BRENTWOOD, N.H. – A man accused of inflicting a "reign of terror" on his girlfriend's 3-year-old son before fleeing to a Florida amusement park was sentenced Thursday to up to 67 years in prison on assault and other charges.
Roland Dow, 28, of Plaistow, was convicted in June of assaulting James Nicholson, failing to get him medical help, coaching him to lie to a social worker and secretly recording the social worker's visit. He and the boy's mother, Jessica Linscott, were arrested at the Universal Orlando Resort in November 2012, two weeks after leaving the toddler at a hospital with a brain injury, head-to-toe bruises and burns on his arm and hand.
Linscott pleaded guilty to child endangerment and witness tampering and is serving 2 1/2 to 7 years in prison. Dow, who was convicted of 11 charges and acquitted of burning the boy, was sentenced to 25 1/2 to 67 years in Rockingham County Superior Court, where Judge Marguerite Wageling called his behavior deliberate, depraved and sadistic. Saying James was "dragged into hell," the judge contrasted Dow's treatment of James with testimony that he was "the most darling of fathers" to his own young daughter.
"James was treated like a caged animal, and putting that up against the apparent wonderful behavior he knew how to provide to a child makes it even more sick," Wageling said. "He then flew out of the area and engaged in happy-go-lucky entertainment while James lay in a hospital bed having holes drilled in his skull to relieve the pressure of the injuries he sustained."
In arguing for a sentence of five to 10 years, attorney Thomas Gleason said his client is "sorry James was injured and hurt" but added that many questions remain about who caused the injuries and whether jurors considered him an accomplice to Linscott or the main perpetrator. Gleason also painted Linscott as a longtime liar who blamed her ex-boyfriend for crimes she could have committed herself.
Prosecutors countered that being an awful mother doesn't mean Linscott was lying. Assistant County Attorney Patricia Conway said Dow beat the boy, tied him to a bed and subjected him to "torture sessions" in the bathroom.
"For whatever reason, God only knows, this man hated James. He hated him, and he began his reign of terror against this 3-year-old little toddler," Conway said.
Although Linscott admitted spanking her son and participating in other harsh punishments, she also testified that Dow abused her and treated her son "worse than a dog you don't want." Jurors viewed photos of James' injuries and videos showing the child whimpering in pain and crashing to the floor while Dow was heard yelling: "Get up!" and "Stop having a fit!"
"You could hear the hate and the disdain this man had for this child, it was palpable, you could almost taste it," Conway said. "James didn't just watch those videos; he lived through it."
James, now 5, lives with his grandmother and is "doing great" physically, Conway said. The boy's great-grandmother Germaine Mullen said he still has a shunt in his head, but his intelligence was not affected. She said James visits his mother in prison but remains terrified of Dow and has asked: "Why did Roland hurt me all the time?"
She said she has assured James that Dow is in prison.
"The look of relief that came over that child's face? It was almost like when someone wins the lottery," she said.
Dow, who didn't testify at his trial, didn't speak at the sentencing either. His attorney and mother declined to comment afterward.