Man gets 30 years for murder
Defense planning to appeal conviction based on court’s competency decision
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.
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The log cabin home at 259 Turnpike Road in Jaffrey is still standing although it is unable to be occupied at this time. The home owners, Heather and Thomas Tullio, along with their two children and cat are currently staying with relatives. The fire was reported to the Jaffrey Fire Department at 5:30 Friday morning. Purchase photo reprints at Photo Finder »
NASHUA — Convicted murderer Benjamin Duling of Wilton was sentenced to a minimum of 30 years in prison for the 2008 stabbing of his common-law wife, Shelley McGrade. His attorney says they will appeal the conviction, arguing Duling was incompetent to stand trial.
Following the conclusion of his sentencing hearing Friday, Duling was sentenced to 30 years to life for the second-degree murder of Shelley McGrade. Five years of the sentence has been credited to Duling for the time he was held between the death of McGrade in 2008 and his sentencing Friday. Duling was convicted in January of stabbing McGrade to death in their Wilton home.
Jeff Strelzin, the senior assistant attorney general who prosecuted the case, said in an interview Monday that he was satisfied with the results of Friday’s sentencing.
“We’re pleased that the judge gave him a significant sentence, and happy on the part of the family of the victim that this part of the case is over,” said Strelzin.
Duling has the option to appeal both his sentence and conviction. The conviction would be appealed through the N.H. Supreme Court, and the sentence would be appealed through the sentencing board. Duling has 30 days from the notice of the court’s sentence to enter an appeal.
Michael Hulser of M.D. Hulser & Associates in Acworth, Duling’s attorney, said in an interview Monday that Duling would be taking a Rule 7 appeal to the N.H. Supreme Court. “We will be appealing a number of issues, competency being major among them,” said Hulser.
Duling’s defense has argued since the early days of the case that Duling was not competent to stand trial, chiefly because of his alleged inability to remember the stabbing. Duling was convicted of murdering his common-law wife by stabbing her twice on April 18, 2008 — once in the neck and once in the back, after the two had an argument over a trip to London the two were scheduled to take the next day with a male coworker of Duling’s. Present in the home at the time of the murder were Duling and McGrade’s two children, aged 5 and 2 at the time. McGrade also had two other children from a previous relationship, who were not at the home. Duling was arrested in May 2008. As early as October 2008, Duling began to undergo competency evaluations.
Questions of Duling’s competency were among the issues that delayed the criminal trial until January of this year. Judge Diane Nicolosi found Duling competent to stand trial in June 2011. But, the defense did not agree with the ruling, and will be basing its appeal on that decision.
During the trial, Hulser argued that Duling had stabbed his wife in a reflex action, after she came at him with a knife, pointing to a wound Duling sustained on his hand as proof of self-defense. Assistant Attorney General Michael Lewis argued that after disarming McGrade, Duling had no right to turn the knife back on her. The wound on his hand was more consistent with a wound sustained during the stabbing of another than a defensive wound, the prosecution argued.
“He stood trial with what we feel is an extraordinary handicap,” said Hulser. “We said for years that, if we went to trial with a defendant that could not remember what happened, we’d be at an insurmountable disadvantage. We lost that in court, and we will get a second opinion from the Supreme Court.”
Given the conviction of second-degree murder in January, Hulser said he was not surprised by the sentence passed down. “It’s not a happy sentence, but certainly in the range we would expect,” he said.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.