×

Claremont Boy’s Family Seeks Answers After Rope Incident

  • An 8-year-old Claremont, N.H., resident suffered rope burns after an Aug. 28, 2017, incident involving teenagers. The incident is under investigation. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Claremont — The family of an 8-year-old Claremont boy says it is trying to determine what led him to suffer from rope burns around his neck in the backyard of a home near Barnes Park late last month.

The boy’s grandmother, Lorrie Slattery, said her grandson and a group of teenagers were playing in a yard in their neighborhood around 5 p.m. on Aug. 28 when the teens started calling the boy racial epithets and throwing sticks and rocks at his legs.

The situation escalated when some or all of the teens stepped up on a picnic table and grabbed a nearby rope that had been part of a tire swing, Slattery said.

“The (teenagers) said, ‘Look at this,’ supposedly putting the rope around their necks,” Slattery said. “One boy said to (her grandson), ‘Let’s do this,’ and then pushed him off the picnic table and hung him.”

It’s not clear based on Slattery’s account if the rope was forced over the boy’s neck or if he allowed it there voluntarily.

The boy sustained cuts to his neck and was airlifted to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. He has since been released.

The boy did not suffer any internal injuries, Slattery said. “I think he had a guardian angel.”

She said an interviewer who specializes in child abuse and spoke to her grandson at DHMC said the boy swung back and forth by his neck three times before he was able to remove the rope from his neck; Slattery said none of the teens came to his aid.

Last Monday wasn’t the first time the neighborhood teenagers used racial slurs against the boy, Slattery said, leading her to believe her grandson was targeted because he is biracial. She said she heard the term “lynched” was used during the incident.

According to Slattery, no adults witnessed what happened, so she and others have been forced to piece events together from accounts of the children who were there. Among those in the backyard at the time was the boy’s 11-year-old sister, who went and found their mother, Cassandra Merlin, shortly after the incident.

Merlin drove her son to nearby Valley Regional Hospital, where he was later transferred to DHMC.

Merlin referred comment to her mother.

On Tuesday, Claremont Police Chief Mark Chase confirmed his department is investigating an incident from Aug. 28 that involves several juveniles, but he declined to provide the details or even confirm whether the injuries to Slattery’s grandson was the incident in question, citing laws that protect the identities of juveniles.

“It remains under investigation,” he said.

Speaking generally, Chase said his department takes seriously and investigates any crimes that are perceived to be motivated out of racism or other forms of bigotry.

Slattery said police told her there wasn’t anything they could do because one or more of the teenagers claimed the incident was an accident. That explanation didn’t fit the facts she has ascertained. 

“If it was an accident, that boy or anybody there wouldn’t have left him,” Slattery said. “I believe it was intentional.”

The boy’s mother later posted pictures of his injuries on Facebook with a brief caption about the incident.

Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway on Tuesday declined to confirm whether he was aware of the incident or say whether his office was involved in the investigation. All juvenile court matters are confidential, he said.

Slattery said her grandson is recovering physically, and he attended his first day of school on Tuesday in Claremont. She remains concerned, however, about his mental well-being.

He won’t speak about the incident or express his emotions. Merlin, his mother, also is “traumatized” by the incident, Slattery said.

“I do believe he does not want to believe that he was being hurt purposefully,” she said. “That is the kind of kid he is.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248..