Daughter 'angry, upset' over father's manslaughter charges

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BRATTLEBORO — The daughter of a Keene, N.H., man charged with involuntary manslaughter in Vermont is angry and upset over the charges.

"He has a family that backs him up and understands what happened," said Sara MacKinnon, of Brattleboro.

Ronald MacKinnon was arraigned Friday afternoon in Windham Superior Court, Criminal Division, on one count of involuntary manslaughter and one count of reckless endangerment. Details of the Sept. 9, 2018, incident that led to the charges are sealed as part of a grand jury indictment. MacKinnon pleaded not guilty and was represented during arraignment by Kathleen Rivers. He was released on $1,000 cash bail and is expected back in court within the next 60 days.

Sara MacKinnon told the Reformer that on Sept. 9 her stepmother, Debbie Ann MacKinnon, and her father were traveling to visit her in Brattleboro, when her stepmother died. MacKinnon said she did not want to share details of her death at this time.

"My father is 72 years old," she said. "My father needs to be looked after. He has no one to look after him now. These charges don't help our family."

According to MacKinnon's obituary, she "died suddenly" on Sept. 9.

"The incident happened between Keene, N.H., and Brattleboro, Vt.," said Windham County Deputy State's Attorney Steven Brown after the arraignment.

Brown declined to disclose any of the details that led a grand jury to issue its indictments.

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"I am prevented from discussing the facts of the case because of the secrecy of the grand jury proceedings," he said, adding the grand jury found probably cause to proceed with arraignment.

According to her obituary, Debbie Ann MacKinnon was a life-long resident of Keene, born in 1966, the daughter of Ralph E. and Jessie D. (Hastings) Hallowell. She graduated from Keene High School on 1985.

She met Ronald MacKinnon "by chance" at a motorcycle shop in 1995 and they were married a short time later. She had been employed by Laidlaw and was a member of the Eagle's Ladies Auxiliary #1413.

Brown said the investigation was jointly conducted by the New Hampshire State Police and the Windham County State's Attorney's Office with assistance from the Keene Police Department, the Chesterfield Police Department and the Vermont State Police.

Det. Sgt. Shawn Skahan conducted the investigation for the New Hampshire State Police. He declined to comment on his investigation.

Although the investigation was conducted by the New Hampshire State Police, it is unclear why the Office of the Cheshire County Attorney declined to press charges. County Attorney Chris McLaughlin was not available for comment.

Brown said in the state of Vermont there are two methods to initiate a criminal proceeding. The most common is to provide a judge with an affidavit and allow him or her to determine probable cause. A Vermont prosecutor can also empanel a grand jury which can review evidence and take testimony to determine if there is enough probable cause to issue an indictment.

"I am not going to discuss why the state chose to empanel a grand jury in this case," said Brown.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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