43 killers on lifetime parole - but where?
There are 43 killers who have been released from state prison on lifetime parole, but don't expect to find out whether they live next door to you or any other information about their supervision in society.
Those records are confidential in New Hampshire, even though prosecutors and family members of victims opposed some of the releases when parole was first granted - some for fear of the perpetrator.
Kenneth Gagnon, whose father, Maurice Gagnon, was murdered in Nashua in 1959, believes the addresses and general parole information of killers on lifetime parole should be public in order to hold the state accountable for their supervision. Similar information is generally released in Maine, along with the convict's photograph.
Frederick Martineau, one of two men sentenced to hang for killing Gagnon's father, was released instead on lifetime parole after serving only 13 years in prison after a 1972 U.S. Supreme Court ruled the death penalty unconstitutional. State officials fought unsuccessfully to have the parole board's decision to release Martineau invalidated.
Since then, Martineau, now 87, has been in and out of state and federal prison for other crimes, but when he is free on parole - as he is now - he has been known to live within a few miles of Gagnon's Cumberland, R.I., business. Still, Gagnon and members of the public aren't legally entitled to know his address.
"They have more rights than us," Gagnon said.
It would be very uncomfortable to run into Martineau at the store, Gagnon said, even after all these years.
"They never did anything," Gagnon said. "They should have revoked his parole and never did."
At the request of New Hampshire Sunday News, the Department of Corrections released a list of all murderers who are free on lifetime parole. The list includes the name, date of birth, crime, date entered state prison, date paroled and whether the parolee had violated terms of release at any time. Ten have violated parole in the past, and are free on parole, but the department won't say whether their parole violations involved minor technical infractions or new crimes. The department refused to release the parolees' address, work status or release conditions - including frequency of contact with a parole officer.
Not like sex offenders
Unlike a registered sex offender whose name, picture, crime and address are posted on the Department of Safety website even after completing parole, similar information about murderers - and all other criminals on parole - is confidential in New Hampshire, according to Assistant Attorney General Lynmarie Cusack.
"New Hampshire law requires that parolee information including addresses, work history, and general information relating to the parolee be kept confidential," Cusack said in a letter responding to a request for information.
Cusack cited an administrative rule saying "in order to protect parolees from injurious publicity, parole records shall be kept confidential" and are exempt from the Right to Know Law. Cusack also noted that the state Supreme Court held in Lamy v. N.H. PUC that all people have a privacy interest in being able to "retreat to the seclusion of one's home and avoid enforced disclosure of one's address."
Many of the parole decisions were controversial, as in the case of Frank William Torres, now 63, who served 15 years after pleading guilty to second-degree murder for the shooting death of a Marlborough man in 1977. The victim's body was found three months later with no head or hands, according to published reports at the time.
There could also be convicted murderers who are released on parole for a set number of years depending on the judge's sentencing order.
Or Frank Dow, now 55, who was convicted of second-degree murder in 1983 for beating 18-year-old Mary Sue DeLong to death and stuffing leaves in her mouth in Manchester. The girl's grandmother, Ruth DeLong, said years ago that Dow should "be locked up forever," according to New Hampshire Union Leader news reports.
Three killers were released late last year: Steven Henry Leo Volkmann, 56, who was convicted of second-degree murder for the 1985 stabbing death of his wife, Teri, in her Manchester apartment; Roy E. Wrenn, 42, who was convicted of second-degree murder for the 1992 bludgeoning death of Nelson ''Sonny'' Goodno of Conway; and Stephen Earle Spencer, 46, convicted of second-degree murder for the 1987 death of Boyd McDonald in a drive-by shooting in Campton. (See related chart.)
Truth in sentencing
Some on the list were incarcerated before the "truth-in-sentencing'' law was enacted in 1983 mandating inmates serve their minimum sentences with no "good time" reduction, according to Parole Board Chairman Donna Sytek, the architect of the law.
Others on the list after 1983 were sentenced for second-degree murder, which allowed prison terms that often included a set minimum number of years and up to life in prison.
Since truth-in-sentencing, anyone convicted of first-degree murder would have to serve life in prison with no chance for parole. But accused murderers can still be charged with, or plea bargain to, lesser crimes and receive sentences that could eventually lead to parole.
Sytek, a former Republican state representatives who served as House speaker, said crime victims are always welcome at parole board hearings. But she isn't sure whether the public or victims should know more detailed information about parolees than is now public.
"I would have to think about that," Sytek said, weighing the public's concern with a parolee's right to privacy after paying his or her debt to society.
"It would require a change in the law or administrative rules," Sytek said.
It is up to the parole board whether a parolee is returned to prison for violating the terms of release, and for how long, she said.
From a public safety perspective, murderers are less likely to re-offend than sex offenders, she said.
"With sex offenders, typically it is not a one-time event," Sytek said.
An often-cited 2002 Bureau of Justice Statistics report said of 272,000 prisoners released in 15 states in 1994, robbers, burglars and those arrested for drug crimes all had higher than 70 percent re-arrest rates in the following three years, while only 2.5 percent of the released rapists were arrested for another rape, and 1.2 percent of those who had served time for homicide were re-arrested for homicide during that time.
Although Maine abolished parole in 1978, judges can sentence criminals to prison for a set number of years, or sentence them to prison followed by a period of supervised probation, which is similar to New Hampshire's parole, according to Maine Assistant Attorney General Diane Sleek.
Maine probationers are treated like inmates when it comes to information that is made public, she said. The name, crime, picture and region where probationers live are posted on a state website, and their address can be obtained by calling the state, Sleek said.
Sandra Matheson, director of the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office of Victim/Witness Assistance, said victims are not privy to a parolee's address, but before parole is granted, they have wide latitude to request the perpetrator not live near them.
"The parole board is very good at abiding by those restriction requests," Matheson said.
Victims are also notified of changes in a prisoner's status if they request such notification, she said.
Kenneth Gagnon said he was never told he could ask to be notified relative to changes in custody of Martineau, his father's killer. Gagnon has since made the call to ask to be told.
In the past, he was never contacted when Martineau and the other man convicted in his father's murder, Russell Nelson, were released. Nelson has since died, but was released for good behavior from life parole in 1995 with only a DWI conviction on his record. Nelson lived quietly in Concord after his release, married a former nun he met in prison and raised a daughter while working for the city of Concord.
Gagnon has always believed it was Martineau who pulled the trigger on his dad, but the state never specified.
Nelson and Martineau kidnapped Maurice Gagnon, then a wealthy Rhode Island manufacturer, took him to Nashua in his expensive Cadillac and killed him because he was going to testify against them the following day for burglarizing his house.
Many years after his father was killed, a man stopped by his business to deliver the Cadillac, which was finally being released as evidence by the state. "I was blind-sided," Gagnon said, but it showed authorities knew where to find him.
Gagnon was 17 when his father was murdered. His mother told him the death made Kenneth the man of the house.
"It was hard," said Gagnon.
He took over his father's business, Magco Plastics, and made his own mark, too, inventing the Quack Decoy duck.
"Time heals, but you never forget," Gagnon said.
"Life goes on and you hunker down and do the right thing and try to get through this life as best you can."