Plea deal sends Barnaby to prison for 4.5 years

NASHUA – Moments after the book finally closed Wednesday on the Anthony Barnaby murder case, an ordeal that began nearly 30 years ago, a niece of one of the two victims took a deep breath, then broke into a broad smile.

“They are partying,” Amy Boisvert said of her aunt, Brenda Warner, and her partner, Charlene Ranstrom, both of whom were killed in 1988.

“And my dad, he’s cheering … ‘yeah,'” Boisvert added, referring to her late father, one of Brenda Warner’s brothers, who died of cancer recently.

Boisvert, who referred to her aunt and Ranstrom, said she was channeling her deep sense of relief that with the completion of Barnaby’s hearing, the ordeal that began the morning of Oct. 3, 1988 was now finally finished.

Barnaby, 51, entered what is known as an “Alford plea” to two counts of second-degree murder, the result of a plea agreement that will send him to New Hampshire State Prison for roughly four and a half years.

An Alford plea, described by court officials as very rare, allows Barnaby to maintain his innocence, while agreeing to serve his sentence and abide by other terms of the plea agreement.

The formula for Barnaby’s sentence begins with two consecutive terms of 10-20 years each, one for each count of second-degree murder.

According to the agreement, four years of each minimum sentence was suspended, leaving him a total minimum of 12 years. The parties agreed to give him credit for the 2,713 days – roughly seven and a half years – he spent in jail during the course of the case, leaving him with four and a half years of stand committed time.

Other conditions of the agreement include good behavior, participation in any programs or counseling as recommended by prison officials, and that he return to his native Canada within 24 hours of his release from prison.

New Hampshire Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell, the lead prosecutor on the case, said she and Barnaby’s attorneys, Mark Sisti and Alan Cronheim, began discussing an Alford plea weeks ago.

She cited “the challenges we would have faced at trial, and the appellate risks … “ that the state was likely to encounter at what would have been Barnaby’s fourth trial.

By reaching a plea agreement, “there is no risk of an overturned conviction, no risk of a mistrial … and no risk of an outcome that would be heartbreaking for the families,” Morrell said, referring to the relatives of Warner and Ranstrom.

Sisti, who has represented Barnaby since the beginning, called the agreement “a fair resolution” for his client.

With the matter closed, Sisti said Barnaby, “can now look forward to reuniting in the near future with his friends and family on the banks of the Restigouche River,” a reference to his home on a First Nation, or Indian, reservation in the province of Quebec.

Leslie Warner, Brenda Warner’s last surviving sibling, delivered an emotional victim impact statement to the court.

“Hopefully, this will be the last chapter,” Warner began, sitting rather than standing due to health issues that hamper his mobility.

“Like she said, I got no more siblings to see this to the end,” he added, referring to Boisvert’s earlier statement.

Waiting nearly 30 years for a final resolution to his sister’s murder, “has been a very long journey for my family and myself,” Warner said, but 2018 has also “been a very productive year for our families.”

He referred to the sentencing in February of David Caplin, Barnaby’s accomplice, and Wednesday’s final act.

Wednesday was “a special day for me,” Warner continued, turning toward Barnaby. “Because I get to talk to you, man to coward.”

Barnaby, seated between Sisti and Cronheim wearing a dress shirt and slacks, his ankles shackled but his hands free, stared straight ahead or down at the table as Warner spoke.

“This was a very, very horrible crime, a senseless crime,” Warner said, pausing frequently to wipe his eyes and gather his thoughts. “That night you butchered my sister … you opened her throat with a knife. You didn’t stop there,” he said.

“You and Caplin took turns stabbing her. You raped her, so did Caplin. This was not a tragedy, your honor, this is called butchery,” Warner said, addressing Judge Jacalyn Colburn.

“She didn’t deserve that.”

He called the plea agreement “a great deal for you … you got a very good buy.”

Warner paused and again turned to Barnaby. “Anthony, I’m so sorry for what happened. Not for you, for my sister.

“You broke my heart,” Warner added.