Wilton man found guilty of second-degree murder
Benjamin Duling Sr., of Wilton, who is accused second-degree murder for the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Shelly McGrade in 2008 speaks with his lawyer following the prosecution's closing arguments Monday morning, while the jury prepares to begin deliberations.
(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
The jury began deliberations Monday in the trial of a Benjamin Duling Sr., of Wilton, who is accused second-degree murder for the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Shelly McGrade in 2008. Duling is claiming self-defense.
(Staff photo by Ashley Saari)
NASHUA — After nearly five years of waiting, the family and friends of Wilton resident Shelly McGrade have closure in the case of her murder. A Hillborough County jury found her common-law husband, Benjamin Duling, guilty of killing McGrade in their shared home in 2008.
After two days and more than six hours of deliberation, the jury found Duling, 40, of Wilton guilty of second-degree murder in the death of his 35-year-old girlfriend, Shelly McGrade on April 18, 2008, following an argument the couple had about an impending trip to London.
Jurors listened to the case at the Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua over the past week and a half, and began their deliberations Monday afternoon. The jury continued deliberations the following morning and came to a decision declaring Duling guilty Tuesday afternoon.
A sentencing hearing for Duling had not yet been scheduled as of Wednesday afternoon. If the maximum sentence is imposed, Duling could face life in prison.
During the trial, Duling’s lawyers claimed he had been acting in self-defense, arguing the incident occurred after McGrade attacked him with a 10-inch kitchen knife that had a 6-inch blade, according to the prosecution’s closing arguments Monday morning. In reflex, the defense argued, Duling had stabbed her twice, once in the neck, and once in the back, after wrestling the knife away from her.
Prosecuting attorney Michael Lewis of the N.H. Attorney General’s Office argued that even if Duling’s version of events is true, after disarming McGrade, the danger to Duling ended. He did not have the right to turn the knife on her, Lewis argued, adding that Duling had already defused the situation without resorting to deadly force. Duling’s defense argued that in the moments between Duling disarming McGrade and stabbing her, he was not in a frame of mind to make the distinction between necessary and unnecessary force.
The jury did not agree, ruling Duling had killed McGrade knowingly and recklessly.
During an interview with State Police Major Crime Unit two days after McGrade’s death, Duling told interviewers that the argument came to a head when Duling told McGrade he would take their two children on the trip to England without her, according to an affidavit filed at the court by Sgt. Steven Rowland of the N.H. State Police. When Duling continued to pack, he turned and noticed McGrade standing behind him with the kitchen knife, according to the affidavit.
Duling allegedly told police that he was not afraid of McGrade harming him with the knife. A physical fight occurred, and Duling told police he did not remember what happened, except that McGrade fell to the floor with a knife sticking out of her side, the affidavit said.
Since the incident, Duling has maintained that does not remember the actual fight or stabbing that resulted in McGrade’s death.
Duling sustained a cut on his hand from the knife, which Duling’s defense attorney, Michael Hulser, argued came while wrestling over the knife with McGrade.
The prosecution argued the wound wasn’t consistent with a defensive wound, and it was more likely that Duling had injured himself while stabbing McGrade, by sliding his hand over the unguarded blade when his second stab hit McGrade’s ribs, which stopped the blade.
Following the altercation, Duling dialed 911 from the kitchen of the couple’s shared Wilton home. Police later found blood on the dial pad of the phone, on the numbers one and nine, which matched Duling’s. He then took his and McGrade’s children, then ages two and five, to a neighbor’s house, where the police were again called.
When police arrived, Duling was on the neighbor’s lawn, with his bleeding hand wrapped in a towel, according to Rowland’s affidavit. Rowland wrote that police “encountered a male subject on the front lawn, lying on his back, kicking and screaming.” The subject was later identified by EMTs as Duling.
According to the affidavit, Duling told Wilton Police Officer Gary Potter, the responding officer, that he had had a fight, involving a knife, with his wife. When asked if the woman was injured, Duling told Potter she was.
Upon entering Duling and McGrade’s residence, police found McGrade dead in the kitchen in a seated position and slumped over, with blood on the floor, and holding a kitchen knife in her right hand with blood on the blade, according to the affidavit.
Duling’s criminal trial had been delayed by questions of his competency to stand trial, according to published reports. Duling underwent evaluations to determine his competency as early as October 2008, according to the reports, and his defense attorney at the time, Public Defender Ed Cross, questioned his ability to accurately defend himself. The defense also pointed to Duling’s lack of memory of the event as a factor.
Duling underwent competency hearings at the Hillsborough County Superior Court in April and June of 2011, according to published reports, and was ultimately found capable of standing trial.
Wilton Select Board member Dan Donovan said in an interview Wednesday he remembered getting the call the night of April 18, 2008, from Police Chief Brent Hautanen, telling him that a homicide had occurred in town. Donovan declined to comment further.