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  • Telegraph file photo by Dean Shalhoup


    Anthony Barnaby talks with Nashua police Det. Wayne McDonald outside of the Mason Street apartment building as police investigated the October 1988 murders. Barnaby was subsequently arrested for the crime.


  • Telegraph file photo by Dean Shalhoup


    The scene in October of 1988 outside of 7 Mason Street, Nashua.


  • Telegraph file photo by Dean Shalhoup


    The scene in October 1988 outside of 7 Mason Street, Nashua.


  • Telegraph file photo by Kathy Seward MacKay


    Anthony Barnaby outside of 7 Mason Street in Nashua in January of 1990 as jurors view the crime scene.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Photographer, now writer, recalls what happened at scene

Dean Shalhoup

Those names. The pictures. The address and the brutality. Everything came flooding back like it all happened in October 2010, not October 1988.

You don’t forget things like that. Sure, a few details, or perhaps a first name can slip away over time. But the way, and the apparent reason, the lives of Charlene Ranstrom and Brenda Warner were snuffed out is seared in a lot of memories, including mine.

It was Monday, Oct. 3, 1988, when this newsroom first heard something was going down on Mason Street in Nashua. It was a crime of some sort, maybe a murder, we learned. That was more than enough to send me to the darkroom to grab extra rolls of Ilford 400 black and white film – the gold standard of 1988 newspaper photography – and head to the parking lot and my old ’78 Celica.

“It’s a right off East Hollis just past Nashua House of Pizza,” I shouted to my reporter, forgetting for the moment that the landmark eatery sometimes doesn’t ring a bell with people from away.

I’d parked, retrieved my gear and begun scoping out the scene by the time the reporter arrived. But it didn’t really matter – we were there until after dark. We could have walked from Hudson to Mason Street and not missed a thing.

I think the first person I saw was then-Nashua police Detective Wayne McDonald. His shock of curly hair always distinguished him from the other suits-and-ties at crime scenes. Always one to say “hi,” McDonald was more harried this morning, more solemn-looking than usual.

I looked around at the faces of other cops, many of whom I knew. Even the always-affable Police Chief Ray Landry was all business. Like any veteran newsman with a trunkful of worn shoeleather, I can gauge the nature, and severity, of a crime scene without hearing a word.

I knew this was a bad one. And I knew I was there for the duration.

I loaded up the trusty Nikon F-2 and copped a bunch of “scene-setters” – the house, the cops talking with each other and potential witnesses, things like that. When I spotted McDonald speaking with an odd-looking guy smoking a cigarette, I snapped a few frames for the heck of it.

The Telegraph was pretty well-represented on the scene. Chief Photographer Kathy Seward-MacKay was there, as was reporter Gene Trainor. Back at the office, city editor Steve Sakson, newly installed after his stint as police reporter, coordinated things. That meant “taking dictation,” a (mercifully) now rarely used tenet of spot-news reporting. Without cell phones, never mind Wi-Fi devices, reporters had to leave the scene, find the nearest pay phone, drop a dime and call in their updates.

We photographers had it just as rough. No click-download-submit back then. Which is fine, because we had no website to send it to. We did have darkness, stainless steel film reels and “the processor,” a giant, chemical-drinking machine that turned film into negatives ready for editing and wet-tray printing next door.

The Telegraph was an afternoon paper back in ’88, meaning the presses ran shortly after noontime for that day’s paper. So I was perfectly willing to hang around 7 Mason St. for as long as it took to get THE shot: The removal of the victims’ bodies, covered, of course, from the second-floor apartment.

My only enemy was the approaching darkness. I watched, paced, worried, and watched some more as old friend Pete Bouchard, a now-retired NPD sergeant whose forte back then was crime scene photography, meticulously documented every detail inside and out of 7 Mason St.

“C’mon, man, it’s getting dark on me,” I remember hollering over to Bouchard, at the risk he’d take an extra five minutes just to razz me. It was one of Pete’s hobbies.

“Hey, I’ve got video now, too,” he responded, brandishing, by today’s standards, a clunky, behemoth of metal and glass. “Oh great,” I murmured, knowing he couldn’t do “stills” and this new-fangled video stuff at the same time.

Having staked my vantage point – a second-floor window in a very kind elderly couple’s next-door apartment – I waited patiently for Bouchard and company to finish and give the medics the OK to move the victims. With twilight hanging on, a young medic named Chris Stawasz suddenly emerged carrying an end of the first stretcher. The second followed in minutes.

And my casual shot of McDonald and the odd-looking guy? Come to find out he was Anthony Barnaby.

I had my shots, with a bonus. Of that, I was glad. I’m sure I would have been happy, too, if only it was a whole different subject.

Dean Shalhoup can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 31, or dshalhoup@nashuatelegraph.com.