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Judge OKs access to trailer for defense lawyers in N.H. kidnap case

By Ted Siefer

MANCHESTER N.H. (Reuters) - A judge has ordered that attorneys for the man accused of kidnapping a New Hampshire teenager who mysteriously reappeared last month must be given greater access to his mobile home and a nearby shipping container.

Nathaniel Kibby, 34, was charged last month with kidnapping Abigail Hernandez, 15, on Oct. 9, 2013, in the town of Conway, a scenic tourist area popular with skiers. Hernandez reappeared at her family's home on July 20, about nine months later.

Authorities and the family have shared little information about the circumstances of Hernandez's disappearance or return, and Kibby's arrest late last month has not shed much light on lingering questions.

Kibby has been charged with one count of Class B felony kidnapping, a lesser charge under state law than Class A kidnapping. New Hampshire law allows the Class B charge for defendants who voluntarily release their victims to a safe place without serious bodily injury before facing trial.

Prosecutors have said additional charges could be brought against Kibby, pending a search of his mobile home in the nearby town of Gorham. They had sought to remove the trailer and an adjacent metal shipping container he owns from the trailer park, citing the need to preserve evidence in the high-profile case.

A district court judge has sided with Kibby's court-appointed attorneys in ordering that the trailer and container remain at the densely occupied trailer park and that they be given greater access to them.

The judge also postponed a probable-cause hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

The judge wrote in a Friday ruling that authorities could remove the trailer and container only after Kibby's attorneys had "a meaningful opportunity" to determine if they contained exculpatory evidence.

"If the structures are relocated, the defendant cannot recreate the scene to evaluate the plausibility of another hearing or not hearing sounds consistent with someone held against her will," Justice Pamela Albee wrote.

Kibby's public defender could not be reached or comment on Monday. At a hearing last week, Friedman said Kibby maintained his innocence.

Kibby is being held on a $1 million cash bail.

The charges against him, he wrote in a letter to the court, were "not credible based upon my character & my objectivist libertarian moral code."

(Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)