This Hour: Latest Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont news, sports, business and entertainment - 7News Boston WHDH-TV

This Hour: Latest Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont news, sports, business and entertainment

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Police investigate deaths of family of 5 in Maine

SACO, Maine (AP) - Officials say they have recovered a shotgun from an apartment in southern Maine where a family of five was shot to death.

Detectives say murder-suicide is one of the scenarios being investigated following the discovery of the bodies Sunday afternoon. The official determination will be made by the state medical examiner's office, which is conducting autopsies Monday in Augusta.

Investigators say it appears no one outside the family was responsible for the shootings.

Neighbors identified the family as Joel Smith, a maintenance worker in the apartment complex, along with his wife, Heather, and their three children, ages 12, 7 and 4.

Police recovered the shotgun from a bedroom along where the bodies of the girl and her parents were found. The boys' bodies were found in their separate bedrooms.


DNC chair says Maine races a bellwether for Dems

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - The chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee says defeating Maine's sitting governor is critical to the party's efforts to raise minimum wage and expand residents' access to health care.

The event with U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida took place at Portland Public Library on Monday. Wasserman Schultz said Maine's congressional and gubernatorial races will be "one of the bellwethers" of the Democrats' success in November's elections.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mike Michaud, 1st District Rep. Chellie Pingree and 2nd District candidate Emily Cain attended. Senate candidate Shenna Bellows is participating in a 350-mile walk across the state. Cain is running against former treasurer Bruce Poliquin for congress.

Women for LePage Coalition chair State Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, says "Mainers are tired of the lies and hypocrisy" from Democrats.


Maine hearing on chemicals set for Tuesday

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The Maine Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing about the use of chemicals called phthalates (THAL'-ates) in household products.

A parents group petitioned the agency to hold the hearing on a request to require manufacturers to report use of the chemicals. It is slated for Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. in the DEP's response training room on Blossom Lane in Augusta.

The group says it delivered more than 2,070 petitions calling for the rule change earlier this month. The chemicals are often called "plasticizers" and are used to make plastics more flexible and durable. They are used in products like vinyl flooring, plastic clothes and personal care products.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says some types of phthalates have affected reproductive systems in lab animals.


Maine sea acidification group meets for first time

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) - The Maine Ocean Acidification Committee will hold its first meeting on Aug. 1.

The committee is studying the impacts of ocean acidification on the state's environment and its economy. It is slated to meet in Walpole.

The Maine state Legislature passed a law this spring establishing the commission to study and address the effects of ocean acidification on ecosystems and shellfisheries. State officials say the commission is the first of its kind in the eastern United States.

State officials say the 16-member council will meet at least four times before completing its work by Dec. 5. It will then report findings to the state legislature's Marine Resources Committee.


Maine man handcuffed after attending wedding

WINSLOW, Maine (AP) - A Sidney man who was charged earlier this year with sex trafficking is in trouble again, this time for attending a wedding in Winslow.

The Kennebec Journal ( reports that 47-year-old Frederick Horne was handcuffed by police in the parking lot of Fort Halifax Park on Sunday. He was summoned to appear in court on two counts of violating conditions of his earlier release.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney says Horne violated those terms by associating with the bride and another woman at the wedding. The women had been among several found at Horne's home in April when he and his son were charged with sex trafficking for allegedly running a prostitution operation.

The new charges are misdemeanors. Horne was released after being taken to the local police station.


Woman killed in Maine crash

LEWISTON, Maine (AP) - A fatal car crash is under investigation in Saco.

Police say a 22-year-old woman from Lewiston was killed early Sunday when the car she was driving went off Buxton Road and crashed into a utility pole.

Police have not yet released the woman's name and the cause of the accident is not yet known.



Mom on teen's 9-month absence: She isn't pregnant

NORTH CONWAY, N.H. (AP) - The mother of a 15-year-old New Hampshire girl reunited with her family nine months after she vanished says rumors that she was pregnant aren't true.

Investigators have been trying to find out how and why Abigail Hernandez of North Conway disappeared and who may have helped conceal her. She returned home July 20.

Zenya Hernandez tells NBC's "Today" that many people think her daughter was pregnant, but she was not. She also says she believes Abby did not run away and didn't know the man believed to have driven off with her. Police released a sketch of him based on Abby's description.

Abby issued a statement thanking people who searched for her and that she believes their hopes and prayers "played a major role in my release."


Governor vetoes workplace bullying bill

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Gov. Maggie Hassan has vetoed a bill aimed at protecting state employees from abusive work environments, saying it was well-intentioned, but unworkable.

Lawmakers passed the bill after hearing from current and former state employees who said they experienced workplace bullying. It would have required state departments and agencies to develop policies to address harassment, but Hassan said the legislation's definition of "abusive conduct" was overly broad and would have made the most routine interactions potential causes of action. For example, she says someone could have claimed workplace abuse if he or she felt that co-workers weren't answering emails in a timely manner.

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Diane Schuett, says she hopes lawmakers will override the veto. She said bullying doesn't just happen in schools, and such behavior undermines government efficiency.


