Man to be arraigned after death of impaired woman

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BRENTWOOD, N.H. (AP) – An Epping man who would have become eligible for parole this week instead will be arraigned Wednesday on a new murder charge.

Walter Hutchinson, 50, was moved to a halfway house in July after spending 15 years in prison for strangling and beating his girlfriend in 1991. But after Kimberly Ernest died in November 2005 of complications from her brain injuries, Hutchinson was charged with murder and returned to prison last month.

Though such cases are unusual, New Hampshire law allows a defendant to be charged with murder years later if his acts were a substantial cause of the victim’s death, said Senior Assistant Attorney General Will Delker.

Hutchinson has said he never planned to kill Ernest, though he admitted he was angry and intended to hurt her. He asked the court several times over the years to shorten his sentence but was denied each time.

Ernest’s mother, Martha Ernest, said she promised her daughter that Hutchinson would be locked up for as long as possible. The attack left Ernest unable to move or talk.

“He deserves to serve a life sentence – she served life for what he did to her,” she said. “I don’t think he should be getting out. It scares me to think that somebody could do that to someone.”

She plans to attend the hearing Wednesday with her husband and two children.

“I did promise Kimmy when she was dying that I’d go as far as I could with him,” she said.

Ernest was a 21-year-old waitress when she met Hutchinson in 1991. Her mother said she hadn’t settled on a career path but loved children and spent much of her time with her 4-year-old nephew.

Hutchinson, 34, worked as a heavy machine operator. His wife had died several years earlier, and he lived with his two young sons.

According to Ernest’s mother, the couple’s relationship quickly became violent. In April 1991, Ernest returned home to her parents, her back and chest covered with bruises, and said Hutchinson had beaten and raped her.

Ernest moved out of Hutchinson’s home but continued to visit his children. On April 13, 1991, she arrived to pick up his sons to take them to a birthday party with her new boyfriend, which enraged Hutchinson.

When she brought the boys back, Hutchinson punched her and banged her head on the floor until she passed out, according to court records. Later, Ernest was able to climb out a window, but Hutchinson found her and continued the attack, with his sons looking on. He left her in the yard and drove with his children to his brother-in-law’s house, where he later turned himself in to police.

Ernest’s father, who grew worried when she never returned to the birthday party, drove to Hutchinson’s house and found his daughter unconscious in the backyard. She was left in a vegetative state from the attack and spent the rest of her life at the Rockingham County Nursing Home, where her mother works as a nurse’s assistant.

Though her daughter never spoke again, Martha Ernest believes she sometimes understood what was being said to her.

“She was in there, but you couldn’t reach her,” she said.



Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.cmonitor.com

AP-ES-01-02-07 1249EST

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