Hearing on hold; Barnaby sessions on break; set to resume in March

NASHUA – With somewhere around 22 hours of testimony in the books, the multi-session hearing on murder suspect Anthony Barnaby’s motion to suppress two-thirds of the statements he made to police back in 1988 has taken a break until at least March 1.

Barnaby, who turns 50 in April, was returned to Valley Street jail early Friday afternoon to await the resumption of the suppression hearing, which stems from a motion his attorneys, Mark Sisti and Alan Cronheim, filed in September.

For roughly six hours per day from Tuesday through Thursday and about four hours on Friday, Sisti and Cronheim alternated with Assistant Attorneys General Susan Morrell, Patrick Queenan and Jason Casey in questioning a series of retired Nashua police officers on topics that ranged from Barnaby’s interview-room demeanor, his drinking habits and how blood got on his jean jacket to his missing sneakers and his relationship with his neighbors, Brenda Warner and Charlene Ranstrom, the women he and his fellow Canadian David Caplin are accused of killing.

As of Friday, six days – three groups of two days each – were still on the table as to when Barnaby’s suppression hearing will resume: March 1-2, March 15-16 or March 22-23.

Judge Jacalyn Colburn, who is presiding over the hearing in Hillsborough County Superior Court South, is expected to confer with the attorneys in the coming days to finalize the schedule.

Barnaby and Caplin were both charged with beating and stabbing Warner and Ranstrom to death early the morning of Oct. 3, 1988, but neither was ever convicted. Barnaby walked free after three juries failed to convict him, while prosecutors ended up dropping the charges against Caplin for lack of evidence.

But nearly two decades later, after a Nashua detective pulled the case off the shelf and found new evidence, including DNA, authorities re-filed the charges in 2011. The extradition process would take some four years, but New Hampshire authorities prevailed in April 2015, setting the stage for the men’s arraignments the following month.

Each was subsequently indicted on two counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. They have been held without bail since their arraignments.

Caplin’s case, meanwhile, is also in the hearings phase. As of January, the court had Caplin scheduled for hearings the week of March 6-10 to address his motions regarding DNA evidence.

As for their trials, both are on hold pending a ruling by the state Supreme Court on an appeal by prosecutors of a lower court order regarding pre-trial hearings.

Morrell said in November that she wasn’t able to go into specifics about the appeal. Caplin’s lawyer, Attorney Ray Raimo, said at the time that it appeared unlikely that a decision would be rendered before fall.

As for last week’s proceedings, defense attorneys on Thursday and into Friday began questioning witnesses about a series of events central to their motion to suppress: What Capt. Paul Goupil, then the head of the department’s detective bureau, did or didn’t do during Barnaby’s marathon, 20-hour interview on Oct. 6-7.

The defense, citing new information that would be the subject of February 2016 depositions given by some of the same officers who testified last week, purports that Goupil, when detectives interviewing Barnaby took a break, went in the room, shut the door and threatened Barnaby, allegedly telling him he’d face the death penalty and would be raped in prison if he didn’t confess to taking part in the murders.

Then-Sgt. Alan Stuart, who may be called to testify when the hearing resumes, initially said he heard Goupil allegedly threaten Barnaby, and testified accordingly at Barnaby’s trials.

But Stuart, after reiterating the accusation during last year’s depositions, recanted the statements a day or two later, saying he re-read the trial transcripts and discovered he did not testify that he heard Goupil threaten Barnaby, according to court documents.

Goupil, for his part, emphatically denied ever threatening Barnaby when he took the stand on Friday. Often responding at length to attorneys’ questions, Goupil said he happened to be walking past the interview room as detectives were exiting for a brief break.

He said it presented an opportunity for him to meet Barnaby to introduce himself. The conversation was light, Goupil testified, mostly revolving around the topic of fishing at the Restigouche reservation, the Micmac Indian reservation in Quebec where Barnaby is from.

But several officers, including then-Lt. James Mulligan, have testified that they thought it unadvisable for Goupil, as the head of the detective bureau, to interrupt his detectives’ interview.

Also expected to testify at some point is retired Lt. Roger Vaillancourt, who was initially scheduled to arrive on Thursday but returned home to Florida after having difficulty with a connecting flight.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-1256, dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com or@Telegraph_DeanS.