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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Women’s murder was linked to earlier hate crime

NASHUA – Today, the murders of Charlene Ranstrom and Brenda Warner would be called a hate crime.

Witnesses testified that Anthony Barnaby and David Caplin killed the two women in 1988 largely because they could not abide two lesbians living upstairs from their apartment at 7 Mason St.

Jamie Capach was 13, and living across the street at the time. She knew Ranstrom and Warner – she delivered The Telegraph to their home – and remembers Barnaby and Caplin, too. She also remembers her reaction to the murder:

“I just remember thinking, ‘Oh, no! Not again!’”

Just over a year before the two women were murdered, on Jan. 13, 1987, another man who lived in the building, Neil Watson, 42, was beaten to death, and his body dumped off the Sagamore Bridge.

A neighbor, Timothy Brown, was convicted of killing Watson. Brown is serving a life sentence in State Prison, without chance of parole.

Also convicted of helping Brown to dump Watson’s body was Victor Warner, then 34, brother of Brenda Warner. He was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison and has since been released.

Witnesses later testified that Brown hated Watson, mainly because he was gay.

The two murders galvanized the neighborhood, Capach said Tuesday. She remembers her father putting up a floodlight and helping to organize a neighborhood watch group.

“I was definitely freaked out, it happened right across the street, and for it to happen essentially twice, it was really freaky,” Capach said.

Anne and Jesse Reczko lived next door at 5 Mason Drive, when Ranstrom and Warner were murdered. The Reczkos still reside there two decades later.

On Tuesday, they couldn’t believe the case had gone from cold to active.

Anne Reczko said Barnaby once complained about her barking dog, and she replied that she didn’t like the loud music coming from his apartment.

Capach remembers both women as being very kind, and wondering why anyone would want to harm them. She remembers Barnaby and Caplin, too, though she didn’t speak with them much.

“They were always around,” hanging out on lawn chairs outside, she said. “They were sort of the drinking, partying type.”

As the years passed, Capach said she’d forgotten that Caplin and Barnaby were never convicted of the murders.

“It’s brought up a whole flood of memories and emotions, just remembering all that happening,” she said.

Staff writer Albert McKeon contributed to this report. Andrew Wolfe can be reached at