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  • Courtesy photo

    A handout photo of Anthony Barnaby given out by the Nashua Police Department Tuesday, April 12, 2011.
  • 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.
Sunday, June 19, 2011

Old jurors mull new charges in Nashua murder case

NASHUA – There are some things that, even 20-plus years later, you just don’t forget.

“It bothered me for quite a while,” said David Zebley, who served on Anthony Barnaby’s third jury during the summer of 1990. “I remember going on vacation and I could not get that man’s case off my mind. It really, really stuck with me for a long, long time.”

Several jurors from Barnaby’s first three murder trials in 1989 and 1990 agreed to talk about their experience in the jury box and the deliberation room, as well as how the case has stayed with them to different extents over the years.

Police arrested Barnaby, now 43, in Montreal in April and are working to extradite him to face second-degree murder charges for the fourth time. State prosecutors hope a new jury of 16 people will find Barnaby guilty for the brutal murders of Charlene Ranstrom and Brenda Warner on Oct. 2, 1988, in Nashua – a verdict three previous juries refused to render.

Of the seven jurors who agreed to speak, three said they thought Barnaby was guilty. Three others said he was not guilty, or at least not guilty of the charges he faced. One former juror wasn’t comfortable talking about how she voted.

The lack of consensus is exactly what the three previous juries who sat in judgment of Barnaby faced. Judge Linda Dalianis, now a state Supreme Court justice, was forced to declare a mistrial three times from Nov. 25, 1989, to July 6, 1990, after a combined 44 days of testimony and 16 days of deliberations.

Police have also arrested Barnaby’s accused co-killer, David Caplin, 49, in Canada and charged him with murder. Charges against Caplin were dropped in 1990 and he never faced trial on the charges.

Zebley, who lived in New Ipswich during the trial and now lives in Charlotte, N.C., is one of the three former jurors who said they think Barnaby was guilty of the murders. He said Barnaby’s statements to police during an hours-long interrogation and confession contained too many accurate details.

“It took me a while to get there,” he said. “I really could not make up my mind right away. I was on the fence for quite a while. In the end, I really thought he was guilty. I was convinced that he was.”

Other jurors, such as Arthur Smith, a Nashua resident, said they can’t believe the case is being dredged up again after so long.

“They didn’t have a case the first three times,” Smith said. “I don’t know what they think they have this time.”

Smith sat on the second jury in January 1990. He said he thought Barnaby was guilty of something, but not murder. That rap should have fallen on Caplin, he said.

“I think he was in there, but I think Caplin did the murder,” Smith said. “I think (Barnaby) was an accomplice, but they couldn’t prove anything. I don’t think he did the stabbing. I thought Caplin did it, and I still think that.”

Valerie Matthews, formerly of Merrimack and now a resident of Ashton, Md., had a similar opinion, that Barnaby wasn’t totally innocent, but also not guilty of murder.

“I couldn’t bring myself to say that about him,” Matthews said. “It wasn’t clear to us that Barnaby also had premeditation to commit this murder or whether it was a last-minute thing that Caplin convinced him to do.”

Smith still remembers many of the details of the evidence prosecutors presented, especially those pieces he didn’t buy into.

Caplin couldn’t have hit one of the women with a piece of two-by-four in the doorway, he said, because he would have hit the door frame.

He couldn’t have thrown the knife to where police found it because of the angle of the roof line, Smith said, not to mention the disputed confession.

“They had all these statements from him, but I don’t know which ones are true,” Smith said.

Ronald Lemay, a Merrimack resident, said the decision was easy for him, but it was frustrating that other jurors wouldn’t vote guilty.

“Just all the evidence they had gathered just pointed him out of a crowd,” he said. “The evidence was there. There’s no way he should have gotten off. The guilty verdict should have been automatic.”

“As far as I was concerned, that was the craziest thing in the world,” said Spring Hill, Fla., resident David Fulton. “He was guilty as sin. I would have voted for him to be convicted.”

Fulton, who lived in Antrim at the time of Barnaby’s first trial in September 1989, was an alternate on the jury. He heard all of the testimony but wasn’t involved in the deliberations.

All of the jurors said the deliberations were difficult.

“To try to convince each other was very hard,” Manchester resident Raymond Goulet said. “Without the hard truth or facts or anything, it was very hard. It was on the border for a lot of people.”

“It wasn’t an easy decision to come to a point that we couldn’t reach a decision,” Greenville resident Marceleen MacMahon said. “I can tell you that it was one of those things that we all really wanted to come up with a unanimous decision. It was very emotional. I think people were very vested in their decisions.”

Smith said discussions in the deliberation room were intense. He said he and another juror, who both worked at Sanders Associates at the time, talked about the case long after it finished.

“I wish we could have found him innocent, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen because some people were so convinced he was guilty,” Smith said.

A few of the former jurors said they were pleased to see the case come back again and hope that, guilty or not, a verdict will be decided once and for all.

“Actually, I was very glad,” MacMahon said. “I think that perhaps that at this point with the new technology and the methodology that they have available that there will be a much clearer view. I think it needs to be settled.”

“I hope everything turns out for the best for everyone involved,” Lemay said. “I’m sure the family of those two ladies could use some closure.”

“If some closure comes as part of this new action, speaking as a former juror, that would be some closure for me, too,” Matthews said.

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