Valdez guilty on latest charges; no jail time pending good behavior

MILFORD – Romulo Valdez Jr. said in court Thursday, Feb. 6, that he called 911 requesting an ambulance – not the police – as his 32-year-old daughter tried to kill herself, then burned herself with a cigarette, shortly after 7 a.m., Oct. 7, at his Amherst home.

Adrienne Valdez, whose appearance Thursday, Feb. 6, in Milford district court on charges of domestic violence-related criminal mischief and resisting arrest marked the latest episode in a string of assault and domestic-
related arrests dating back nearly four years, was in such an agitated state, her father said, he feared for her safety and wanted to get her immediate medical and psychological help.

Instead, he told judge Martha Crocker, police officers arrived at his 2 Washinton St. home and ended up arresting his daughter. The officers, Amherst patrolman Heather Blase and detective Sarah Arnold, testified that they had no choice but arrest Valdez because she engaged in behavior that meets the standard for “must arrests” in domestic violence cases.

In the end, Crocker agreed with the prosecution and sentenced Valdez to 60 days in the Hillsborough County House of Corrections, suspended for one year on the condition of good behavior on the resisting arrest charge.

Crocker placed the criminal mischief charge on file with a finding of guilty.

Valdez’s attorney, Jean-Claude Sakellarios, appealed the sentence, saying his client is a recent law school graduate whose plans to take the bar exam may be hindered by having the charges on her record.

The criminal mischief charge stemmed from Adrienne Valdez breaking several dishes and glasses in the midst of an argument with her father, a verbal altercation her father called “minor” and said his daughter had grown emotional and “upset” while telling him, apparently for the first time, that she had been raped by an older man when she was a teenager.

It included “details that were very hard to hear,” Romulo Valdez said, responding to questions by the prosecutor, Amherst Police Lt. Anthony E. Ciampoli. Valdez said that after his daughter used her arm to “swipe” dishes and glasses off the table, she grabbed a chair and “calmly said she was going to hang herself,” he said.

He said he followed his daughter outside and to a backyard oak tree. There, he said, she stood on the chair, took a chain hanging from a branch and placed it around her neck.

“I asked her not to do it,” Valdez said. “I made sure I was right there to spot (catch) her, if the chair fell over.”

Arnold testified that Romulo Valdez showed her where his daughter threatened to hang herself, then told Arnold that she came back to the house, sat on a porch, lit a cigarette “and started burning her arm with it.”

Arnold said Romulo Valdez recalled his daughter saying, “Do you see how much pain I am in?”

Arnold said the elder Valdez also told her his daughter has bipolar disorder, had recently “been under a lot of stress” and hadn’t slept in 36 hours. He told Arnold he believed his daughter’s actions were triggered by their conversation about her rape.

Arnold and Blase testified that when they arrived that morning, Romulo Valdez pointed them to a wooded area behind his house.

Blase arrived first, she testified, answering a call “for a suicidal person” at the house. As is standard procedure on possible suicide calls, she, and later Arnold, testified, an ambulance was also dispatched and told to “stage” near, but not right at, the scene.

Blase said she located Adrienne Valdez in the woods, describing the terrain as thick, wet brush that was difficult to walk through. They repeatedly asked her if she was OK and “What is going on?” Valdez ignored them at first, eventually saying she “pleads the fifth,” Blase testified.

“She stated she did not want my help,” Blase said.

When they informed Adrienne Valdez of their intent to arrest her, “She said she’s not going anywhere with us,” Blase said. She and Arnold testified that when they approached Valdez, she curled up her arms and lay on the ground, which they took as an attempt to avoid being handcuffed.

They struggled with Valdez for about 45 seconds, cuffing Valdez when she eventually relaxed. “We tried to stand her up but she curled up her legs,” Blase said, prompting them to place Valdez on a tree stump “so she wouldn’t be on the wet ground.”

They called for another officer to help them carry Valdez out of the woods, the officers testified. Eventually, Valdez began walking with them, Blase said, and they placed her in a cruiser.

Blase said Valdez then complained of “a panic attack,” so Blase drove Valdez to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center in Nashua.

Sakellarios challenged the fact that an ambulance had been summoned, then objected to Ciampoli’s attempt to present a copy of the police and EMS dispatch log for that day.

He also called “idiotic” the law that requires police to make arrests when they see any signs of domestic violence. “She gets arrested for domestic violence over a couple of broken dishes?” he asked. “There was no fight, just an argument. She wasn’t violent. She didn’t intend to harm anyone. You consider that domestic violence?”

Sakellarios peppered Blase with questions: “Did Romulo Valdez ever say he was threatened by his daughter?” “No,” Blase responded. “Did you understand she has a mental disorder?” Blase answered yes. “Did she have anything dangerous, any weapons?” Blase said no. “Did you believe she was a threat to anyone other than herself?”

Blase mentioned the cigarette incident, which prompted Sakellarios to launch a line of questioning over whether it might have been an accident.

Sakellarios produced a copy of the statement Romulo Valdez gave to Blase and Arnold that morning.

“This says she was confused, couldn’t think straight, was agitated and angry. The last sentence says she was clearly in the grip of mental illness,” he fairly shouted.

He asked Arnold if she knows what Romulo Valdez does for a living. “I understand he is a psychologist,” she said.

“Yes, he is,” Sakellarios said to end his questioning.

He said in summation, “You need to take the circumstances and the condition of Ms. Valdez under consideration. She wasn’t violent. She wasn’t intending harm.

“She was fine. They should have left her alone,” he said of police, his voice rising.

Ciampoli said the statute “is very clear,” and that any exceptions are spelled out in it. He suggested Sakellarios “doesn’t see domestic violence the same way” as does law enforcement.

Sakellarios shot back that “there is no adequate training to deal with things like this … there’s a whole rash of people who get treated badly (by the legal system) because they have mental illness.”

Crocker disagreed, saying she believes Valdez was “well aware of what she was doing.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).