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Thread: Eric Windhurst (52) to face a Parole hearing in December, 2020 over a 1985 murder of Danny Paquette In New Hampshire

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    Eric Windhurst (52) to face a Parole hearing in December, 2020 over a 1985 murder of Danny Paquette In New Hampshire

    A Hopkinton man imprisoned for murdering his friend?s abusive stepfather in 1985 has been denied early release, but could still shave a few months off his sentence.

    In an order released Tuesday, Judge Richard McNamara of Merrimack County Superior Court rejected the request from Eric Windhurst, who has about four years left in a 15-year sentence, saying a release now would detract from the goal of general deterrence. But McNamara hailed Windhurst as a ?model prisoner,? and said he would be open to granting him earned time credits, in which inmates can knock a few months off their sentences through education and programming.

    ?While the court believes that it cannot suspend any of the defendant?s sentence at this time, in light of the circumstances of this case, (it) would be inclined to rule favorably on a request for time credit. . . . if recommended by the commissioner of corrections,? he wrote.

    Windhurst carried out the deadly attack after a friend confided that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather, Danny Paquette. They concealed the crime for nearly 20 years, until the friend, Melanie Cooper, agreed to open up to authorities. Windhurst pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2006.

    At a hearing last month, Windhurst apologized profusely to Paquette?s family, saying he could never shake the guilt of his crime. Supporters from the community called him a changed man and said they would not hesitate to welcome him back into their homes. Relatives of Paquette spoke out against the request, saying he had admitted to murder only after being ratted out.

    Windhurst?s attorney claims Cooper manipulated him into carrying out the attack, and noted that she received a comparatively slim sentence ? 15 months for hindering arrest. But state prosecutors countered that Cooper played no direct role in the killing, and said Windhurst?s real motive was outrage over having just discovered that his own father sexually abused his sisters.

    Regardless, McNamara acknowledged that Windhurst has worked hard in prison to rehabilitate himself and prepare for life on the outside.

    ?While incarcerated, and subject to the pressures inside any prison to engage in violent and antisocial conduct, he continued to maintain social ties with his community, and continue to enhanced (sic) his skills as a woodworker, to the extent that many of the letters in support of a sentence reduction suggest that he would be readily employable when he is released,? McNamara wrote.

    Windhurst has already completed job training and several nonviolence seminars in prison. It?s unclear whether he is already eligible for earned time credits, and if so, how much. He will have served his minimum sentence on Dec. 13, 2020.

    If released, Windhurst had planned to live with his parents in Hopkinton.

    (Jeremy Blackman can be reached at 369-3319, or on Twitter @JBlackmanCM.)

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    Here is a two part podcast on Eric Windhurst called "Crimes of Passion" this is the lead in to Eric Windhurst killing Danny Paquette in 1985.
    Yes Windhurst became paranoid for 20 years prior to getting caught. And yes it came from Eric hearing allegations on Danny Paquette that was a predator that lead up to the murder.

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    Eric Windhurst has been granted Parole


    A man who pleaded guilty to a 1985 murder has been granted parole.
    The murder of Danny Paquette went unsolved for 20 years before Eric Windhurst eventually admitted to the crime.

    Windhurst was a teenager when he shot and killed Paquette in 1985. Now in his 50s, Windhurst went before the parole board Thursday after serving 15 years for second-degree murder.

    Windhurst said he was asked to kill Paquette -- a man he never met -- by a high school classmate. He shot Paquette with a rifle while hiding in the woods.

    The victim's brother, Victor Paquette, showed Windhurst pictures of the man he killed, asking him if that's the face he saw through the sight on his gun.

    "If you think and this parole board think for a minute that this bill is paid and justice was served. hell no," Victor Paquette said. "There's one place for you, and that's back in prison."

    Officials said Windhurst has been a model prisoner and the parole board granted his release, saying he is clearly not the same person he was as a teenager.

    "I live with it every day. They have to live with it every day," Windhurst said. "I'm so desperately sorry for what I've done, and it's the weakest way to say you're sorry after doing what I've done, but it's the only words we have."

    Windhurst said he will live with his mother if released. If the plan is approved, he will be released Dec. 8.
    Actual Release date is in 2020.

    Victor Paquette held up the photo from his home in Florida, hoping the picture of his late brother, Danny Paquette, would be worth 1,000 words, plus an additional 20 years for the man who killed him.

    He stared at Eric Windhurst, 1,500 miles away, through wire-rimmed gasses, trying to convince the New Hampshire Parole Board via Zoom that Windhurst planned his brother?s murder in 1985, hid the truth for 20 years and should serve the maximum sentence, 36 years.

    ?Look familiar? Eric,? Victor Paquette asked. ?Is this the man you saw through your rifle sights? Let me help you with this. Loving brother. Respected and well liked businessman, and most of all a loving, caring father who, believe it or not, family meant everything.?

    No matter how much he tried, however, Victor Paquette was unable to convince the three-person parole board to keep Windhurst locked up for another 20 years, telling disappointed family members that his 15-year report card at the State Prison ? attending counseling, working with the League of NH Craftsmen, furthering his carpentry skills ? was too clean, too impressive and too hopeful to keep him incarcerated any longer.

