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Sunday, March 31, 2013

From state prison cell, man who killed his best friend reflects on a tragic past, hopes for future

Story by PATRICK MEIGHAN, Staff Writer

Photos by LANCE BOOTH, Staff Photographer

hris Bazar doubts he’ll return west.

Too many bad habits are rooted too deep in the red soil and sage of northern New Mexico. And while he was born there, it’s not home. At least not in any stable sense. ...

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hris Bazar doubts he’ll return west.

Too many bad habits are rooted too deep in the red soil and sage of northern New Mexico. And while he was born there, it’s not home. At least not in any stable sense.

Bazar’s mother died when he was 7. His father is alive, but contact is “minimal.”

Bazar’s closest family ties are here in the Northeast, to the family of the man he killed more than a year ago: his best friend, Donald St. Laurent.

St. Laurent’s mother, Deborah St. Laurent, has forgiven Bazar. She visits

him monthly. He writes to her twice a week.

Bazar spoke to his friend’s father, also named Donald St. Laurent, and brother, Dan St. Laurent, on Dec. 2, the date of Don’s death, and on Jan. 9, Don’s birthday.

It is their support that sustains him now, Bazar said, while he relearns himself in the confines of the New Hampshire State Prison.

A nightmare

Bazar is heard crying hysterically on a gut-wrenching 911 tape he made the evening of Dec. 2, 2011. Bazar was drunk and high and had just accidently shot St. Laurent in the head with a shotgun that prosecutors said he knew was loaded. He still doesn’t understand how it happened.

“I don’t believe I pulled the trigger. The gun went off, so logically, the trigger got pulled. He didn’t just fall over and die. The gun went off in my hand,” Bazar said.

Bazar admits he’s a drunk. He started drinking when he was a teenager, and alcohol has cost him jobs and a marriage while getting him arrested twice for drunk driving.

“I’ve been struggling with alcoholism. I’d been drinking since I was 14. I was 27 years old when it happened,” he said.

By “it,” Bazar meant killing his friend, whom he met about a dozen years ago at a Santa Fe restaurant.

“He was a busser and I was a waiter,” said Bazar, who worked as a waiter and bartender in various establishments in New Mexico and for a while in Colorado.

They didn’t hit it off right away.

“We gave each other snide looks for three weeks,” Bazar said.

Bazar didn’t like the kid St. Laurent was socializing with at work.

“Why are you hanging out with that guy?” he asked him one day.

“He gives me a ride to work,” St. Laurent answered.

“Well, If you need a ride, let me know,” Bazar said.

Right then, the friendship was born.

“After about a month, he was living at my place,” Bazar said.

They became confidants and best friends. Bazar said he felt there wasn’t anything he and St. Laurent couldn’t handle together.

The two young men came to New Hampshire in September 2004 but left before Christmas. Looking for a fresh start, the two returned to Hudson in fall 2011. Bazar, with St. Laurent’s help, hoped to get back on his feet financially and re-establish a relationship with his 21⁄2-year-old son in New York.

Bazar landed a job at the Red Robin restaurant in the Pheasant Lane Mall in Nashua as a waiter and bartender.

They moved into the Hudson house St. Laurent’s mother rented. St. Laurent, who was killed a month shy of his 30th birthday, is a native of Reading, Mass., and graduated from Lincoln Sudbury Regional High School in Sudbury, Mass.

Throughout his life, drinking was the norm for Bazar, he said.

“I thought it was normal, at least for me,” he said. “I enjoyed it – at least I thought I did. I enjoyed my lifestyle for so many years.”


Bazar has four years to do little else but think about that day. He feels as much remorse as he did the day in court when he pleaded guilty to manslaughter and tearfully apologized to the St. Laurent family.

From the moment the shotgun fired, he has accepted responsibility for killing his friend.

“I mourn him every day,” Bazar said of the friend he killed.

Along with serving four to 10 years in prison, Bazar was ordered to do media projects on the dangers of mixing alcohol and firearms as part of his sentence. As part of that provision, Bazar agreed to meet with a reporter and photographer in a small conference room adjacent to the prison cafeteria, where other inmates sat with wives and girlfriends, some hugging or holding their young children.

Until Nov. 28, 2016 – the earliest date Bazar could be paroled – he remains one of 1,550 inmates at the State Prison, and one of 2,600 incarcerated in New Hampshire overall.

Oddly, prison hasn’t been a bad thing, Bazar admits. It’s given him time to get sober, collect his thoughts and rediscover who he really is, he says.

