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N.H. affair cited in killing of a friend, then an arrest

Victim found in fire pit is blamed for breakup

LEMPSTER, N.H. -- Kenneth Carpenter had a serious beef with Edith ''Pen" Meyer: He blamed her for helping break up his extramarital affair. He also accused his former girlfriend of letting Meyer ''control you and plan your time and lie."

And after Meyer, 55, disappeared from her home in the neighboring town of Goshen, an investigation eventually led to the cabin where Carpenter lives with his wife. There, in a fire pit outside the house, police found Meyer's charred remains.

It was a gruesome end to a weeklong search that had consumed Meyer's tiny New Hampshire hamlet, which hadn't seen a murder in decades. Now, police are continuing to investigate the path that linked an unemployed truck driver with a well-liked environmental activist, a weaver who had adopted the woods at the foot of Mount Sunapee as her home.

Carpenter, 53, a gray-bearded man with a barbed-wire tattoo around one arm, was arraigned yesterday morning after being charged with Meyer's murder. He entered no plea and is being held without bail at the Sullivan County jail.

Court records show that as the love affair between Carpenter and Sandra Merritt, 44, of nearby Newport, began to fray, his anger against Meyer bubbled into rage. He mentioned Meyer often in notes to Merritt, written in large and loopy lettering that sometimes grew shaky.

''She's not your friend," Carpenter wrote in one, twice underlining the word not.

''Was this another of Pen's ways to hurt you and me?" he wrote in another note.

In still another, he described his increasing distress over a relationship lost. ''As I write this my heart is pounding my breathing is faster," he wrote, ''and my pen and brain are on high speed -- overload."

According to documents filed in Newport District Court, Carpenter and Merritt had an 11-month relationship that ended in early November 2004. A few weeks after they broke up, Merritt complained about Carpenter's behavior to a Newport police officer, who called him to issue a warning.

But in early December, Merritt told police that Carpenter was continuing to contact her, coming to her driveway to leave flowers on her car and letters on her car, porch, and mailbox. Merritt filed a temporary stalking order on Dec. 9 and a final order on Dec. 13. In court papers she filed at the time, she said Carpenter had made a few suicide attempts and had mental health issues.

''He's disregarding any warnings," she wrote. ''He's been volatile about these circumstances toward my friends, and I don't know what he'll do next."

A mutual friend, Frederick Evans, also filed a stalking order against Carpenter on Dec. 10, charging that Carpenter had stormed into his house a day earlier, furious about Merritt's request for protection. ''Mr. Carpenter is more and more out of control," Evans wrote in his petition.

Court records shed little light on the time that elapsed between the time Merritt filed her petition and Feb. 23, the day Meyer was first reported missing from her Goshen home.

Meyer wasn't the type of person who would simply disappear, said New Hampshire State Police Major Barry Hunter. She had a tight-knit local circle of family and friends, a neat and tidy house, and a dog she cared for. Acquaintances said she hiked nearly every day in the woods around her home, on the shores of Gunnison Lake.

So when a friend went to her home and couldn't find her, Hunter said, police suspected she might have become lost or been hurt in the woods nearby. A team of investigators searched the area for two days by foot, with dogs, and by helicopter before they began to consider foul play.

Hunter said police received ''a tremendous outpouring of help from concerned citizens, those that knew her and those that didn't." By Feb 28, some of that information led them to focus on Carpenter. Police eventually searched his home and seized a car from his property.

Hunter would not say when police found Meyer's body, or how she had been killed.

On Thursday night, Carpenter was arrested at Valley Regional Hospital in Claremont, N.H. Officials would not say why he was at the hospital.

Last night, the lights were on inside Carpenter's small cabin at the end of a narrow, snow-covered road that led into thick woods, but no one answered the door. A Jeep, motor home, and other vehicles were parked around the cabin and tools were scattered around the yard near two small sheds. The homey-looking cabin with knickknacks and pottery sat in eerie silence against the dark woods. No other houses could be seen.

About a 20-minute drive away at Merritt's white two-story Cape Cod-style cottage, which sits at the end of a 2-mile rural road a quarter-mile from the nearest neighbor, several cars were in the driveway. ''Please respect her privacy and right to grieve," said a woman who answered the door and would not identify herself.

In Goshen, neighbors mourned Meyer, a quiet, friendly woman who adopted the nickname Pen because she was born on Independence Day. Acquaintances said Meyer was an artisan who sold her weaving at local fairs and once worked at a health food store called 14 Carrots. She was also an eloquent environmentalist.

''I always knew where Pen had been, because memberships and support would be behind her," said Tom Elliott, executive director of Friends of Mount Sunapee, an advocacy group. ''She was naturally gifted at talking about important issues in ways that people would really feel. . . . She talked about her home."

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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