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Elderly man charged with shooting at caregiver found not competent for trial

  • Kenneth Rickard, 80, of Newport, N.H., wore sunglasses through a portion of his hearing in Superior Court in Newport on Sept. 9, 2019. While being held awaiting trail, Rickard had fallen roughly eight times in jail since his incarceration, with one of the falls resulting in head trauma and another resulting in a dislocated hip, his attorney said. (Rick Russell photograph)

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2020 5:34:26 PM
Modified: 2/13/2020 10:07:11 PM

NEWPORT — Prosecutors have deemed an 80-year-old Newport man who was accused of shooting a gun at his live-in caretaker not competent to stand trial, according to court documents.

In an agreement filed last week, the Sullivan County Attorney’s Office and defense attorney Gary Apfel wrote that Kenneth Rickard was not competent and not “restorable to competency” within the next 12 months. The agreement follows a competency evaluation for Rickard in January, which is under seal. A competency hearing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled.

Rickard, who has been in custody since his July arrest, will remain in custody until a hearing next month to determine whether he’s a danger to himself or others.

Rickard was accused of firing a handgun at his 48-year-old live-in caretaker after she helped him into a car outside his Springfield Street home July 1, according to an affidavit filed by Newport Police.

Rickard was angry that the caretaker, who had worked for him for four years and whom he paid in beer and cigarettes, had a new boyfriend, the affidavit stated. The caretaker was not injured in the incident.

When police arrived at his house, Rickard talked about his wife, Nancy Rickard, repeating “over and over” the words “Nancy you are mine” and “Nancy, goodbye,” according to the affidavit.

Rickard was arrested and pleaded not guilty to felony charges of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon and criminal threatening with a deadly weapon in July.

Apfel declined to comment on the case in an email Thursday. But in the months following Rickard’s arrest, the attorney suggested his client might not be competent to stand trial, saying in a September hearing that he hadn’t been able to communicate with Rickard very well. A doctor has diagnosed Rickard with palsy, a condition that comes with “some element of dementia or confusion,” according to Apfel’s motion for bail filed last month.

“It is extremely difficult for Mr. Rickard to say more than a word or two. … What he does say, I generally can’t understand,” Apfel said during the hearing.

Following the fall hearing, Rickard was transferred from Sullivan County House of Corrections, where he had been kept in isolation for his own safety, to the Sullivan County Nursing Home.

In October Apfel filed a motion — that was later sealed — to determine competency. On Nov. 7, Sullivan County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker filed a sealed decision ordering Rickard to undergo the competency evaluation, according to court documents.

Calls to Nancy Rickard and Kenneth’s son, Kevin Rickard, were not returned Thursday.

Deputy State’s Attorney Justin Hersh, who is prosecuting the case, declined to comment on the case Thursday.

Anna Merriman can be reached at or 603-727-3216.

Valley News

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