Months after daughter’s murder, Concord father seeks support for his other daughter awaiting transplant

  • Amy Burpee is facing medical challenges and needs transplants. Courtesy of Bill Burpee

  • Jennifer Burpee was killed in a domestic violence incident last year. Courtesy of Bill Burpee

  • Bill Burpee of Concord stands outside at Bicentennial Square in Concord on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Bill Burpee said he is numb from the emotional shock of losing his oldest daughter, who he so often refers to as his best friend. He acknowledges that he has not yet properly mourned Jennifer’s death because his attention so quickly turned to his 43-year-old daughter Amy Burpee who fell gravely ill and now needs a liver and likely a kidney transplant. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bill Burpee of Concord stands outside at Centennial Square in Concord on Thursday, April 23, 2020. Bill Burpee said he is numb from the emotional shock of losing his oldest daughter, who he so often refers to as his best friend. He acknowledges that he has not yet properly mourned Jennifer’s death because his attention so quickly turned to his 43-year-old daughter Amy Burpee who fell gravely ill and now needs a liver and likely a kidney transplant. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Bill Burpee of Concord stands in Bicentennial Square in Concord on Thursday. Burpee said he is numb from the shock of losing his oldest daughter, who he so often refers to as his best friend. He acknowledges that he has not yet properly mourned her death because his attention so quickly turned to his other daughter, who needs a liver and likely a kidney transplant. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/25/2020 4:42:36 PM

In rare moments of solitude, Bill Burpee pictures that infectious smile that so often crossed his daughter’s face and made others light up, too.

He can see Jennifer handing out slices of cake at her nieces’ birthday parties and making sure the pinata, storing a mountain of candy, was positioned just right for the next child to take a swing.

“She was always my buddy, my pal,” said Bill, a Concord resident. “I had no clue there was somebody around, someone who she was trying to stay away from. When I asked, life was always great, but I was always suspect there was something more happening.”

Nine months ago, 45-year-old Jennifer Burpee was found dead inside her Manchester apartment. Prosecutors allege her boyfriend, Damien Seace, broke in and beat her with a piece of furniture just minutes after she frantically called 911. That July night wasn’t the first time police had responded to a report of domestic violence against Seace, who records show previously threatened to kill Jennifer. Seace now awaits trial in Hillsborough County on charges of first- and second-degree murder.

Bill said he is numb from the emotional shock of losing his oldest daughter, who he so often refers to as his best friend. He acknowledges that he has not yet properly mourned Jennifer’s death because his attention so quickly turned to his 43-year-old daughter, Amy Burpee, who fell gravely ill and now needs a liver and likely a kidney transplant.

The onset of Amy’s symptoms came without warning and the exact cause of her rapid organ failure is a mystery doctors are still working to solve. She cannot leave Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, where she awaits surgery during the coronavirus pandemic.

“It wasn’t long after Jennifer was killed that Amy started having medical issues,” Bill said in a recent interview. “Losing a child out of the blue, that was horrific. I don’t know that I let myself think about it enough or as much as I should. I find myself thinking about it more in these times when there is a chance that I could lose my other daughter.”

Amy’s name was added to the transplant waiting list early last week. After a series of lab tests that concluded in mid-April, doctors used a scoring system, known as Model for End-Stage Liver Disease or MELD, to assess the severity of her case and her success rate.

“They spent the past three months trying to get her strength back up to get her out of the hospital, even if she was still on dialysis. The coronavirus is so prevalent that they are worried about exposure,” Bill said. “But three months later, she is still there. She isn’t well enough to go home.”

After surgery, Amy will need several weeks of acute aftercare. Bill, who provides senior in-home care as a licensed nursing assistant, said he is not naive to the challenges ahead. However, he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to help ensure Amy can return home to her four children, who range in age from 12 to 24.

“I’d give up my health if I could give it to her, and I’d deal with her medical problems in an instant,” Bill said. “We’re waiting on a miracle now. They told me to be prepared to get the call at 3 a.m. or midnight or whenever about the surgery. It’s something that could happen tomorrow or next month.”

Health crisis

Since Amy’s hospitalization months ago, Bill has cared for two of his granddaughters, including the youngest who is 12. He said the family has not been able to visit Amy at the hospital but that they keep in touch through phone and video calls whenever possible.

Bill said Amy, a Concord resident for nearly two decades, remains hopeful and wishes to express her gratitude to everyone who has supported her family through a period of tragedy and uncertainty.