    His crime: Windhurst was a junior at Hopkinton High School when he shot and killed Danny Paquette to defend the honor of his 15-year-old friend and Danny?s stepdaughter, Melanie Paquette. She claimed Danny had sexually molested her in years past.

    ?Clearly you are a different person than you were when you were 17,? said Donna Sytek, the spokeswoman for the three-person parole board. ?The adequacy of your parole plan, you?ve got employment and a solid place to live.?

    Windhurst will move home to care for his elderly mother and continue working full time at a motorcycle shop in Windham, where he had been employed this year through a work-release program.

    Meanwhile, Danny Paquette?s family, led by unofficial spokesman Victor Paquette, will continue fuming over what they say was an outrageously unjust decision.

    ?He didn?t even serve 14 years and he was released into a work program,? Victor said by phone about an hour after the hearing. ?He didn?t actually serve 15 years behind bars.?

    This is the latest and perhaps last piece of news from a bizarre case in 1985, when Windhurst, then 17, was encouraged by his friend, 15-year-old Melanie Paquette, to kill her stepfather, Danny Paquette.

    Melanie confided in Windhurst, her teammate on the Hopkinton High boys? soccer team, telling him that Danny had sexually abused her when she was younger.

    Windhurst shot Danny through the heart from 300 yards away, the length of three football fields. Then, nothing. Until 2005, when police zeroed in on Melanie Paquette and got the truth about what had happened.

    After news spread that Melanie claimed her stepfather had molested her, fueling Windhurst?s crime, and media reports of allegations of past abuse by Danny Paquette surfaced, the case took on bigger meaning.

    The one about women ? and in this case, a girl ? fearful for their lives, seeking safety through drastic measures, knowing it?s the lone way to end the cycle of violence that could lead to their own deaths.

    Or, in this case, was this revenge for crimes committed long ago? Either way, can you ever justify vigilantism?

    Asked directly if his brother had abused Melanie in some way, Victor said, ?The Attorney General?s Office never as far as I know could ever produce anything to substantiate that charge, and I was in their faces to show me one paragraph or one page that could substantiate that, and they never brought anyone forward to substantiate that.?

    As if murdering Danny and accusing him of pedophilia weren?t enough to create hostile feelings, the 20-year gap of silence had a huge effect on Victor and the rest of his family.

    They saw a coward who accepted responsibility and showed remorse only after Melanie had made a deal with the Attorney General, serving 15 months on a reduced charge of hindering arrest.

    ?This murder going unsolved for 20 years has caused immeasurable suffering for the Paquette family,? Lance Larrabee, Danny?s nephew, said on the Zoom broadcast.

    ?Mr. Windhurst enjoyed 20 years of freedom. . . lying every day about killing someone you?ve never met, while we lived in a constant fear of why did this happen, who did it, and always wondering if someone else might be killed.?

    Larrabee?s eyes were trained on Windhurst, who wore a gray vest and gray tie. Sometimes stoic, other times sniffling, always still in his seat.

    ?If I can take every bit of it back I would, if I could undo every bit of it, I would,? Windhurst said. ?Danny is in my thoughts. I wake up, it?s the first thing I think about. My entire day is consumed with thoughts of what I?ve done, what I?ve done to the Paquette family.

    ?It?s just the weakest way,? he continued, ?to say you?re sorry after doing what I?ve done. But it?s the only words I have.?

    At the end, in a riveting scene that took two minutes but must have seemed like two hours to all involved, the three board members bowed their heads and typed, their clicking, texting sounds cutting through the silence on Zoom, their words deciding the upcoming path of a man?s life.

    Board members are not permitted to comment on parole decisions, said Jennifer Sargent, chair of the parole board. She wouldn?t reveal the final tally.

    But the decision announced by Sytek was crystal clear, saying Windhurst?s record was squeaky clean, and his drive for self improvement was strong.

    ?The board,? Sytek said, ?is right to grant the privilege of parole, Mr. Windhurst,?

    Later, Victor said his family?s decision to accept a plea deal ? second-degree murder and its 15- to 36-year sentence, not first degree murder and, potentially, life without parole ? was a coordinated effort to spare a family member with cancer the emotional distress of a first-degree murder trial.

    In essence, the Paquette?s rolled the dice, hoping the maximum sentence would be enforced for a premeditated murder.

    ?She asked me and another family member if we would agree to the plea, so she would not have to sit through that,? Victor said. ?We agreed it was more important to save her life.?

    He actually saved two.

    ?The decision of the board is that we are going to grant you the privilege of parole,? Sytek said.

    ?I can?t thank you enough,? Windhurst replied.

    By then, Victor?s image on Zoom was gone.

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    The man who shot and killed Daniel Paquette in 1985 was granted parole in an emotional hearing Thursday.

    Eric Windhurst pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of Paquette in 2005, after keeping the killing a secret for 20 years. He served 15 years in state prison for the crime, the minimum sentence for second-degree murder. Members of Paquette’s family begged the parole board to keep Windhurst in prison.

