New Hampshire man sentenced to 10 to 12 years for stabbing

  • Nghia Le, 19, of Manchester, N.H., pleads guilty to attempted murder before Judge Richard Carey in Franklin County Superior Court Friday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Nghia Le, 19, of Manchester, N.H., pleads guilty to attempted murder before Judge Richard Carey in Franklin County Superior Court Friday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Nghia Le apologizes briefly to Massachusetts State Trooper Mark Whitcomb, who he stabbed last year, in Franklin County Superior Court Friday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Nghia Le, in white, represented by attorney Steven Rappaport, listens as he is sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison in Franklin County Superior Court Friday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Erving Police Officer James Loynd, who was recognized by Judge Richard Carey for his heroic actions, reads his victim impact statement in Franklin County Superior Court Friday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Dozens of law enforcement officers went to Franklin County Superior Court Friday in support of injured Massachusetts State Police Trooper Mark Whitcomb. Pictured in front of the troopers is Nghia Le’s family. Staff Photo/David McLellan

  • Massachusetts State Trooper Mark Whitcomb, center, with tie, listens as Nghia Le, who stabbed him, is sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison in Franklin County Superior Court Friday. Staff Photo/David McLellan

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2019 11:15:14 PM
Modified: 9/27/2019 11:15:03 PM

GREENFIELD — The New Hampshire man who stabbed Massachusetts State Police Trooper Mark Whitcomb last year was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in prison on Friday, after changing his plea to guilty.

Nghia Le, 19, of Manchester, N.H., pleaded guilty to eight counts, including assault with intent to murder; assault with intent to rob; mayhem; aggravated assault and battery with a deadly weapon; assault and battery on a public employee; armed carjacking; and reckless driving before Judge Richard Carey at Franklin County Superior Court.

Carey said he weighed the seriousness of Le’s crimes against his age, prior history and the fact that he “clearly” had “mental deficiencies” in deciding Le’s sentence.

According to Whitcomb, his wife and daughter, Le’s crimes traumatized the family, and left Whitcomb — a state trooper of roughly 12 years at the time of the attack and a U.S. Army veteran — with lasting scars, partial loss of movement in his left hand and, to this day, without work.

“What I initially thought was only a struggle was so much worse,” said Whitcomb in his victim impact statement, read aloud in court, recalling Le’s attack.

Whitcomb said in his statement, read before Le’s sentence was determined, that any sentence would “never be enough,” but declined to comment on the sentence after Friday’s hearing.

Background

On Oct. 19, 2018, Le was pursued during a high-speed chase that ended in New Salem, reaching speeds as high as 110 mph. In New Hampshire, Le was involved in a car accident and fled across state lines into Vermont, then south into Massachusetts. He turned onto Route 2 eastbound and was spotted by Erving Police Officer James Loynd, who began to pursue Le.

Le was able to get out of Loynd’s sight, but Whitcomb was in pursuit shortly thereafter, trailing Le to Route 202 in New Salem.

Whitcomb positioned his cruiser strategically in front of the Toyota Camry when Le tried to ditch the vehicle, and as he was exiting his vehicle he saw “a flash of a person” coming toward him, according to Northwestern Assistant District Attorney Steven E. Gagne. Le then stabbed Whitcomb repeatedly, puncturing his lung and causing nerve damage to the trooper’s forehead and left arm.

Recalling what he thought was just a “struggle,” Whitcomb said he didn’t realize he had been stabbed until he saw blood. Loynd then reached the scene and caught Le attempting to drive off in Whitcomb’s cruiser, but when Le exited the cruiser and approached, knife in hand, Loynd fired four shots, hitting Le in the torso. Loynd was able to throw his medical pack, which included a tourniquet for Whitcomb’s arm, to the fallen trooper while subduing Le.

Both Le and Whitcomb were airlifted to UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester for treatment.

Victim impact statements

On Friday, state troopers read several victim impact statements written by Whitcomb, his wife, Marisol, and daughter, Kayla. Loynd also read a statement.

“My dad is not only my father, but my hero,” read Kayla Whitcomb’s statement, which recalled seeing her father “so helpless and vulnerable” in the hospital.

“Every day he is working toward a full recovery that seems so distant,” she said.

Marisol Whitcomb also said the incident has greatly affected the family, and that the “nightmare” will never end.

“Before I left for work that day, I told my husband to be safe, that I loved him and that our son had a haircut appointment that day,” her statement read, recounting the seemingly normal day.

Marisol Whitcomb added she felt “tremendous anger and rage” that her children had to see the effects of the attack, and that the family wouldn’t be as strong as it is without the support of “our brothers and sisters in blue.”

The courtroom Friday was packed with dozens of state troopers, many in uniform, along with police officers and family members.

In his own statement, Whitcomb said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think about that day. I try to put it behind me, but I can’t.”

Whitcomb said he has felt depressed when it seems he “doesn’t have much purpose anymore,” and will not be able to return to work until his hand is fully healed. However, he said he may need another surgery, which means there is no timetable for returning to work, adding to his and his family’s stress.

In his statement, Loynd said he has “grappled with a strong sense of guilt” since Whitcomb was so seriously wounded. He said he has also had to deal with the stress of an investigation into whether he responded properly by shooting Le, and “pervasive anti-cop sentiment” in the media and on social media.

Another statement, read by Gagne, was from New Salem resident Hannah Hunting — the stabbing and shooting happened in front of her house with her and her child in plain sight of Le. Hunting said she hid in her car, keeping her child’s head down so he wouldn’t see the stabbing, and has dealt with post-traumatic stress since the incident.

“Her kids will randomly ask if the bad guy who made bad decisions is still in jail,” Gagne said.

Sentence

Le’s sentence of 10 to 12 years was for the attempted murder charge. For the other charges, he received shorter sentences, which are to run concurrent with the 10 to 12 years. He was also given a parole sentence of 5 years to begin after his release.

Victim impact statements asked Carey to give Le a lengthy sentence — and Carey could have made Le’s sentences consecutive, rather than concurrent. For the attempted murder charge alone, Le could have received 20 years in state prison.

Carey decided to factor in Le’s age and mental status after hearing from Le’s lawyer, Steven Rappaport, who said Le was having recent delusions causing him to burn his shoes and kill his cat that Le thought was involved in a pedophile ring.

“There is a great potential for reformation,” Rappaport said, noting that Le had never received adequate mental health treatment prior to the “psychosis” that led him to commit his crimes.

After Rappaport’s comments, Le stood briefly, looked over at Whitcomb and said, “I’d like to apologize for all the harm and trauma I caused. I really wasn’t in the right state of mind at the time.”

While the sentence Carey imposed is less than the maximum, it’s also more than the five to seven and a half years Rappaport asked for. “What this court is very cognizant of, is this court doesn’t sentence crimes, it sentences people,” Carey said.

Carey said both law enforcement officers, Loynd and Whitcomb, acted with heroism by thinking of others first — Whitcomb in calling out, while wounded, to warn Loynd that the suspect had a knife, and Loynd in tossing Whitcomb his medical pack.

Le was sentenced to serve his time at Massachusetts Correctional Institution-Cedar Junction in Walpole, but Carey recommended — again citing Le’s age and mental status — that he be allowed to serve his time at the Franklin County House of Correction.




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