Murder case finds signals crossed

Last modified: 4/21/2011 12:00:00 AM
On April 25, 2010, Molly Hawthorn-MacDougall went fishing with Roody Fleuraguste. Four days later, according to police documents, he shot her to death in her Henniker home.

In between, the 31-year-old nursing student told her husband and a friend that Fleuraguste, then 22, had seemed to express romantic interest in her, and that she would make sure he understood they were just friends, according to recently unsealed police affidavits.

Fleuraguste, who has pleaded not guilty to charges of first- and second-degree murder in the shooting, is now 23 and being held at the Merrimack County jail. He is scheduled to go on trial next year and faces a possible life sentence.

The Haitian national has been in custody since last May, and while prosecutors still won't discuss any possible motive in the case, the two affidavits unsealed in their entirety last month contain previously unknown details from the days leading up to the slaying, and about the investigation that followed.

 'Just friends'

Hawthorn-MacDougall grew up in Winchendon, Mass., and was two weeks from graduating from NHTI with her nursing degree when she was killed April 29 by a single gunshot in her home at 18 Rand Road.

She went fishing the previous Sunday with Fleuraguste, who was staying with his half-brother, Ernst "Abdoul" Fleuraguste. Ernst Fleuraguste was living up the road with Hawthorn-MacDougall's in-laws.

Daniel Paul VIII, Hawthorn-MacDougall's husband, told the police that after the fishing trip, she told him "that Roody had made comments that made her feel uncomfortable and led her to believe he was romantically interested in her," according to an affidavit filed to support an arrest warrant.

Paul also told the police that Fleuraguste "appeared at their residence" the morning of April 27 "and told her that he needed to urgently speak with her" and "insisted that she go inside with him and that she let him use the telephone," according to the affidavit. Hawthorn-MacDougall was on her way to class and lent him her cell phone but then drove away, the police wrote.

Paul's account was corroborated by Jocelyn Heyn, a friend of Hawthorn-MacDougall, who told the police they spoke that day on the phone. Hawthorn-MacDougall told Heyn that "she was uncomfortable with Roody's behavior" and "that she thought Roody had misunderstood their relationship and wanted to make it clear. . . to him that they were just friends," according to the court filing.

Heyn said she told Hawthorn-MacDougall to have Fleuraguste's brother act as a translator to "make sure there would be no cultural misunderstandings between herself and Roody, and that she was not interested in any relationship beyond being just friends," the police wrote. (Fleuraguste, who was in the country illegally, speaks French and has used a Haitian Creole translator in court.)

It's not clear from the affidavit whether Hawthorn-MacDougall ever had that conversation with Fleuraguste. Her father-in-law, Daniel Paul, said yesterday he didn't want to speak about details of the investigation while the case is ongoing.

In an April 29 police interview described in the affidavit, Fleuraguste "denied that he ever had any intentions of seeking a romantic relationship with Hawthorn-MacDougall," and he said he went to her house April 27 "to see Hawthorn-MacDougall about getting a job."

A message seeking comment was left yesterday for James Quay, one of Fleuraguste's public defenders.

At a court hearing last year, Senior Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said the then-redacted sections included information about a "potential motive." Morrell declined to discuss motive yesterday.

"I can't comment at all on what's in the affidavit or the motives for the crime while the case is pending," she said.

 Tracking suspect

A second affidavit, prepared to support a search warrant, contains details about the police investigation that had not previously been made public.

Paul told the police on April 30 that he received a "very odd" call that day from Roody Fleuraguste's brother asking about the previous day's shooting and the police investigation. Paul "told investigators that he believed Abdoul asked these questions in order to find out if (he) had any additional information on the investigation," according to the affidavit.

The police also at that point believed the half-brothers were living out of Abdoul Fleuraguste's 1994 Nissan Altima, according to the affidavit, and had several hundred dollars in cash, according to the affidavit.

As a result, the state police asked for court permission to "surreptitiously attach" a GPS tracking device to the Altima, allowing investigators to track the car by satellite for up to 30 days. Investigators also requested permission to access records for Abdoul Fleuraguste's cell phone. The copies of the affidavits placed on file with the court aren't signed, so it's not clear if the search warrants were approved.

Previously released sections of the arrest affidavit showed the police told the court they matched Roody Fleuraguste's fingerprint to the murder weapon, a .357 Ruger revolver owned by Paul.

Fleuraguste was interviewed twice by the police before his arrest. On April 29, he denied any romantic interest in Hawthorn-MacDougall. On May 2, after waiving his Miranda rights in both English and French, he confessed to the killing after being told about the forensic evidence, according to the affidavit.

"I did it. . . . I did it," he told the police, according to the filing, and described going to 18 Rand Road the morning of April 29, asking Hawthorn-MacDougall for a glass of water and shooting her once in the face with the revolver.

He was then arrested, and arraigned the next day.

 Gradual access

The affidavits were prepared by state police Sgt. Steven Rowland around the end of April and beginning of May last year. They were initially sealed but most of their contents were released last summer at the request of the Monitor and the New Hampshire Union Leader.

Sections of both affidavits, however, were redacted at the state's request. Morrell argued at the time the information should be kept secret to protect an ongoing investigation.

Fleuraguste was indicted last August, and the Monitor filed a motion in February arguing that the affidavits should be released in their entirety. The attorney general's office didn't object, and Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler granted the Monitor's motion March 8 and ordered the affidavits unsealed.

But while a notice of that ruling was mailed to Fleuraguste and attorneys in the case, no notification was sent to the Monitor. Court Clerk William McGraw said yesterday that oversight occurred because the newspaper wasn't technically a party to the case.

The Union Leader first reported the contents of the affidavits in its print edition yesterday.

Fleuraguste had been scheduled to go on trial in September, but jury selection has been delayed until next March. Morrell said the "substantial delay" was "due to translating and transcribing the defendant's statement" to the police.

He has been indicted on one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder. The former carries life in prison without the possibility of parole, while the latter carry up to life in prison upon conviction.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)


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