Since childhood, Amy has lived with symptoms of spinal stenosis, an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. But that lower back pain had been the extent of her medical issues up until this past summer. Trying to pinpoint exactly why her health spiraled has been difficult.

Addison’s disease, a disorder in which the adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormone cortisol and sometimes aldosterone, hasn’t been ruled out. Amy was taking medication for thyroid disease and celiac disease – which causes an abnormal immune reaction to gluten – but those therapies did not improve her condition. Ultimately, she suffered kidney failure and was put on dialysis at Concord Hospital.

“Concord recognized the seriousness of the situation and said she needed to go to down to Mass. General because of the likelihood that she would need a transplant,” Bill said. “It was do or die at that point.”

A greater need

While Bill understands the level of aftercare that Amy will need in those critical three months post surgery, he wrestles daily with how his family will cover the costs. Amy will require someone with her 24/7 for weeks after the surgery, and Bill said he is ready to make his apartment in downtown Concord available to her but being on the second-floor presents many challenges. He is hopeful a first-floor option in the same building will open up for Amy, who during the past year has lived in Epsom.

He said Amy will need a wheelchair-accessible van to take her to her dialysis appointments and in-home nursing care each day.

“At 66, I still live week to week, and we don’t have the wherewithal to pay for everything she will need to give her the best possible outcome,” Bill said. “I probably have a couple of months of bills set aside but that will only get us so far.”

In early April, Bill launched a GoFundMe campaign with a fundraising goal of $15,000 to help pay for Amy’s post-surgery expenses. The fundraiser has had a slow start, bringing in just over $1,000 in the first few weeks.

“Getting the word out at a time when everyone is in a very difficult position financially has been hard,” he said. “I know it’s a lot to ask but I have no alternative.”

Bill works 40 hours each week as an LNA for the home care agency BrightStar Care based in Bedford. A former construction supervisor, Bill joined the health care field about 10 years ago as a way to give back to his community. Now, he said, he is providing an essential service to the state’s most vulnerable population during a global pandemic – something he never could have imagined.

“The fact that there are people in their homes in need is what dictates that somebody be out there to help them. They’re not taking up a bed in a nursing home, and during this time, we’re trying to make sure that’s a place they don’t have to go,” Bill said.

“I see them struggle with having to talk to a family member from far across the room or outside the window. But I take that extra minute to strike up a conversation, to spark a laugh or hold a hand because it makes all the difference for them and for me, too.”

Bill spent about two years caring for his ailing mother in Massachusetts before she moved into a nursing home. She died shortly before Jennifer was killed this past summer.

Bill said his job has been a welcome distraction. He is reminded daily that he is not alone in his pain and suffering.

“Being attuned to other people’s well-being and their increasing loneliness during this pandemic helps keeps my mind busy and reminds me that there is a whole world of people on a similar journey of loss,” he said. “I often think that these people have helped me more than I’ve helped them.”

An uncertain future

With all jury trials on hold due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Burpee family awaits news on whether the murder case against Seace will be heard as planned in July.

Seace has been detained since the night of the murder, when police found him hiding in Jennifer’s bathroom. City police were familiar with Seace and had previously arrested him twice for domestic violence against Jennifer, including in October 2018 when it was alleged he choked her and left red marks on her neck.

That felony assault case was ultimately dropped by the Hillsborough County Attorney’s Office five months before Jennifer was killed. County Attorney Michael Conlon quickly came under fire after admitting that he was not aware a prosecutor in the office had chosen not to move forward. Colon said Jennifer had recanted.

The case and others led the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office to assume control of all criminal prosecutions in the county last September.

Bill said last week he did not know Jennifer was dating anyone and had never heard Seace’s name until the same day he learned his daughter was dead.

“You want to believe that what you’re hearing isn’t the case and that it has some other meaning behind it,” he said.

Months later, Bill wrestles with whether his knowledge of the abusive relationship could have made a difference.

“I don’t know what I could have done but I would have tried something,” he said.

As a possible trial nears, Bill said he intends to be there for Jennifer. He said Amy always planned to attend, too, and he is hopeful that her current medical situation will improve so she can.

“I realize I have to sit back and let the wheels of justice turn in their own time,” he said. “I just have to hope and pray for the best outcome.”

For more information on the online fundraiser, visit the “Help Us Save Amy Burpee” GoFundMe page at https://bit.ly/2W6tJdV.

If you or someone you know has experienced domestic violence, advocates are available 24/7 to provide free and confidential support through the statewide hotline at 1-866-644-3574. You don’t have to be in crisis to reach out.




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