57 N.H. 245 (N.H. 1876), State v. Lapage

Citation:57 N.H. 245
Party Name:State v. Lapage.
Attorney:W. T. Norris (with whom were S. B. Page and H. W. Greene), for the respondent
Judge Panel:CUSHING, C. J
Case Date:August 11, 1876
Court:Supreme Court of New Hampshire

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57 N.H. 245 (N.H. 1876)




Supreme Court of New Hampshire

August 11, 1876

Criminal law---Evidence---Intention.

The prosecution cannot attack the character of the prisoner unless he first puts that in issue by offering evidence of his good character.

The prosecution cannot show the defendant's bad character by showing particular acts.

The prosecution cannot show in the prisoner a tendency or disposition to commit the crime with which he is charged.

The prosecution cannot give in evidence other criminal acts of the prisoner, unless they are so connected by circumstances with the particular crime in issue as that the proof of one fact with its circumstances has some bearing upon the issue on trial other than such as is expressed in the foregoing three propositions


INDICTMENT, charging the respondent with the murder of Josie A. Langmaid, who was killed October 4, 1875, about nine o'clock in the morning, while passing over the Academy road, in Pembroke, on her way to school. Her head was severed form her body, and removed a distance of a quarter of a mile. Another part of her body, including one half or two thirds of the vagina, was cut out and carried away, and

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was never recovered. No post-mortem examination of the body was made, with a view to ascertaining whether the victim had been violated.

The government claimed that the murder was committed "in perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate rape."

As tending to show that the prisoner had an intent to commit such a crime, and that he was making antecedent preparations therefor, the state was permitted to show, by one Clarence B. Cochran, that on October 1, about half past eight o'clock in the morning, as he was passing along the Academy road on his way to school, when he arrived within about thirty rods of the place of the murder, he saw a man jump into the bushes on the side of the road. He testified: "I only saw him pass into the bushes. He passed into the bushes, springing, as if in haste." He did not recognize the man.

Adin G. Fowler was permitted to testify to conversation with the respondent, on September 24, 25, and 26, as follows: I was to work out in front of the house on that night [September 24] sorting potatoes. Mr. Lapage came out and took hold and helped us for a few moments; and while we were to work there my sister came home. A gentleman brought her home, and she got out of the wagon and went into the house; and Mr. Lapage wanted to know who that was, and I told him; and he wanted to know then if she had been to Suncook. I told him no, she had been to school. Then he wanted to know which way she went to get there, and I told him, as well as I could, how to go, and pointed out toward the academy, that way (pointing), and he said that that must be the same way that he came when he came out to Mr. Kimball's; and that was all that was said that night. * * * * * * * *

The next night---Saturday night---I went to carry him part of the way home. I carried him down Buck street as far as the house of Mr. Locke, and when we got down to Russ's corner he wanted to know then if there is where my sister went to school. I told him no, and pointed out toward the academy again, and told him two miles, or a mile and a half---I don't remember exactly, but I believe I told him a mile---"and then turn to your right and go up." And that was all that was said that night. * * * * * * * *

Saturday I carried my sister on the street, and left her there at a place where she roomed. Then I went to Suncook and got Mr. Lapage, to bring him out. * * We came down Buck street. * * When we went past there [the Academy road] I remember of telling him that that is the road my sister went on when she went to school."

Edward L. Mahair testified that he saw the respondent while he was at work for Mr. Fowler, threshing. While thus occupied, about a week before the murder, a young lady passed by. * * * * * * * *

When the girl passed by he was threshing in the barn, and he spoke to me and asked me where that gal was going. I told him I

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did't know. Then he asked me what her name was. I told him her name was Sarah Prentice. Then he wanted to know where she lived. I told him---went to the door, and showed him as near as I could.

* * Then he wanted to know who was going with her. I told him I didn't know. And that is all he said that day. * * I was up there the next day, and was going through the barn, and he stopped me, and said, "Where did that gal go that went down by?" I told him I did't know whether she went into Mr. Fowler's or went further. He wanted to know who went with her. I told him I couldn't tell him; I didn't know who went with her. Then he asked me who she was and where she live, again, and I showed him; and then the next time he asked me who went with her, I told him I didn't know. He said he wondered which road she went on the most. I told him "I guess she goes on this road the most."

