand encouraged them to model for photographs under highly inappropriate or questionable conditions.

The case began last March when Janelle Westfall, an 18-year-old student at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, accused Seastrand of offering to drop an alcohol possession charge if she posed nude for photos. The other women came forth upon learning of Westfall's complaint.

The Attorney General's Office announced last December it would not pursue charges against Seastrand. The allegations, "while disturbing, did not rise to the level of criminal conduct," Attorney General Joseph A. Foster said. "Moreover each of the alleged instances involved actions by Seastrand in his personal capacity, and did not purport to be acts of his office."

Westfall, represented by Richard J. Lehmann, is continuing a legal fight. Seastrand, per advice of his attorney, declined to speak to state investigators when they came knocking.

Seastrand agreed to resign April 4, 2013, 26 days before he was planning to retire. He did so with praise from selectmen in New London, who thanked him for 27 years of service and wished him "the very best in the future."

Seastrand arrested Westfall in the early morning hours of March 3 as she was walking back from a party. Seastrand, in plainclothes, pulled over after he said she was staggering along the road. She had an unopened can of Bud Light in a pocket or in a backpack. She was ultimately charged with being a minor in possession of alcohol and for giving a false name when booked.

During her interaction with Seastrand, she says the chief offered to get rid of the charges if she would allow him to take photos of her nude. The chief gave her this "option four," she claims, and did his best to persuade her to take it over the first three options: court, a diversion program, and community service.

An upset Westfall told her father what transpired. The events that followed included Westfall, with a state investigator listening in, calling Seastrand to try to get him to talk about "option four."

She asked him if "option four" was still on the table. She said the chief grew agitated.

Seastrand: "I don't know what type of game you're playing, I already sent your stuff to DATA (a diversion program) and that seemed to be a good option."

Westfall asked him again, and Seastrand replied he did not know what she was talking about.

Westfall: "Well, you know, the nude pictures."

The chief soon hung up, promising that he would see her in court.

Others at the police department heard the chief's tone and knew he was upset. Sgt. Edward Anderson told state investigators that he thought the woman had requested Seastrand take photos of her. In his opinion, Anderson told investigators, "She's trying to set him up for something."

In one of the investigative documents, the Westfall family claims the chief inquired of Westfall to ensure she was not trying to secretly record him during one of their exchanges at the police department.

In another document, David Croft of Merrimack County Diversion, who is a friend and former colleague of Seastrand's, tells investigators that Seastrand "wholeheartedly" denied Westfall's accusations.

The state files released per the Right-to-Know request redact certain bits of information, including some names, birth dates, addresses and phone numbers.

One woman told state investigators that Seastrand took care of a $100 speeding ticket in exchange for modeling "sexy outfits." The documents indicate the chief paid for it himself via a money order or check.

She said the chief, while in uniform, sat in a chair with a pillow on his lap as she donned different clothes. This occurred in late 2008 or early 2009, she said. "He made some comments about my body," she told investigators, adding that now she felt ashamed about it. "Ah, he asked me some questions. Like, how I stayed in shape, and whatever."

Another woman claimed the chief picked her up in his cruiser at the park-and-ride off Interstate 89's Exit 12 and drove her to a secluded spot where he offered her $200 to allow him to snap some photos of her in a sun dress and bathing suit. She declined.

The fourth woman, the woman who allegedly had the affair with Seastrand, now lives in Virginia. She said she and her husband and family left for Virginia, in part, to move on from matters related to Seastrand.

The woman, who used to clean houses in the New London area, told investigators that Seastrand once drove her in his cruiser deep into the woods, where he told her to undress and took photos of her before having sexual intercourse. She said the chief charmed her, telling her she could be a model.

He impressed upon her to let him take photos of her with a small digital camera in the front- and backseat of his cruiser; the photo shoot escalated until the chief allegedly grabbed and kissed her.

"He pushed me against the cruiser," she said, according to investigative interviews. "And, next thing I heard, he's unzipping his pants. I noticed that he was trying to take the belt off with the, um, his gun."

She told investigators she was in a panic, and thought of his firearm. She told investigators, "He could kill me. And I could be left buried. And, they would never find me. Nobody. Nobody knew where I was. Nobody."
 
Her former boss, a confidante, offered a broader account. She recalled her former employee talking about that incident as rough sex, and she said the two were in a consensual relationship, according to her interview with investigators. She said the chief would occasionally pick her up, in his police cruiser, and drop her off at house-cleaning jobs.
 
Seastrand, when he resigned April 4, 2013, relinquished his certification as a police officer. After investigating the various claims of the women, and given that the police chief left law enforcement immediately, the Attorney General's office concluded its investigation without filing charges.
 
Associate Attorney General Jane E. Young, in a phone interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader, said state investigators carefully reviewed the statutes and weighed whether there was evidence Seastrand engaged in criminal conduct. With the Westfall complaint, she said, "The only evidence we had was just her statement."
 
The Attorney General's office also considered the chance of success at trial if charges were pursued, particularly in light of the fact that Westfall gave a false name when being booked, Young said.


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