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Apr 21, 2016 5:37 PM

Judge weighing convicted NH killer's bid for freedom

The Associated Press

CONCORD (AP) — A state judge says he'll rule at a later date after hearing from a convicted killer on his bid to have his sentenced reduced to the 10 years he has already served.

Eric Windhurst, of Hopkinton, was 17 when he fatally shot a friend's stepfather, Danny Paquette, in 1985, after the friend told him Paquette had sexually abused her.

The killing went unsolved for two decades, until Paquette's stepdaughter, Melanie Cooper, provided information leading to Windhurst's arrest in 2005. Windhurst pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in 2006 and was sentenced to 15 to 36 years in prison.

Cooper's three- to six-year sentence for hindering apprehension was reduced to 15 months and she was released in March 2008. Windhurst's lawyers, in court documents, said she manipulated Windhurst into killing Paquette and that it's only just that he be released as well.

For two decades, both maintained they were at a field hockey game in Plymouth when Paquette was gunned down in Hooksett while he was welding a tractor.

Windhurst apologized during Thursday's lengthy hearing in a packed Merrimack County courtroom but did not look at Paquette's family members as he spoke. He also made no reference to Cooper, who did not attend the hearing. She declined to comment when asked last week about Windhurst's quest for freedom.

Prosecutors and Paquette's family strongly oppose Windhurst's release. Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin said in court documents Pacquette's killing was the "premeditated and targeted murder of a complete stranger."

Numerous Hopkinton residents and friends testified on Windhurst's behalf Thursday, praising him as a skilled carpenter. Several even said Windhurst was welcome to live with them if he's released.

Merrimack County Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara did not indicate when he would rule.

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