The witness then repeated an obscene and vulgar remark and inquiry made by the respondent concerning the girl.

Hiram Towle, and Harriet A. N. Towle, his wife, testified, in substance, that on Saturday, October second, about nine o'clock A. M., they were riding over the Academy road, and when about fifty or sixty rods from the place of the murder they met the respondent carrying a stick behind him. The stick was described as being similar in all respects (about three feet long, four-sided, about one and a quarter inches square, whittled at one end for a handle) to a stick produced in court, which had been found, broken and stained with blood, near the place of the murder.

Alversia Watson testified as follows: I live in Allenstown. Have a son and two daughters; my youngest daughter is attending school at Pembroke academy; did not attend school last fall, but taught in Hooksett; I go over Chester turnpike to get there; she came home Friday nights, and went back Sundays; first part of term she walked; I went with her---generally went about a mile and three quarters. Saw Lapage on that road once, in the last part of September, on Sunday; saw him standing about a mile from my house beside the road, opposite some bushes; my daughter was with me; noticed nothing in his hands when I first saw him. Saw him again about half a mile further on; he was coming towards me; this was two weeks before I heard of the murder; he had something in his hand the second time I saw him; it was a stick, or cane; think that the stick was a newly cut stick; think it was larger than the stick found in the woods of the murder; had it in his right hand. The second time I saw him he was coming along behind me, about a hundred feet; I watched him by looking behind me; was about twelve feet away when I last saw him; he was moving rapidly toward me, partly running; my daughter was very much frightened, and was crying; it was between four and five in the afternoon when I saw him the first time; saw him next time half a mile further on in the road, following on after me; had been walking; turning to look at my daughter, saw a man picking berries on top of a hill; when I turned to look at my daughter, saw Lapage going into

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the bushes; went about half a mile further with my daughter; sat on top of the hill till I thought my daughter had got out of hearing---about fifteen minutes, I think; George Mack [the man who was picking berries] waited, and came home with me. The person I met with a club was Lapage, the prisoner.

Cross-examination. My daughter and I were going to Hooksett; it was on Sunday; it is four miles from my house to where she taught school; went with her about two miles; there are chestnut woods along the road; first saw the man about a mile from home, he was just outside of the road; he was about fifty feet away then, standing still; did not see him again until I had passed the place, and turned back and saw him again; he stood still till I passed out of his sight by a turn in the road; it was two or three minutes' walk before I got out of sight of him; went with my daughter more than a mile; went nearly half a mile before I saw him again; he was coming in the road; could have seen a man quite a little distance; when I saw him last he was partly running towards me, and came to within a few feet of me; saw the man picking berries there, near Lakin's shanty, a short distance away; saw no one else but Mr. Mack's little boy; the man with the stick went into the woods on the opposite side from where Mr. Mack was. The man I saw was not very tall, with black whiskers, tan-colored overalls, and gray mixed coat. Wore a dark hat. Next saw the man in jail; can't tell when; went there at the request of Mr. Hildreth; he mentioned no name of any one at the jail, but wished me to go and see if there was any one there that I had seen before. Mr. Hildreth, Hattie Gault, and some others went to the jail with me; Mr. Sargent asked me to go and look in every cell and see if there was any one that I had seen there; went in, and when I saw Lapage, knew him at once by his looks and features; did not notice Lapage's moustache when I met him in the road; don't think his beard was as long in jail as when I saw him in the road.

Re-direct. My attention was called to some clothing at the jail, and I picked out a coat that I thought was like the one he wore. [Coat shown, and thought to be the same by witness.]

Matthias Mercy testified as follows: I know Annie Watson; saw her on Chester turnpike one Sunday last September; saw her about two and a half or three miles from Suncook saw-mill; was in the road when I met her; had not seen her before; said nothing to her; sat down on a rock beside the road; saw Lapage...

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