Lazy, Corrupt Cheshire County Police Revealed in Fake Threat Case

Former Winchester Police Lt Penny Witherbee, photo from Brattleboro Reformer

Lazy and/or corrupt Cheshire county police have been featured recently in a lengthy article by award-winning journalist Damien Fisher. Fisher tells the complicated story of Donna Pelliccia and her daughter who were targeted by a neighbor, Hayley Philbrick, whose false allegations against Pelliccia and her daughter resulted in Pelliccia thrown in Cheshire County jail on charges that were eventually dropped. All thanks to shoddy police “work” by cops in Troy and Winchester New Hampshire. Winchester is a town known for its deep corruption.

In October of 2020, Philbrick was shopping false claims around to different area police departments, alleging her neighbor Pelliccia threatened her via facebook. She obtained a restraining order against Pelliccia based on the fake account’s messages and then told Winchester police on October 14th that the threats were continuing. Winchester police then requested Troy police to arrest Pelliccia for violating the restraining order. No one from either department bothered to investigate any party’s claims, including Pelliccia’s denial that the facebook account was hers. After successfully jailing Pelliccia for a day, the morning of October 16th, Philbrick went to Keene police and claimed further contact by Pelliccia. However, KPD’s Christina Paterno actually bothered to examine Philbrick’s claims and determined they were easily falsified.

Having had no success with KPD, Philbrick returned to Winchester PD on the same day she visited KPD and made more claims of harassment by the facebook account masquerading as Pelliccia. Winchester PD Lieutenant Penny Witherbee had Pelliccia arrested AGAIN and this time she was held for several days until October 21st. Despite Pelliccia being in jail, Philbrick continued to claim messages were coming to her from the alleged Pelliccia facebook. Lt. Witherbee finally began investigating the source of the facebook messages but started by talking to Philbrick who tried to blame Pelliccia’s daughter. So Witherbee got a warrant and seized Pelliccia’s daughter’s devices to ostensibly search for evidence of the threats or use of the facebook account in question, “pelliccia.donna”. The search and seizure was conducted on Pelliccia’s daughter while Pelliccia was in jail. Pelliccia’s daughter has a neurological condition and autoimmune disorder and can have difficulty walking.

A month after her release from jail, the case against Pelliccia was dropped. Seeking some form of vindication, she complained to the court and Cheshire Sheriff deputy Todd Faulkner was assigned to the case. His investigation over several months determined that Winchester PD never bothered to conduct any examination of the devices they seized, never bothered to investigate Philbrick’s claims before arresting Pelliccia more than once, and Witherbee’s botched “investigation” made it impossible for him to determine beyond a reasonable doubt that Philbrick had indeed created the account and posed as Pelliccia on facebook, though he believed that was the case based on a preponderance of the evidence.

Hayley Philbrick

Hayley Philbrick

However, according to Faulkner’s report, over a year later, in January of 2022 Philbrick went to Jaffrey police to claim that Pelliccia’s daughter was sending her threatening text messages via a phone number from a company called TextNow. Since the Jaffrey detective, Jeremy K LeBlanc actually bothered to investigate Philbrick’s claims, he easily discovered that the number from which the threatening messages had originated was associated with a TextNow account registered to Philbrick’s email address! The report filed by LeBlanc says Philbrick had sent him screenshots of the texts from the very same email. He confronted Philbrick with what he’d learned and she denied it, claiming someone was “setting her up”. LeBlanc subsequently arrested Philbrick and charged her with “False Reports to Law Enforcement”, “False Swearing”, and “Falsifying Physical Evidence”. The latter charge is a Class A misdemeanor, meaning Philbrick is facing up to a year in jail on that charge. According to court records, Philbrick has a “competency hearing” on August 9th in Jaffrey District Court.

Witherbee had worked at Brattleboro Police in Vermont from 2002 through 2018 when she resigned and sued the department over alleged sexual harassment, ultimately settling with the town government for a $35,000 payout. Not long after botching the Philbrick/Pelliccia case, Witherbee resigned from the Winchester police. Is she simply lazy and incompetent, corrupt, or all of the above? According to Fisher’s story, Witherbee has been hired again, this time by Chesterfield, NH police.

For even more background on this case, visit Thomas Parisi’s channel on YouTube, where various footage recorded by police when investigating this case has been posted, including Pelliccia’s first arrest, Witherbee’s interview with Philbrick prior to Pelliccia’s second arrest, and more.

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