Frustrated family awaits judge’s verdict in NH

Eric Dobson, brother of the late Andrew “Dibba” Dobson, wears a T-shirt created in his brother’s memory after he was killed an October 2018 crash in Seabrook, New Hampshire. The shirts are being sold at an event Saturday night at Salisbury Beach in Dibba’s memory.Courtesy photo

SEABROOK — Sean Dobson said he’s asked several times a day if there has been a verdict issued in a drunken driving case related to the Oct. 21, 2018, death of his older brother, Andrew “Dibba” Dobson at Seabrook Beach.

It’s been more than three weeks since the driver involved, Dawn Marie Barcellona, 58, of Salisbury, had a bench trial in Rockingham County Superior Court in Brentwood, New Hampshire.

Yet, a verdict has not yet been handed down yet by Judge Dan St. Hilaire, who presided over the case. There was no jury for the trial; St. Hilaire will deliver the verdict.

With a “Justice for Dibba” memorial and awareness event planned Saturday night, Sean Dobson he hopes the wait for the verdict is indicative of something positive underway with the criminal case.

“I’ve got to hope it’s delayed because something good is going to come of this,” said Dobson, 51, during an interview Thursday with his brother Eric Dobson, 50, who is home from California for Saturday night’s event at Uncle Eddie’s at Salisbury Beach center.

“We are hoping the judge noticed something is definitely not right here and he’s asking questions. ... This whole thing has been mishandled from the beginning,” Sean Dobson said.

But Barcellona’s defense attorney Stephen Jeffco said he’s not surprised more than three weeks have passed without a verdict. He said he’s had bench trials where a verdict is handed down within two minutes and other times it’s taken a month to six weeks.

“There is absolutely nothing that can be read into that. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be guilty and it doesn’t mean it’s going to be not guilty. It just means it’s taking the judge a while,” said Jeffco, who declined to make any other comment on the case.

Deputy Rockingham County Attorney Jennifer Haggar, the lead prosecutor in the case, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

However, Haggar said after the trial that the 2018 crash was never properly investigated by local and state police.

Evidence — including cruiser dash camera video, blood tests, the pedestrian’s exact location and the driver’s speed — either could not be found, was never gathered as evidence, or was not admissible in the case, officials said.

The night of the crash, 51-year-old Andrew Dobson left his parents’ home on Commonwealth Avenue in Salisbury, where he lived. The North Andover native went to a nearby convenience store for a pack of cigarettes, according to family members.

He was struck and killed on his way home on Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A) in Seabrook, close to the Salisbury line around 8 p.m. Barcellona was driving the Jeep that struck him, police said.

The father of a 12-year-old boy, Dobson was ripped out of his sneakers and suffered a cracked skull, according to court documents.

Barcellona went to trial on Oct. 9 for a single misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. The trial spanned roughly four hours and afterwards, Judge St. Hilaire took the matter under advisement.

Barcellona previously rejected a plea deal that would allow her to avoid jail time and instead pay a $500 fine and surrender her license for nine months, according to court documents. She opted to take the case to a trial.

She did not testify in her own defense.

Felony indictments for negligent homicide and driving under the influence against Barcellona were dropped, according to prosecutors.

Lance Adie of Haverhill was a longtime friend of Andrew Dobson’s. He attended the trial in Brentwood, New Hampshire.

“I will say it’s a travesty that the process has taken so long and I feel deeply saddened at what Andrew’s family and friends have had to endure. No explanation, no verdict and so many questions left unanswered. Sad,” Adie said on Thursday.

Immediately after the trial, Haggar blamed miscommunication among police agencies and its serious repercussions as the primary reason the fatal accident was not investigated that night.

“An expert team was not sent out to reconstruct the scene,” said Haggar, adding she shares the Dobson family’s “frustration and dissatisfaction regarding this case.”

In her previous remarks, Haggar said she believes the misdemeanor DUI charge against Barcellona was proven “without a doubt.”

Speaking for the Dobson family, attorney Nicole Reilly said “I can tell you they are hoping and praying not only for a guilty verdict but that the truth comes out as to what really happened in this case.”

“The pieces just don’t fit. The truth doesn’t seem to be part of the equation; it’s simply wrong,” she said, adding, “Regardless, a guilty verdict on a misdemeanor with a fine will never bring justice to Andrew’s family.”

Reilly said previously she was stunned the crash, which involved a woman police believed to be intoxicated, a Jeep striking a pedestrian, and the pedestrian dying, did not merit further police investigation.

During the trial, one of Barcellona’s friends testified that she was looking for her that night and texted her, asking her whereabouts.

Barcellona texted back the word “drunk” in response, according to trial testimony.

The fatal crash occurred less than 10 minutes later around 8 p.m.

Barcellona failed some sobriety tests administered at the scene, according to police. Two and a half hours later, she was taken to the Seabrook Hospital Emergency Room for a blood alcohol test, according to testimony.

Seabrook police Sgt. David Buccheri testified that Barcellona told him that Dobson “stepped out in front of her vehicle” as she was slowing for a red light.

Barcellona is employed as a server at Seaglass restaurant at Salisbury Beach. She had met friends the afternoon of the crash at Capri, another Salisbury Beach restaurant owned by the same company she works for that night.

Tonight, Nov. 2, starting at 8 p.m., friends and family plan to meet to remember Dobson at a “Black and White Celebration,” said Sean Dobson.

He said they are having the event to remember “Dibba” a year after his death and promote awareness of the ongoing case. Local entertainers “Bahama Bob Sloane” and Frank “Ski” Skusevich will be playing and “Justice for Dibba” T-shirts will be for sale, he said.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter @EagleTribJill.

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