    “If you think and this parole board thinks for a minute that the bill is paid and justice is served? Hell no,” said Paquette’s brother, Victor Paquette.

    In the parole board hearing Wednesday, Windhurst said a schoolmate, Melanie Paquette, told him in 1985 that her stepfather, Daniel Paquette, had molested her as a child. Melanie Paquette told Windhurst a school counselor would have to report the abuse to the police. Paquette told Windhurst she thought her stepfather would kill her.

    A week later, the two drove from Hopkinton to Paquette’s home in Hooksett, where Windhurst, then 17, shot and killed Paquette.

    Windhurst stayed quiet for 20 years, and was only arrested after investigators re-interviewed Melanie Paquette in 2004.

    Windhurst said he thinks of Paquette every day. The word “sorry” does not feel adequate, he said.

    “My entire day is consumed with what I’ve done, what I’ve done to the Paquette family,” Windhurst said.

    In prison, Windhurst said he took classes and held a job the entire time he has been in prison. Parole board member Joe Francis said Windhurst had gotten in trouble in prison just once in 15 years, and has not been violent since the 1985 shooting.

    The hearing was held by video conference, and the parole board deliberated over text message for just over a minute before agreeing to grant Windhurst parole over the passionate objections of the Paquette family. Parole board members said they considered Windhurst’s disciplinary record in prison, the efforts he had made to improve himself and his plan to support himself after release.

    “The job of the parole board is not to be a re-sentencing body,” said parole board member Donna Sytek.

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    Melanie Cooper was one of the people the set the death of Danny Paquette to take place based on her allegation she told Windhurst. .

    CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A woman who first lied about a murder case as a teenager and then helped solve it as an adult should stay in prison, the murder victim's family said yesterday. Melanie Paquette Cooper asked a three-judge panel to reduce her prison sentence to the six months she has already served, arguing she cooperated with police on a 20-year-old murder case that had stalled.

    Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin said he supported the shortened sentence because without Cooper, the case likely would have remained unsolved.

    "Unfortunately, part of what we have to do is make deals with people who are directly involved with murders," Strelzin said after the hearing.

    Cooper was the state's key witness last year against Eric Windhurst, a high school classmate who fatally shot Cooper's stepfather, Danny Paquette, in 1985. Cooper admitted in 2005 that she went with Windhurst to Paquette's Hooksett farm.

    Prosecutors recommended a suspended five-year sentence, but a judge gave her three to six years in prison.

    The sentencing review panel — which can increase, decrease or sustain the original sentence — did not issue a decision yesterday.

    "She's been lying to everyone in her life for the last 20 years," said Doug Paquette, Danny Paquette's nephew. "She had her day in court and she blew it."

    Cooper, who was 15 at the time, said she told Windhurst, then 17, that Paquette had sexually abused and raped her and she feared he would hurt her again if he learned she was back in New Hampshire. She had been living in another state.

    Prosecutors said Windhurst had learned about the same time that his sisters had been molested in separate incidents, and the shooting was his form of revenge.

    "He offered to kill Danny Paquette. He had to take his anger out on someone, and he took it out on Danny Paquette," Strelzin said during the hearing. "He did it more for his own reasons than for her."

    Still, Paquette's family said the blame lies with Cooper.

    "They took the ride, he took the rifle, they walked through the woods that she walked through as a child. I understand she didn't have a happy childhood; I'm sorry for that," said Nadine Larrabee, Danny Paquette's sister. "The bottom line is without Melanie Cooper, my brother would not be dead. She was the catalyst. She provided the victim."

    Windhurst told a girlfriend years later that Cooper wanted Paquette dead. But Cooper testified that she didn't take his offer to kill her stepfather seriously, even as she walked with him toward Paquette's farm.

    Windhurst pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and is serving a 15-to-36-year prison sentence.

    Cooper, 37, a married mother of five whose family lives in Evanston, Wyo., pleaded guilty to hindering apprehension for initially lying to police.

    "The idea of Danny Paquette, of his not being there, his not existing as a fear factor in my life, was not possible," she told the New Hampshire Union Leader in a prison interview.

    So many people had said over the years, "Danny should die," that even when her 17-year-old friend from high school, Eric Windhurst, said he would kill Paquette, she didn't believe he would really go through with it, she said.

    "I feel responsible for what happened. But I didn't point out Danny Paquette. I didn't beg Eric to shoot Danny Paquette. I wish I could have believed him when he told me he was going to do these things. But I didn't see it," she said.

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    If I found out a family member had raped a kid and then was killed for it. I'd say good. I wouldn't be complaining like these stupid family members.
    Quote Originally Posted by Boston Babe 73 View Post
    I don't have a thousand dollars hanging around to buy a fart in a jar lol.

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    Quote Originally Posted by curiouscat View Post
    If I found out a family member had raped a kid and then was killed for it. I'd say good. I wouldn't be complaining like these stupid family members.
    I'm not sure that Danny raped her. She had a habit of lying. She called Eric while in college and told him that she had been raped. I read a book on this case. I highly recommend it. It's by Kevin Flynn and Rebecca Lavoie.

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