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  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Carl Warner, brother of the late Brenda Warner, talks about her murder from his home Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    7 Mason Street in Nashua
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    This photo shows 7 Mason St. on Tuesday, April 12, 2011. Brenda Warner and Charlene Ranstrom were found dead in the apartment on the second floor (above left) in 1988.
  • Staff photo by Bob Hammerstrom

    Happy about the recent arrests of Anthony Barnaby and David Caplin, Carl Warner crosses his fingers while talking about the murder of his sister Brenda Warner 23 years ago.
  • Courtesy photo

    One of the two women murdered Oct. 2, 1988, Brenda Warner, in a family photo.
  • Courtesy photo

    One of the two women murdered Oct. 2, 1988, Charlene Ranstrom, in a family photo.
  • Staff Photo by Grant Morris

    One of the two women murdered Oct. 2, 1988, Brenda Warner, in a family photo.
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Brothers of victim ‘thrown’ by arrests, hope for justice

NASHUA – A phone call shattered nearly 23 years of agonizing silence, a period of inactivity that led two brothers to believe their sister’s killers would never see justice.

Now Carl and Les Warner have renewed hope that the two men long suspected of killing their sister, Brenda Warner, and her girlfriend, Charlene Ranstrom, can no longer get away with murder.

The Warner brothers voiced those thoughts Tuesday, a day after the attorney general’s office called them to say the suspects, Anthony Barnaby and David Caplin, had been arrested in Canada and would face charges in New Hampshire a fourth time for the 1988 murders.

Les Warner received the phone call from prosecutors Monday evening.

“I was thrown off,” he said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his Manchester home. “I yelled out, ‘Yes! Something’s happening now.’”

He immediately called Carl Warner. His brother sat on a couch with the phone in his hand and was initially silent in disbelief.

Carl Warner then “bawled my eyes out. I told him these were tears of joy.”

In an interview Tuesday at his Nashua home, Carl Warner recalled the feelings that had built from the cold case. “I kind of lost hope. I thought they had got away with it,” he said.

The Warners not only vividly remember their sister but also can’t forget how her death and the subsequent three mistrials of Barnaby ripped apart their family.

Their father, Leo Warner, died in 1991, about a year after Barnaby was released from State Prison and was presumed to be clear of any further charges – just as Caplin never stood trial after prosecutors dropped charges against him following a string of court rulings that had disallowed evidence.

Another brother, Victor Warner, had his own trouble with the law. He was convicted of helping to dispose of a body after an unrelated murder around the same time and was sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. He was released years later.

Their mother, Theresa Warner, attended every day of Barnaby’s three trials. After the third hung jury in the case, prosecutors told her, “We’ve got to let them go. It costs us too much money,” according to Les Warner.

“It broke her heart,” he said.

Theresa Warner died in 1994. An older sister, Georgette, started drinking and also died, Les Warner said.

“The family just went apart,” he said. “This was the extreme. We knew these two young men did it. The jury had all this evidence in front of them. All it takes is a very good (defense) lawyer.”

Brenda Warner, 32 and Charlene Ranstrom, 48, had been a couple for several years, Carl Warner said. Ranstrom had two sons; Warner never had children, he said.

“She was full of hell. She was always laughing. She always was a good kid,” Carl Warner said of his sister.

Police responded to the couple’s 7 Mason St. apartment several times because of vandalism committed by Barnaby, Carl Warner said.

“He didn’t like Charlene and Brenda because they were gay,” Carl Warner said.

Brenda Warner suspected Barnaby slashed the tires of her car, and had several times stolen the cable for her apartment’s television connection, Carl Warner said. Several days after Brenda Warner approached Barnaby about the cable, she and Ranstrom were found dead, he said.

“We’re all victims,” Les Warner said. “It was a home invasion. It was needless, stupid, and not right at all.”

Les Warner became convinced that Barnaby and Caplin could eventually be linked to the murders because of advances in DNA technology, he said.

After watching television programs that focused on the solving of cold cases through improved DNA testing, Les Warner twice wrote letters to Attorney General Michael Delaney, he said. Both times, Delaney replied that this office couldn’t prosecute for various reasons, Les Warner said.

After Delaney’s second response, Les Warner accepted that Barnaby and Caplin could live free in Quebec, he said, but also held to the idea that eventually there would “be judgment day and these guys are going to get justice.”

The phone call Monday floored him. Later, two Nashua police detectives visited his Manchester home, and without revealing much, led him to believe that this time, DNA evidence would be too strong to avoid a conviction for Barnaby and Caplin, Les Warner said.

“They couldn’t tell me much, but reading between the lines . . . I could tell things were looking up,” he said.

Carl Warner doesn’t know how he will feel when the trials commence. He’s been on edge since Barnaby left prison after the third mistrial, he said. Carl Warner was afraid Barnaby would return to Nashua and seek further harm, he said.

But Carl Warner “always wanted” justice, he said. “I hope they will go to jail for life,” he said.

Les Warner said he would join his brother at the trials in memory of his sister and mother.

He added that he volunteers at Hillsborough County jail, and hopes Barnaby and Caplin don’t stay in the section he oversees.

Albert McKeon can be reached at 594-5832 or