“I feel centered. I feel bad it had to come at the loss of such a great human being. I feel selfish because it came at the loss of my best friend,” Bazar said.

He bides his time in prison, working in the kitchen and reading such books as “Think and Grow Rich” and other self-help books by Napoleon Hill, and “The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment” by Eckhart Tolle.

He also attends Alcoholics Anonymous meetings once a week.

Trying to change

During those years, Bazar closed himself off to many people with an attitude of “Don’t get too close because I’m going to hurt you. I’m not going to hurt you physically, but emotionally. I told so many people that on so many levels.”

Alcohol destroyed his life in many ways, Bazar said.

“I drank when I was thirsty. Mornings? Sure.”

He mixed bourbon in his bottles of water and kept beer in the trunk of his car. He was arrested twice for driving while intoxicated in New Mexico, most recently four years ago.

“I called off a wedding. I threw a mortgage away,” he said. “Every job I lost was because of booze. But that was a lifetime ago.”

But Bazar also built a reputation for himself in the tight-knit restaurant and bar scene in touristy, resort-rich Santa Fe. He never had to apply for a job, he said. When one place fired him, word soon spread that Bazar was out of work, and another place was quick to hire him.

He must have been a good waiter, Bazar mused. He always got a 20 percent tip, even though “I was the sweatiest waiter I ever knew,” he joked.

Bazar was likeable, the type of person other drunks easily confided in.

“All my life, I’d have people tell me their deepest, darkest secrets. I appreciate that now. I really do,” Bazar said. “I was the guy who was still drinking when everybody else was passed out, except for the one guy crying over something.”

Sitting in a gray cell when he’s not working in the kitchen, reading or exercising in the prison yard – he’s lost 60 pounds during his incarceration – Bazar also has time to reflect on what he wants to do with the rest of his life.

“I have an end goal, and I have an ultimate goal,” he said.

The end goal – what he wants to do at the end of his prison sentence – is to share his experiences with high school students.

“It might not turn everybody off (from drinking), but it would give them some insight. If I can save one, it would be worth it,” Bazar said. “The last think I want to do is glorify what I did. It led me to the path where I am now,” he said.

Bazar has also reflected on the other factor in his best friend’s death. St. Laurent owned the gun that ended up killing him, and other firearms as well. St. Laurent considered himself knowledgeable about guns, Bazar said.

“There’s no reason we should have been drinking and guns should have been out,” Bazar said.

He’s thought about the large issues related to firearms and the national debate now raging. Bazar said he’s alarmed that 40 percent of all guns sold are done so without background checks.

“How does that happen, especially after Sandy Hook? We as a society let that happen. But how do you convince people who don’t want to be convinced?”

Still, as a gun owner, St. Laurent never intended for any harm to come from the guns he owned, Bazar said. He’s not even sure why his friend felt a need to own guns.

While in prison, Bazar said he’s been reintroduced to someone special: himself.

“I never got to meet me. I was always in an altered state of mind. I never realized what an easygoing guy I am,” he said.

As an ultimate goal, as he puts it, he’d like to make a career of using his experience to help others.

“I’d like to open a charity or two or three, I don’t know. I’d like to give back to society.”

Until that parole date 21⁄2 years down the road, Bazar will bide his time. He said he doesn’t feel unsafe in prison, but when you share living quarters with people incarcerated for murder and assault, you do have to watch your back.

“Being in here, you forget the world is turning out there,” he said. “I feel that as long as I’m on my toes, I’ll be all right. When you get complacent you get lazy, and when you get lazy, bad things are going to happen.”

Bazar has a sister in New Mexico, and his grandparents there came to visit him in prison around Christmas.

But the closest family he now has is St. Laurent’s, who have forgiven him and pleaded for leniency when he was sentenced to prison.

In fact, the judge called it “stunning” that family members of a shooting victim asked the court for leniency in sentencing his killer.

Six members of the St. Laurent family appeared in Hillsborough County Superior Court the morning of June 13 asking that Bazar not receive a long sentence.

Her son “loved Chris like a brother. I know this was an accident,” the victim’s mother, Deborah St. Laurent, said in court.

Bazar remains grateful that despite the painful memory of losing a loved one, they haven’t shut Bazar out of their lives.

“Every day I’d call her and thank her if I could,” he said of St. Laurent’s mother.

“I accept what I’ve done,” Bazar added. “I didn’t want to set anybody up for failure, like I was setting myself up. It took a tragic event to get me to want to change. I hate that,” Bazar said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached
at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashua Follow Meighan on Twitter @ Telegraph_PatM.