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Perriello Trial Set for January

Newport — A Grantham man charged with murdering his wife last year is scheduled to go on trial in January, though his attorneys have not indicated which defenses they may offer on his behalf.

James Perriello, facing both first- and second-degree murder charges, was evaluated by a mental health expert retained by his defense team, according to court documents.

However, a deadline for attorneys to offer possible defenses, including sanity and competency, has long since passed.

Perriello allegedly shot Natalie Perriello six times at close range while the couple’s 3-year-old son was in the bed next to her. The couples’ three other children also were home inside their Doc’s Drive home at the time.

According to court documents, Perriello’s attorneys retained a mental health expert who evaluated Perriello in prison. Defense attorneys said in court papers their strategy may hinge on the expert’s evaluation, which is not a public record.

The deadline for attorneys to disclose any possible defenses, which was extended once to allow for additional time to consider mental health issues involving Perriello, has lapsed

Meanwhile, the jury selection is scheduled to begin in January.

Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin declined to comment, and public defender Kim Kossick could not be reached for comment late last week.

Sanity involves a defendant’s mental state at the time of the alleged crime, while competency involves a defendant’s ability to function during he trial: to be found incompetent, a defendant must be deemed incapable of understanding legal proceedings and assisting their defense attorneys.

After he was arrested outside his home in April 2012, Perriello, 41, told police that he “lost his cool” after listening to a surreptitious recording he had made of his wife, who had taught at Lebanon High School and Canaan Elementary School, talking to a former student with whom she had become romantically involved.

Experts last year told the Valley News that, given the emotional provocation, he might be able to successfully argue that he should be convicted of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder by arguing that his discovery of evidence that his wife’s apparent affair provoked a response.

A manslaughter conviction carries a 30-year maximum sentence. By contrast, a second-degree murder conviction carries a maximum sentence of life behind bars.

Perriello’s family could not be reached for comment last week.

Perriello told police that his .40-caliber pistol fired accidentally when his wife rushed toward him after he entered their bedroom. The pistol had two safety features, according to court records, and an autopsy determined that most of the bullets struck Natalie Perriello in the back of the head.

James Perriello was taking anti-depressants and medication to calm his temper at the time of the shooting, authorities said. In 2008, a judge ordered him to undergo anger management counseling following a simple assault conviction, according to court documents.

Valley News staff writer Maggie Cassidy contributed to this report. Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.

CORRECTION

James Perriello was incarcerated following his arrest in the Special Housing Unit, the maximum security unit in the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. An earlier version of this story mischaracterized the nature of the unit in which he was housed.