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Dominatrix Not Guilty In Bondage Death

A dominatrix was acquitted of manslaughter Monday in the death of a man who prosecutors say suffered a fatal heart attack while strapped to a replica of a medieval torture device.

The jury in Norfolk Superior Court deliberated for eight hours over two days before finding Barbara Asher, 56, not guilty of involuntary manslaughter and dismemberment.

During his closing argument, prosecutor Robert Nelson re-enacted the bondage session that allegedly killed Michael Lord, 53, of North Hampton, New Hampshire, in July 2000.

Donning a leather mask and speaking to the jury through the zippered mouth, he said Lord flailed about and died while strapped to the rack in a makeshift "dungeon" in Asher's Quincy, Massachusetts, condominium. Nelson said Asher did nothing to help him for fear authorities would find out about her business.

"She did nothing, nothing for five minutes," Nelson said, his voice muffled through the mask.

Then she summoned her boyfriend, who chopped up the body of the 275-pound retired telephone company worker before they dumped it behind a restaurant in Augusta, Maine, Nelson said. Police searched an Augusta landfill, but his remains have never been found.

Prosecutors said Asher confessed to police, but the alleged confession was not taped, and police investigators who testified said they did not save their notes from the interrogation.

Asher's lawyer, Stephanie Page, said there was also no DNA evidence recovered from the bathtub, and without a body there was no real evidence that Lord was even dead.

"No body. No blood. No DNA. No evidence," Page said in her closing argument.

Lord's sons were disappointed with the verdict.

"Here's a woman who confesses to this horrible crime — what she did to my father, who we love very much," said Timothy Lord.


But he also questioned whether police thoroughly investigated his father's disappearance.

"The police got a confession from her, and were OK with it, and didn't want to follow up with the story," he said.

Another son, Nathan Lord, said Asher once called Michael Lord's mother in Texas and apologized for her role in his death, but that evidence was never presented at the trial.

"It's disappointing," he said. "Feels like a lot of information wasn't brought out in court."

The Norfolk County District Attorney's Office said in a statement it was aware it faced "daunting" legal obstacles in bringing the case, "but that didn't mean these gruesome allegations should go unchallenged."

"Every family needs to know that if they lose a loved one, no alleged attempt to cover up that crime and destroy evidence is going to stop us from trying to bring a case to justice as the law allows," the statement said.

Asher said after the verdict that the more than five years since her alleged confession had been "an emotionally draining experience." Asked by a reporter if she continues working as a dominatrix, she declined to comment.

Several police investigators testified about Asher's alleged confession, saying she repeatedly denied any involvement in Lord's death, then asked the officers to turn off the tape recorder and confessed.

Detective Mark Sambataro of Salem, New Hampshire, denied Page's claim that the investigators developed a theory about the case, then bullied Asher into admitting to a crime she didn't commit.

But it was Nelson's theatrical closing that provided the most dramatic moments of the trial.

The prosecutor pointed and hollered at Asher. He dumped a box full of hoods, collars, and paddles onto a table, and proclaimed that Asher was trying to protect her business.

"That's why she didn't call the police," he said.

With both hands, he reached back and clutched the top of a blackboard to simulate Lord being strapped to the rack.

He paused as his head hung forward as if to simulate Lord's alleged death.

Page objected, and Norfolk Superior Court Judge Charles Grabau agreed.

"That's enough Mr. Nelson," the judge said. "Thank you for your demonstration."