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  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    From left, Pat Lapan, Lisa Greenwood, Peter Sullivan, Pat Barss all of Manchester, and Claire Cavanaugh of Salem, observe a moment of silence Wednesday at the YWCA center in Manchester. A few dozen came out to learn more about domestic violence prevention followed by a vigil in remembrance of recent domestic violence deaths.
  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    From left, Manchester Police Sgt. Ron Mello, answers questions during an open forum about domestic violence while, Meagan Parnell, Monica Zulauf, and Carrie Cooley look on Wednesday, Nov. 4 at the YWCA center in Manchester.
  • Staff photo by COREY PERRINE

    Paul Corbeil of Manchester asks a question to a panel of speakers against domestic abuse Wednesday at the YWCA center Wednesday in Manchester.
Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vigil held to raise awareness about domestic violence

MANCHESTER – Sandi Snow knows this feeling all too well.

The Pembroke resident spent 10 years in an abusive relationship in the 1970s and ’80s before she escaped. Now she fears someone close to her is one too, and she wants to help.

“I just want to find a way to help her. It would have been nice if there was someone to help me back in the 1970s,” she said.

Snow was speaking before an “evening of remembrance” at the YWCA of Manchester that featured a panel of state and local leaders to answer questions about domestic violence. It was followed by a candlelight vigil in front of the Concord Street building.

The vigil was organized in the wake of what police say are three domestic violence-related murders in one month, two of them in a 24-hour period.

Phyllis Marchand was allegedly killed by her estranged husband, Gary Marchand , on Sept. 25. Suzanne Vernet, of Londonderry, and Melissa Charbonneau, of Manchester, were allegedly killed by their husbands, who both then killed themselves, in late October, police said.

“It kind of brings it all back,” Snow said of the news stories about the murders. “Sometimes you just can’t stop people. I’m here to support the other families who lost their daughters.”

The panel members – including Carrie Cooley , program director of the YWCA’s Crisis Service Program, and Manchester police Sgt. Ron Mello , head of the department’s domestic violence unit – spent almost two hours answering a series of questions from the roughly 60 people in attendance. The questions ranged from what people can do on a day-to-day basis to help domestic violence victims and the details of restraining orders to typical signs of domestic violence and what resources are available to victims.

Katie Schelzel , the YWCA’s director of youth and community services, said the YWCA held a number of events to raise awareness about domestic violence last month, Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but decided to hold Wednesday’s forum since so much attention has been paid to the rash of killings.

“We really wanted to seize the opportunity. The public really started paying attention,” Schelzel said. “We’re hoping everyone walks away with something and general awareness about how big an issue this is.”

Phyllis Marchand, 45, was discovered beaten and bound in her Hollis home in September. Gary Marchand, 53, has been charged with second-degree murder. He allegedly disclosed to a friend that he had killed his wife, according to police testimony given in court during a recent hearing.

Mark and Dawn Vosburg , of Dracut, Mass., and Joann Brinton , of Hudson, knew Phyllis Marchand well. Brinton said they were best friends. She came to the YWCA on Wednesday to light a candle in memory of her friend.

“Just to light the candle and be here for Phyllis,” she said.

Mark Vosburg said he wishes now he learned more about domestic violence a long time ago. “I wish what we know now was two months ago,” he said.

The other murders were a pair of apparent murder-suicides that happened in less than a day.

Police said Binh Vernet , 48, used blunt force to kill his wife, Suzanne Vernet , 46, inside their 4 Fiddler’s Ridge Road home in Londonderry on Oct. 21. Binh Vernet’s body was later found in Massachusetts. Police said a child called 911 and two of the couple’s four children were there at the time of the murder.

Melissa Charbonneau , 29, died Oct. 22, when her husband, Jonathan Charbonneau , 32, shot her, according to police. Melissa Charbonneau had just filed for divorce and had entered their house to gather her belongings. She was accompanied by her father, police said. Charbonneau’s father, John Cantin , was also shot before Jonathan Charbonneau turned the gun on himself, police said.

Police said she had filed a domestic abuse complaint and filed for divorce the day before against Jonathan Charbonneau, 32, saying he had choked her. Jonathan Charbonneau had been arrested earlier in the week following his wife’s complaint and was out on bail. His body was found inside the house. Cantin was hospitalized and was stable Friday.

The three domestic-violence related homicides mean the state has had 22 since Jan. 1, 2005, when the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence began tracking the cases.

The panel at Wednesday’s forum also included Megan Parnell of the YWCA; Grace Mattern of the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence; Sandi Matheson of the New Hampshire Department of Justice; Michelle Rosenthal of the state Division for Children, Youth & Families; and David Nixon, a Manchester attorney.

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or