New Hampshire Union Leader

January 31, 2007

Warren death probed

By Lorna Colquhoun and Mark Hayward

Warren -- An elderly man who had cobbled together a network of helpful townspeople to make it through the winter was found dead in his home yesterday, a discovery that has shocked this town of 900 in the Baker River Valley.

"We are looking into a suspicious death up there," said Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery A. Strelzin yesterday. A prosecutor from his office was at the scene, but Strelzin would not discuss the matter further.

Albert J. Powell, 89, of Gould Hill Road, had lived in town for years, first as a summer resident and then full time, said his neighbor, who only wanted to be identified as Ms. Howard.

"He was a sweetheart, just very nice, very soft-spoken," said Howard, who took Powell on errands to the center of Warren or to Plymouth, about 20 miles away, when needed.

"He's a really sweet old guy," said another neighbor, Crystal Hancock.

Authorities said little about the matter yesterday, but state police troopers and members of the state police Major Crime Unit spent most of the day in town, parked at the town office building-fire station in the center of town.

Grafton County Sheriff Doug Dutile said the county dispatch center received a call about 9 p.m. Monday from Lakes Region Mutual Aid, which dispatches for the community. Dispatchers were sending an ambulance to the residence for an "unresponsive" elderly male.

Police Chief Warren Davis, who also responded, then called for state police.

Powell had lost two wives to cancer and lived alone on his property, a one-time farm that includes a handsome brick house, an attached barn and fields behind the house.

Townspeople at the Warren Village Market in the center of town last night recalled Powell as a delightful elderly man who was retired from the military. A longtime summer resident, he moved to Warren about 10 years ago from Gloucester, Mass., and had kept his property immaculate.

The home is within view of the intersection of Swain Hill and Gould Hill roads, a couple of miles off Route 25 from the center of town.

Powell had given up his driver's license this past summer and rebuffed an offer to spend the winter in New York state with his son, Howard said. Rather, he chose to rely on his friends and neighbors for assistance. Meals on Wheels made regular deliveries; Howard took him on errands; a man in town plowed his driveway.

The plowman found him dead, Howard said. He grew concerned when he telephoned Powell and his answering machine picked up; Powell stayed at home and always took his calls, Howard said.

Howard telephoned Powell on Sunday to see if he wanted to make the weekly garbage run. She, too, reached his answering machine, which she said seemed odd. When she later saw his lights on, she guessed that someone else took him.

Last night, a lone state police trooper sat in a cruiser in the driveway of the home and yellow caution tape was strung across the front yard. A light was on inside the house.

At Calamity Jane's restaurant, several people at the counter talked about the state police presence. For some, the police activity called to mind the September 2005 death of Thomas Conrad a short distance away in Pike. No arrest has been made in Conrad's death.

Also unresolved is the disappearance of Maura Murray on Feb. 9, 2004, not far away on Route 112 on the Bath/Haverhill line.

Meanwhile, police yesterday said nothing about what happened in Warren.

"What am I supposed to do tonight?" Howard asked. "Do I lock my doors and get my .38? How do we know we don't have a serial killer running around here?"