Liquor Commission reports record fiscal year sales

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire's liquor sales in the past fiscal year were a record high $626 million.

The record sales for fiscal year 2014 were $23 million higher than the previous fiscal year - an increase of nearly 4 percent.

Liquor Commission Chairman Joseph Mollica says net profits of $148 million were transferred to the state's general fund.

The commission reported that the top performing stores are those on Interstate 95 north and southbound, followed by stores in Portsmouth and Salem.

Mollica attributes the record sales to innovative marketing and the strategic location of the state's 77 liquor stores.

Other top selling stores included two in Nashua and the stores on Interstate 93 north and south in Hooksett.

The first New Hampshire Liquor and Wine outlet opened in 1934.


Judge orders officer to remain in jail

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - A judge has ordered a New Hampshire police officer to continue to serve out his one-year sentence in jail following a hit-and-run accident that injured two teens last year.

Stephen Coco was allowed to return home on work release after serving 72 days. That was under a statute that gives jail superintendents discretion to determine whether an inmate should be released for the purposes of work after serving at least 14 days. Prosecutors protested the release.

Earlier this month, Judge Gillian Abramson ordered Coco back to jail. WMUR-TV reports ( on Monday, she denied Coco's appeal to stay out of jail while he appeals the decision to the state Supreme Court.

Coco pleaded guilty to two felony counts of conduct after the Bedford accident that seriously injured the teens.


Hassan signs handheld cellphone driving ban

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Gov. Maggie Hassan has signed a bill banning handheld cellphone use while driving in New Hampshire as of July 1, 2015.

The measure continues to allow adults to talk on cellphones while driving if they use hands-free phones, devices built into the vehicle and two-way radios. It also bans all cellphone use by minors behind the wheel.

The ban will apply while drivers are stopped temporarily, such as at a red light, but not if they have pulled over and stopped. The bill doesn't apply in an emergency.

Offenders will face a $100 fine for a first offense, a $250 fine for a second offense and a $500 fine for subsequent offenses within 24 months.

Hassan signed the bill Friday.



Preservation efforts discussed for covered bridges

TUNBRIDGE, Vt. (AP) - The Vermont town of Tunbridge is trying to come up with ways to protect its five covered bridges.

The bridges were built between 1845 and 1902. The weight limits range from 3 tons to 8 tons. Their heights range from 9-foot-2 to 10-foot-8.

The Valley News reports ( with no local police force and few tools for enforcement, the selectboard is trying to bring attention to the limitations for drivers.

Ideas including posting "passenger vehicle only" or "no trailer" signs at two of the bridges that have close alternative routes, Mill Bridge and Cilley Bridge; posting "truck route" signs; and posting signs closer to Route 110 so that out-of-towners know of a covered bridge ahead of them.


Vermont delegation: Rutland airport gets $8.1m

RUTLAND, Vt. (AP) - Vermont's congressional delegation says the airport that serves Rutland has received an $8.1 million grant to make safety improvements.

The U.S. Department of Transportation grant to the Rutland Southern-Vermont Regional Airport in North Clarendon was announced on Friday.

The grant will be used to extend the runway an additional 300 feet, and build a runway safety area and a graded area in the event that an aircraft overruns the runway.

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and U.S. Rep Peter Welch say the upgrades will improve both the safety and the viability of the airport for the long term.

The grant will be dispersed by the Vermont Transportation Agency.


Man sentenced for selling cocaine outside mall

ST. JOHNSBURY, Vt. (AP) - A New Hampshire man has been sentenced to a year in jail for selling cocaine out of his car in a mall parking lot in Vermont.

The Caledonian Record reports ( 29-year-old Luis Santana of Littleton, New Hampshire, pleaded guilty in Caledonia Superior Court to the sale of the drug in exchange for his one-to-three-year sentence, with a work camp recommendation.

Authorities said Santana sold 15.9 grams of cocaine at the Green Mountain Mall in St. Johnsbury. It was stashed in the engine compartment of his car in March 2013. It was sold to an individual code-named "Blue," who was cooperating with the task force in exchange for consideration on pending criminal charges.


Fire destroys South Burlington condo garage, cars

SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (AP) - South Burlington firefighters say a blaze that destroyed a six-bay garage at a condominium was started by the improper disposal of rags that had been used to refinish furniture.

There were no injuries that were reported about midnight Sunday.

The three vehicles in the garage were destroyed.

WCAX-TV ( ) reports the South Burlington Fire Marshal's office concluded the fire was accidental.


Vermont capital residents to have heat pump access

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - Montpelier residents are going to be able to rent heat pumps from Vermont's largest electric utility as a way to save money on their heating bills.

Green Mountain Power says it has expanded its heat pump rental program from Rutland to include Montpelier.

Cold climate heat pumps are ductless heating systems that also provide air conditioning during hot weather.

The units will rent for between $44 and $53 per month. GMP estimates customers can save 25 to 50 percent of their home heating costs.

Montpelier Mayor John Hollar says the program will help the city meet its goal of becoming the country's first "net zero" state capital by 2030.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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