Two Murder-Suicides Rock New Hampshire
CONCORD, N.H. – One young mother was trying to escape her home and husband. Another woman was beaten to death at the hands of her husband as two of her children watched, with one of them calling 911.
Police say both men killed their wives, then killed themselves, in a 24-hour stretch of violence in New Hampshire that left another man hospitalized and still another man dead in an unrelated shooting.
Londonderry police responded to a 911 call from a child Wednesday night and found 46-year-old Suzanne Vernet at home, unconscious and severely injured. Police said she was beaten repeatedly with an object; they did not specify what it was.
Vernet was taken to a Boston hospital, where she died Thursday. Police issued an alert for her husband, Binh Vernet, 48, and later found him dead near his car in Rehoboth, Mass.
Meanwhile, in Manchester, police say 29-year-old Melissa Charbonneau was shot inside her home Thursday — a day after she filed for divorce from her husband, Jonathan Charbonneau, 32. She also filed a domestic violence complaint against him, saying he had choked her.
Authorities say Jonathan Charbonneau was out on bail on a charge of simple assault when he opened fire on Charbonneau and her father, John Cantin. Jonathan Charbonneau's body was later found inside the home.
Steven Pierce, a high school senior, said he and his friends helped keep the wounded Cantin talking until paramedics arrived.
"He tried to protect her and he got fired on," Pierce told WMUR television. "It was the saddest thing I've ever seen in my life."
Cantin remained hospitalized in stable condition Friday.
Friend and neighbor Wendy Waisman, 37, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Charbonneau was devastated about losing custody of their 7-year-old son to his wife. "He lost it after that," she said.
Other friends said the couple had been married two to three years. Jonathan Charbonneau also has two children from a previous marriage.
Chris Medonca, 18, said the couple were loving parents, "but when he gets angry, he gets violent." He told the newspaper he often heard the couple arguing.
Melissa Charbonneau worked in the medical field, neighbors said. Her husband was a self-employed contractor.
"We don't want to remind people of the reality of domestic violence through gruesome cases, but this does remind us that this is happening all the time and that we need more support for victims and more accountability for abusers," said Grace Mattern, executive director of the New Hampshire Coalition against Domestic and Sexual Violence.
Jeffery Strelzin, senior assistant attorney general, said autopsies on the Manchester deaths were expected Friday. The Massachusetts Office of the Chief Medical Examiner is handling autopsies on the Vernets.
Strelzin said authorities want to determine exactly what happened in both cases and make certain that both are murder-suicides.
Maureen McDonald of the Coalition said Melissa Charboneau took all the right steps, but "we don't want victims to look at cases like this and get discouraged and say, 'Well, I can't leave."' She said abuse victims need to have a safety plan and are encouraged to call one the coalition's crisis centers to reach out for support.
"This can happen to anybody," McDonald said.
There was no record of any domestic violence or divorce filing for the Vernets in the family division of Derry District Court, which covers Londonderry.
In the Vernet case, police said two of the couple's four children were home at the time. They were not hurt. All them attend school in the Londonderry School District — one in elementary school, one in middle school, and two in high school.
Beth Disessa, a cheerleading coach who knows the family, said it was a tragedy for the children.
"Those kids now have to live with what their father did. I don't know how you live with that," she told WMUR.
School Superintendent Nathan Greenberg said the district has provided counselors and offered meetings with parents to discuss how to address the tragedy. He said the Vernet children have been very active in school activities and have a number of close friends.
Meanwhile, the investigation continued Friday into the fatal shooting of 28-year-old Lennoxx Tibbs, who was found dead in a Manchester street on Thursday morning. The Citizen of Laconia reported that Tibbs recently finished a prison sentence for assaulting a 9-year-old child.