DOVER, N.H. (AP) – The key state investigator in the Gary Dodds trial punctuated his testimony Tuesday with a simple refrain: “It just didn’t make sense.”

Dodds, a former congressional candidate, is accused of faking his disappearance after a car crash in April 2006 in a plot to attract attention to his campaign. He claims he wandered away dazed from a head injury, floundered across nearby river then collapsed until he was rescued 27 hours later, but prosecutors say his injuries point to soaking his feet in water for several hours, not spending the night outside.

State Police Sgt. Richard Mitchell, the lead investigator on the case, said repeatedly Tuesday that various aspects of Dodds’ story didn’t make sense to him. He described visiting the spot where Dodds was found, seeing how close it was to homes and a school and questioning Dodds about why he didn’t yell for help.

“I tried to put myself in his shoes – I’ve just had an accident, I’ve just come out of the river, I’d start yelling for help,” he said.

When he was interviewed nine days after the crash, Dodds couldn’t explain why he remained silent, Mitchell said.

“I guess it would’ve probably been a good idea to do so,” Mitchell said Dodds told him. “I don’t know why I didn’t. “

Mitchell said Dodds described suffering a significant head injury, but said in his experience, car crash victims who are seriously injured don’t leave the crash scene.

Mitchell also raised questions about Dodds’ description of his travels the night of the crash. Electronic toll records show Dodds drove south through the Dover tolls on the Spaulding Turnpike not long before he crashed his car about a mile to the north. During his interview, Dodds told Mitchell he had not gone through the toll booth.

Mitchell requested and received Dodds’ EZPass records from the Department of Transportation the day after he disappeared in hopes of finding where Dodds might have gone. According to Mitchell, the record show Dodds went through the Dover toll booth heading north, then the Rochester toll booth at 6:49 p.m.

“He then comes southbound through Rochester toll booth at 7:10 p.m. and the final act on Mr. Dodds’ transponder, it goes through Dover toll southbound lane at 7:39 p.m.,” said Mitchell. “It just did not make sense that his vehicle came back a second time around.”

The crash was reported at 8:16 p.m. by a woman driving behind Dodds. By the time she pulled over a few minutes later, the car was empty.

An audiotape of the hour-long interview was played in court, but the sound quality was so poor it was unintelligible. Jurors followed along with a transcript, but copies were not available to reporters. Lawyers debated whether to play a second, four-hour audiotape on Wednesday, with the prosecutor suggesting skipping it and the defense insisting it be played or that the jury be allowed to read the transcript.

“With all due respect it was sort of a painful thing to listen to,” Judge Peter Fauver said.

Dodds, a Democrat, was running for the 1st Congressional District seat. He continued his campaign after the crash but came in third in the four-way primary. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted of falsifying evidence, leaving the scene of a crash and causing a false public alarm.

AP-ES-02-05-08 1917EST


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