Robarge Appears in Court to Discuss Restitution

  • James Robarge speaks with his attorney, Alex Parsons, during a hearing on restitution on Wednesday in Sullivan Superior Court in Newport. A jury in February 2015 convicted Robarge of reckless second-degree murder in the killing of his wife, Kelly Robarge, in June 2013. He is serving a 30-year prison sentence. (Valley News - Jordan Cuddemi) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jordan Cuddemi

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/16/2019 12:14:28 PM
Modified: 1/16/2019 11:02:51 PM

Newport — The Charlestown man convicted in February 2015 of killing his wife and dumping her body in a remote area in Unity appeared in Sullivan Superior Court on Wednesday to address restitution in his case.

The state has asked James Robarge to pay $25,000 to the New Hampshire Victims’ Compensation Program, which financially assisted four victims in his case, but Robarge says he first wants a breakdown of the expenses that money went toward.

The $25,000 was divided between Kelly Robarge’s funeral expenses, as well as counseling appointments, lost wages, loss of support and mileage costs for daughters Gabriel Robarge Pellerin and Ciera Robarge Keefe, as well as for a grandchild who was at the home on the day of the murder.

Robarge doesn’t necessarily dispute the amount, but he says wants to see “basic” information about how the state arrived at the $25,000 figure — instead of just how much money the program paid out for each of the five categories, said, his attorney, Alex Parsons.

The hearing was less about the Robarge case and more about a defendant’s due process rights, Parsons told Judge Brian Tucker.

However, Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said the information the defense seeks would violate victims’ privacy. In addition, she said, the compensation program has strict checks and balances in place to ensure the money is used only for authorized purposes, something that is sufficient to meet Robarge’s due process rights and something that should reassure his counsel.

Morrell said Robarge is the first defendant in the program’s history to challenge the amount of money to be paid back. Parsons said he couldn’t speak to whether that was true or not, but he said restitution challenges in cases that don’t involve the fund are common.

“Basic fundamental due process requires that we be given the opportunity to assess where those numbers came from, that they do relate to these victims, that they do relate to this crime and not just take someone’s word for it,” Parsons said, adding that Robarge doesn’t want “any private information, that that information can be redacted.”

Morrell countered that it doesn’t advance Robarge’s due process rights for him to know “how much mental health counseling have each of his daughters obtained” or “to see the line-by-line invoices from the funeral home ... unless he is going to quibble over how much was spent on a flower arrangement ... which I don’t think he is entitled to do,” Morrell said.

Victims’ Compensation Program Coordinator Lisa Lamphere testified about the program and its commission, which reviews and then approves or denies each victim’s claims. Parsons objected to Lamphere taking the stand, saying he hadn’t been provided with the necessary information to cross-examine her, but Tucker overruled him.

Although Tucker previously approved the state’s restitution request, he said Robarge could seek a hearing on the matter, which took place on Wednesday.

Tucker took the matter under advisement. He ultimately will issue a ruling on whether the state needs to release more information to the defense.

Established in 1989, the Victims’ Compensation Program helps victims of violent crimes with expenses directly related to those crimes. The program is operated through the state Department of Justice and is funded with both state and federal dollars.

Robarge is serving a 30-year state prison sentence for killing Kelly Robarge in June 2013. Following a 19-day trial, a jury convicted him of reckless second-degree murder. The New Hampshire Supreme Court in July 2017 denied Robarge’s appeal for a new trial.

Tucker gave no indication of when he might rule.

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




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