By Emily Aronson and Karen Dandurant
Hampton Union, April 01, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
EPPING -- Police launched a nationwide search Friday for a local woman alleged to have killed a 24-year-old man and incinerated his body.
An arrest warrant was issued earlier in the day for Sheila LaBarre, 47, on first-degree murder charges in connection with the death of Kenneth Countie.
Countie had moved from Wilmington, Mass., to live on LaBarre's 115-acre Epping farm about a month ago. He was last seen on March 17 and his family reported him missing on March 23.
"The language in the complaint alleges Ms. LaBarre purposely killed and incinerated his body," Assistant Attorney General Peter Odom said.
LaBarre has not been taken into custody and authorities said her whereabouts are unknown. Odom said she was last seen in the Manchester area on Tuesday.
Odom said he would not comment on how Countie was killed or what led police to believe his body was incinerated. Local and state police and members of the attorney general's office have been searching LaBarre's farm at 70 Red Oak Hill Lane since last Sunday.
"It's the information that has been uncovered by these various agencies that lead us to seek an arrest warrant," Odom said, but he would not elaborate further.
Odom said the investigation is ongoing, but he would not say if LaBarre could face further charges.
"She could literally be anywhere. We're taking all measures to locate her nationwide," said Maj. David Kelley, commander of the State Police Special Investigations Unit.
Authorities believe LaBarre does not have a car, but Kelley said she could have gained access to a vehicle or left the area by other modes of transportation. He said police have released her information to police and crime databases across the country.
Kelley asked the public to be on the lookout for LaBarre, who is described as 5 feet, 6 inches tall, about 150 to 160 pounds, with brown eyes and blonde hair with brown roots. Kelley said she might have changed her appearance to avoid detection. She is believed to have a substantial amount of cash and speaks with a slight southern accent.
Kelley said police do not have any information to indicate LaBarre is armed, but he said the public should take caution if they see her.
The murder charges against LaBarre came a day after she sent a letter to WMUR-TV proclaiming her innocence in connection with the Countie case.
Earlier in the week the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals removed horses from LaBarre's farm at the request of investigators.
The late Wilfred LaBarre owned the 115-acre Epping farm inherited by Sheila LaBarre upon his death. Sheila LaBarre unsuccessfully claimed their long-term relationship was a common-law marriage.
Laura Melisi, Wilfred LaBarre's daughter, said in an interview earlier this week she thought LaBarre was capable of violence.
Melisi said she has documentation of many threats made against people by Sheila LaBarre, items she collected when she was considering challenging the will that left all of her father's property to Sheila LaBarre.
"She has made threats at gunpoint," said Melisi. "I feel very badly for the Countie family because I fear that Kenneth is not coming back."
Melisi said she and her husband, John, met with Wayne Ennis, LaBarre's former husband, after her father died in December 2000.
In 1995, Sheila filed assault charges against Ennis.
Ennis and Melisi's father knew and liked each other.
"Wayne told us that Sheila had asked him two times to kill my father, so they could have the farm and practice," she said. "Wayne, who is the nicest guy, said he told her he liked my father and would not do that."
Melisi said she's not sure if her father met Sheila LaBarre in Tennessee, or if it were through a personal ad. Either way, she said the minute she met Sheila, she told her father not to get involved.
Melisi said she believes Sheila LaBarre coerced her father into putting her name on everything.
"I believe she came up here to reach that goal," said Melisi. "She knew he was a doctor, that he had money and property. She knew he recently lost his wife and that he needed help at the office.
"When I talked to her the first time on the phone, I said, "Dad, you don't want her in your life, she's bad news," said Melisi.
Incident after incident proved to the family that Sheila LaBarre was not a nice person, said Melisi.
"My cousin Ed, also a chiropractor and my father's first business partner, used to live in the apartment over the office," said Melisi. "Sheila wanted to raise his rent. He was living there for practically nothing and didn't want to pay more. He had a Doberman, and she threatened if the rent didn't go up to $700 she was going to kill his dog. Three days later the dog, who was not sick, dropped dead.
"Before he died my father called and we made plans to go riding. He took me into the living room to show me where he had hidden money for my brother and I, as she had control of all his accounts. He probably thought the money was safe on the farm."
Melisi said after her father's funeral, Sheila called to report she had found the money.
She said "Ha ha, how's it feel to have nothing?"
The Melisis went to several lawyers but were told that since her father was not incompetent or unable to work, their chances of challenging the will were 50/50 and that it would cost $50,000 upfront to try.
"She stiffed me for the catering bill and the musician for the funeral, too," said Melisi.
No matter how many people, Melisi included, tried to get Wilfred LaBarre to toss Sheila out of his life, he couldn't do it. She said he countered suggestions by saying Sheila was too smart and would outfox anyone.
"I think she intimidated him," said Melisi.
Melisi said Sheila often had various men on the farm, both to work and for relationships, even when her father was there. He finally moved to the apartment above his office to get away, she said.
"From the first time she entered his life, she stressed him out," she said. "He was having chest pains, lying down in between patients. The doctors told him it was stress. Plus, she had him doing things more suited to someone in his 20s when he was in his 60s and 70s - working on his apartment buildings, wallpapering and painting, plus his work on his practice and the farm.
"I loved my father so much and couldn't handle what she was doing to him. I used to yell at him. We encouraged him to get restraining orders. He got two, then she'd cry and he'd feel sorry for her."
Melisi said Sheila kept telling her father she would leave but never did. She said he encouraged her to try for a singing career and gave her substantial amounts of money.
"He said when she left, he wanted me to come back and work in the office," said Melisi.
An autopsy was performed when Wilfred LaBarre died. Melisi said the cause of death was listed as a massive heart attack, hypertension, arterial sclerosis and high blood pressure.
"Sheila recently tried to get a copy of the coroner's report," said Melisi. "I'm not sure why."
Court documents reveal that Sheila LaBarre is no stranger to the court system.
When Wilfred LaBarre died, he left his estate to Sheila. It included a 115-acre Epping farm, his medical practice in Hampton, and three houses, two in Somersworth and another in Portsmouth.
In 2002, she challenged the Department of Revenue Administration after petitioning the court to recognize her as a common-law spouse. The DRA said she was not Wilfred's wife and pursued inheritance taxes. Sheila dropped the suit after it became clear the state had numerous witnesses to testify that she did not live with LaBarre in the three years before his death. She lived on Winnacunnet Road in Hampton. James Brackett also lived there.
In 1988 she was arrested on charges of allegedly stabbing Brackett in the head with a pair of scissors. Brackett was also arrested on assault charges, but both cases were dropped. A clerk at Hampton District Court said Sheila successfully petitioned the court to drop the charges.
In 1995, Sheila filed assault charges against Wayne Ennis, a man from Jamaica she was married to at the time.
A Hampton court clerk said the only other record it has of Sheila LaBarre is an application for a gun permit.