Thursday, November 27, 2014
My Account  | Login
Nashua;33.0;http://forecast.weather.gov/images/wtf/small/ovc.png;2014-11-27 10:58:48
Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Judge suspends prison sentence of Hudson man convicted in 2011 accidental shooting death of friend

About 20 minutes before a judge granted Christopher Bazar’s request to suspend the remainder of his sentence for accidentally killing his friend in 2011, he reflected on the 34 months he’s spent behind bars.

“It showed me I lacked structure in my life. It taught me that I’m a reputable person,” Bazar, clad in a dark green jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, said nervously into a courtroom microphone before Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jaclyn Colburn. ...

Sign up to continue

Print subscriber?    Sign up for Full Access!

Please sign up for as low as 36 cents per day to continue viewing our website.

Digital subscribers receive

  • Unlimited access to all stories from nashuatelegraph.com on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Access nashuatelegraph.com, view our digital edition or use our Full Access apps.
  • Get more information at nashuatelegraph.com/fullaccess
Sign up or Login

About 20 minutes before a judge granted Christopher Bazar’s request to suspend the remainder of his sentence for accidentally killing his friend in 2011, he reflected on the 34 months he’s spent behind bars.

“It showed me I lacked structure in my life. It taught me that I’m a reputable person,” Bazar, clad in a dark green jumpsuit and shackled at the ankles, said nervously into a courtroom microphone before Hillsborough County Superior Court Judge Jaclyn Colburn.

“Prison saved my life,” he added. “I’m very lucky, in an unlucky way.”

Colburn, who in June 2012 sentenced Bazar to 4-10 years in State Prison after he pleaded guilty to manslaughter for accidentally killing his best friend, Donald St. Laurent, in a Hudson apartment in December 2011, granted Bazar’s request to suspend his minimum sentence, thereby allowing him to apply for parole immediately.

If the Parole Board agrees with Colburn’s opinion that Bazar “did everything (the court) expected of him, and then some,” while in prison, and that being released will allow him to continue performing public service by speaking and doing media presentations

on the dangers of mixing firearms with drugs and alcohol, then Bazar will be released from prison and serve the remainder of his term as a parolee.

County attorney Patricia Lafrance lodged no objection to Bazar’s request, citing Bazar’s progress and willingness to continue his speaking and public service programs, which Lafrance said serve as a powerful deterrent to mixing guns and substance abuse.

“It looks like he’s well on his way to sobriety,” she said. “Hopefully he’ll remain on that road.”

Lafrance added she can say “with 100 percent certainty that the goals of sentencing have been met” in Bazar’s 34 months behind bars. “No amount of punishment the state can administer will bring Don back.”

The incident unfolded on Dec. 2, 2011, in a Hudson apartment when Bazar, reportedly drunk and high, accidently shot St. Laurent in the head with a shotgun that prosecutors said he knew was loaded.

Bazar is heard crying hysterically on the 911 recording from that night, and he later said he had no recollection of pulling the trigger but admitted he shot his friend because “the gun went off in my hand.”

Tuesday’s roughly hour-long hearing was attended by the victim’s parents, Donald and Deb St. Laurent, their son Daniel, and Bazar’s grandparents Carl and Ruby Lee, who traveled from their New Mexico home for the hearing.

As they did when Bazar was initially sentenced, Donald and Deb St. Laurent spoke Tuesday in support of Bazar, saying he was “like a brother” to their son and urging Colburn to grant his request for release.

“We live with this every day. I think this is the best way to put this behind us,” Donald St. Laurent said of releasing Bazar to allow him to continue his public service and get on with his life. “We’ve been in touch with Chris and we are pretty proud of what he’s done” while in prison.

St. Laurent expressed confidence that if released, Bazar will continue on the path of sobriety he started upon while in prison. “I have no objections to his release,” St. Laurent told Colburn. “We plan to continue to be in touch with Chris, because that’s what we want to do.”

Bazar, seated next to his attorney, public defender Ed Cross, watched and listened intently as St. Laurent and others spoke. Emotion occasionally crossed his face, most notably when Deb St. Laurent, assisted to the microphone by victims advocate Merrill Beauchamps, spoke briefly through tears.

“Don would want Chris released … and so do I,” St. Laurent said, her voice breaking. “He was like a brother to my son. It was an accident, we all know that.”

Carl Lee, a tall, soft-spoken man with a slight Southern drawl, rose to speak briefly on behalf of his grandson.

“I ask that you grant him his wish,” Lee said. “It’s definitely a fact that he’s done everything the court has asked him to do.” Lee also cited the support of the St. Laurent family, saying he and his wife “appreciate the family involvement.”

Cross was also brief in his remarks, in which he focused on Bazar’s desire, and success in, keeping on the straight and narrow in prison, despite the culture.

“It’s remarkable when you think of the State Prison, where you can get written up for not making your bed or not being respectful of the corrections officers, Christopher never once got written up,” Cross said.

He also praised Bazar’s insistence of staying out of trouble and “working with the staff,” saying that model prisoners such as Bazar tend to be quite unpopular among the inmates. “I have no doubt that someone like Mr. Bazar … they’re not going to like,” he said.

When his turn came, Bazar, flanked by Cross and a court security officer, stepped to the microphone and began by acknowledging his anxiety and nervousness. “It’s been 34 months, to the day,” he said of his prison stint. “I’ve been preparing for this day … I’ve tried my hardest to do everything right,” he continued.

Not a day goes by, Bazar said, that he doesn’t reflect on the events of the tragic December evening three years ago. “I can’t believe I ever allowed this to happen,” he said. “ I thought I was a responsible person. But I wasn’t. And it cost my best friend his life.”

Colburn asked Bazar about his efforts to stay sober, given the role that substance abuse played in the accidental shooting. Bazar has also admitted struggling with alcoholism for years, saying he started drinking at 14 and had been arrested twice for drunk driving.

“I assume you’re getting on top of your alcoholism … that’s a big step,” she said, referring to how he will fare on the outside.

Bazar said he has been sober throughout his incarceration, telling Colburn that he “jump started my sobriety” by going to AA meetings when he could, even though “it’s almost impossible to get a sponsor inside,” referring to prison.

He told Colburn that he was often rebuffed when he tried to seek out alcohol and drug programs in prison. “When I asked about them, they told me I didn’t need them, that people who needed them come first,” Bazar said, presumably referring to prison staff.

But Bazar was able to find another source of inspiration to stay sober. “If I felt like I needed to drink, I’d just think of that night,” he said. “And it thoroughly disgusts me.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com. Also, follow Shalhoup on Twitter (@Telegraph_DeanS).