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Tot's abuser to spend up to 67 years in jail

Union Leader Correspondent

August 14. 2014 9:23PM

Roland Dow 

BRENTWOOD — A Plaistow man was sentenced to 25½ to 67 years in state prison for abusing his girlfriend’s toddler son so severely that the boy almost died from his injuries.

Prosecutors called for a 30- to 60-year prison term for Roland Dow, saying he carried out a months-long campaign of abuse against 3-year-old James Nicholson in the fall of 2012.

“For whatever reason — God only knows — he hated James,” Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway said.

A jury convicted Dow of 11 charges in June including first- and second-degree assault, witness-tampering and endangering the welfare of a child. Defense lawyer Tom Gleason argued for a five- to 10-year sentence, saying jurors never conclusively decided if he was the principal abuser or an accomplice of the boy’s mother.

“We don’t know what the jury decided,” Gleason said.

The mother, Jessica Linscott, is serving a 2½- to seven-year prison term for felony witness-tampering and endangering the welfare of a child. She was the state’s key witness at Dow’s trial.

Linscott acknowledged that she physically reprimanded her son while living with Dow, but only did it so that her son would avoid Dow’s wrath. She testified that she made videos of her son in hopes that doctors could determine the cause of his injuries and acting out.

Nicholson’s great-grandmother, Germaine Mullen, rejected suggestions that Linscott shared equal blame in the abuse.

Nicholson has been visiting his mother in jail and shows no hesitation with being with her, she said.

“He is petrified of him,” Mullen said of Dow. “He is not petrified of his mother. That should tell you something right there.”

Nicholson is doing much better physically, but has spoken of his fear about Dow, Mullen said.

Audio portions from videos recorded by the boy’s mother were played for Judge Marguerite Wageling at Thursday’s sentencing hearing in Rockingham County Superior Court.

The videos captured Nicholson moaning and wailing in pain while being forced to stay in a bathtub. Dow could be heard on one recording repeatedly questioning the boy, “What are you doing? What?”

Nicholson suffered a retinal hemorrhage and numerous head injuries that required hospital doctors to drill holes in his head to relieve pressure from fluid, according to Conway.

“These are things no person should have to go through, let alone a 3-year-old baby,” she said.

Nicholson was also tied up in bed at one point so he would not get up to go to the bathroom. The boy was forced to stay in Dow’s bathroom “most of the day, not just at night,” Conway said.

Wageling said she did not believe the defense’s theory, and was punishing Dow solely on what he was convicted of at trial. She said that jurors winced, covered their faces and even cried as they watched the videos of Nicholson during the seven-day trial.

“Hell is not even the appropriate word to describe the life he was leading with these two individuals,” Wageling said.

The case received national attention when the pair went on the run in November 2012, leaving the toddler at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. The couple was apprehended at Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., where they were going on park rides.

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