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  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    Donna Wiegmann, right, the sister of John Wiegmann, and her partner, Janis Quinn sit for a portrait in their Pelham home nearly a year after Wiegmann was found strangled to death in a room at the Motel 6 in Nashua. After nearly a year, police still have no suspects or leads to conclude the case. Wiegmann and Quinn are hoping for someone to step forward with information leading to the solving of their brother's murder.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    A family photo of John Wiegmann.
Thursday, March 4, 2010

Family of man murdered in motel seeking answers, healing, closure

NASHUA – John Wiegmann had his problems, and he had his demons. But his family loved him, and almost a year after he died a horrible death inside a discount motel room, they are wondering why and at whose hands.

Wiegmann, 59, was found dead in a Motel 6 room May 3. An autopsy revealed that he had been strangled May 2 or early May 3. Police are investigating, but they have no suspect and no apparent motive for the killing.

Last month, Wiegmann’s family announced it was upping the reward for information about the murder to $2,500 from $500. They are talking publicly about Wiegmann for the first time in the hopes that someone, anyone, will hear the story and give police a tip to bring a murderer to justice.

“Somebody knows something. Someone in that hotel knows what happened, knows more than they’re saying,” Janis Quinn, Wiegmann’s sister-in-law said. “I don’t know what to say except please, please do the right thing.”

The six Wiegmann children grew up in Lowell, Mass., and over the years all eventually moved to southern New Hampshire. John Wiegmann, after joining the Marines for a couple of years after high school, married a couple of times and lived in western Massachusetts before moving out West a little less than 20 years ago.

There, he was something of a rolling stone, moving frequently, spending time in Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada. Every couple of years he would move back East, staying in the Nashua area for three to six months at a time, said his youngest sister, Donna Wiegmann, Quinn’s partner.

He also struggled mightily with alcoholism until he died, Donna Wiegmann said.

“He wasn’t functional anymore,” she said.

John Wiegmann had been diagnosed with emphysema and was on disability. Shortly before he died, he had been in the hospital because of a mysterious leg injury.

The last time he moved back to Nashua, John Wiegmann spent a few days with another of his sisters, Bonnie Wiegmann, before being admitted to St. Joseph Hospital for more than a month because of the leg injury, Donna Wiegmann said.

Donna Wiegmann saw him regularly but never learned what the injury was; John didn’t want to talk about it.

The last time she saw her brother was seven days before he was killed, Donna Wiegmann said. She took him around Nashua to look at apartments.

He was discharged from the hospital the next Wednesday, April 29, and was found dead four days after that.

He was discovered by a motel employee after Bonnie Wiegmann couldn’t get in touch with him, called the motel and asked someone to check on her brother, Donna Wiegmann said.

Few details for investigation

Police received information that John Wiegmann was seen in the motel parking lot on the evening of May 2 getting into a green minivan, distinguished by a discoloration of the paint called a sunspot on the front passenger-side fender. He was wearing a green T-shirt, jeans and a brown windbreaker and was walking with a cane, police said.

John Wiegmann may have visited Boston Billiards on Northeastern Boulevard that night, along with other local establishments, according to police and state attorney general’s office officials.

That is largely where information about the murder begins and ends. While the investigation is still active, police have come up empty-handed in the months-long search for a murderer. There is no suspect and no suspected motive in the killing.

Nashua police Detective Capt. Scott Howe said lead investigators, Detectives Craig Allard and John Lehto, traveled to Las Vegas and Utah to interview Wiegmann’s friends and acquaintances there in the hopes of digging up new leads. That effort proved fruitless, Howe said.

Allard and Lehto still spend a portion of each week working on the case, Howe said.

The primary reason the investigation has stalled is the lack of a motive. Howe said in homicide investigations a motive, which is often related to drugs or domestic violence, can lead investigators from the “why” to the “who.”

“We’re fairly confident we know what occurred, just not the who,” Howe said. “At this time, still unsolved, still investigating.”

Uncertainty slows healing

Wiegmann’s family was interviewed extensively the day Wiegmann’s body was found.

At first they didn’t know what happened and that police were treating the case as a homicide, Donna Wiegmann said.

Then, around 3 p.m., they were asked by police to drive separately to the Nashua Police Department where they were put in separate rooms and interviewed. Eventually they all gave police fingerprints and allowed them to take a mugshot and DNA sample before leaving the station around midnight, she said.

“You’re thinking to yourself, ‘you’re asking the wrong person,’ ” Quinn said.

The family didn’t officially learn that Wiegmann had been murdered until Monday, when someone from the state attorney general’s office called with the results of the autopsy.

“Everyone went crazy,” Quinn said. “They wanted to run or throw up, screaming ... ‘Who could have done this?’ All of that.”

Then the business of planning a funeral and arranging Wiegmann’s affairs began, all the while talking with police whenever some new bit of information – another friend’s name, some bit of rumor that filtered back to the family, Quinn said.

“The process is just nothing like what most people go through for a funeral. Most people don’t have police at the funeral,” she said, referring to Nashua detectives who attended the funeral, presumably as part of the investigation.

It’s different still.

Because the case is still active, all of Wiegmann’s belongings are in police possession and his bank accounts and insurance payments are frozen, Quinn said.

The only thing the family has of his, so far, is medical bills, she said.

And that still leaves the business of coping, something the Wiegmann family hasn’t all done yet. Donna Wiegmann said she still “shuts down” when asked about her brother.

“That’s one of my defensive mechanisms,” she said. “We don’t talk about it. We can’t talk about it, not even to each other. We just secretly pray that the person who did this is brought to justice.

“It’s not like when someone passes away and you know why they passed away. It’s the not knowing. It’s like there’s no closure. It makes it hard,” she said.

At his funeral, Wiegmann’s family remembered him as a loyal Elvis fan and a funny, devout and accepting man. He had four children: Jessica Wiegmann, Kimberly Myers-Bawolski, Melissa LeBlanc and Mark Wiegmann. He is survived by four sisters, Mary Lou Bedard and Linda, Bonnie and Donna Wiegmann, and was predeceased by his brother, Scott Wiegmann, Quinn said.

Jessica Wiegmann, 24, of Chester, said not knowing who killed her father makes the healing process slower.

“You want to see people behind bars. You want justice. It’s just not right that someone can take another person’s life and continue their life,” she said. “It makes me extremely angry that this person hasn’t been caught.”

That’s part of the reason Donna Wiegmann and Quinn came forward now to talk, hopefully to spur someone who knows something to come forward.

“Now it’s time to appeal to people’s heartstrings,” Quinn said. “Maybe this will make people think twice, or ask their next-door neighbor, ‘Did you see anything that happened?’ It’s all a matter of getting someone to look and think. … I’m hoping this will help someone do the right thing.”

Quinn applauded the efforts of police and the attorney general’s office, saying they are doing “a very good job.”

Information is wonderful, but it all needs to lead somewhere,” Quinn said. “There has to be proof, and proof hasn’t come up yet. Somebody does know something, somewhere.”

Joseph G. Cote can be reached at 594-6415 or jcote@nashuatelegraph.com.