The New Hampshire man charged with kidnapping teenager Abigail Hernandez allegedly held the girl on his property for at least some of the time that she went missing, according to a judicial ruling issued in the case on Friday.
The ruling from Justice Pamela D. Albee, of the Third Circuit District Division court in Conway, N.H., in the case against Nathaniel Kibby, 34, provided confirmation that prosecutors believe Kibby held Hernandez on his Gorham, N.H., property during her nine-month disappearance. She returned to her family in Conway last month.
“The State contends the alleged victim was held against her will at Kibby’s residence at 4 Brookside Drive, Gorham, N.H.,” Albee wrote.
She did not say if authorities believe Hernandez was kept on the property for the entire length of her disappearance, or if she was allegedly held inside Kibby’s mobile home or a shipping container on the property.
New Hampshire Associate Attorney General Jane Young, the lead prosecutor on the case, could not be reached for comment on Friday evening.
Albee’s ruling Friday barred law enforcement from moving the trailer and a shipping container from the property until Kibby’s lawyers have a chance to thoroughly investigate the premises.
“The Court orders the State to preserve the evidence in place until the defense has a meaningful opportunity to investigate his defenses and is given constitutionally guaranteed access to all the evidence available at the actual scene where he is alleged to have held the alleged victim with the purpose of committing an offense against her,” Albee wrote.
Kibby’s public defender, Jesse Friedman, said in an e-mail that the defense team is pleased Albee ruled in its favor and reiterated that the team will fight the allegations against its client. Friedman declined to comment further.
Kibby allegedly kidnapped Hernandez from North-South Road in Conway on Oct. 9, 2013, just days before her 15th birthday. He faces a felony kidnapping charge and is being held on $1 million bail.
Prosecutors said they want to remove the mobile home and the adjacent container from Kibby’s lot at a Gorham trailer park in order to preserve evidence. But Kibby’s lawyers objected in a court filing earlier this week, arguing that the items must be kept in their present location to prevent the harm or loss of “potentially exculpatory evidence.”
Albee sided with the defense in Friday’s ruling.
“For instance, if the mobile home and the crate are removed, the defendant will not be able to investigate the ability or inability of others to hear sounds from inside the structures, the effect the stream has on that ability or inability, what can be seen inside the structures by others on the outside, what could be seen by anyone from the inside of the structures, and what effect the tree canopy may have on what others may have been able or unable to hear,” she wrote.
She added that moving the structures would bar the defense team from evaluating “the plausibility of another hearing or not hearing sounds consistent with someone being held against her will.”
Law enforcement officials have released few details of Hernandez’s disappearance and have not specified what type of crimes they believe Kibby committed against her in her alleged captivity.Travis Andersen can be reached at email@example.com. Martin Finucane at firstname.lastname@example.org.