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Man gets life for killing sister, niece, nephew

Tells courtroom his drug abuse led to murders

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- A man sentenced to life in prison yesterday for killing his sister and her two small children said his mind was clouded by drugs.

Christopher Bernard, 36, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the Oct. 4, 2004, stabbing deaths of Tricia Doyle, 30, of Hooksett; her 4-year-old daughter, Gillian; and her 2-year-old son, James. Their bodies were found in his house that night. Hours later, Bernard tried to kill himself by running onto Interstate 93, where he was hit by a truck.

Bernard was treated at Elliott Hospital for two days, then was transferred to the state psychiatric hospital in Concord, where he was arrested.

Court records show police found Doyle and her daughter partly unclothed. Officials also suspected Bernard of sexually assaulting them, although prosecutor Jeffrey Strelzin said DNA tests were inconclusive.

Documents also say Bernard struggled with addictions to OxyContin and cocaine, and had drugs in his system when he tried to commit suicide.

Bernard asked his sister and her children for forgiveness and partly blamed his drug abuse for the killings.

''I take full responsibility for my actions," he said in Hillsborough County Superior Court. ''If my mind was not polluted by drugs, today would be a different day."

Strelzin said Bernard was probably motivated by a combination of factors to kill his sister and her children.

''He was angry at Tricia, angry at things in general with his life; he was feeling a lot of pressure with things going on in life," he said. ''I don't think there's any one thing you can point to."

Members of both families had to re-live most of the details of the case, including graphic descriptions of the wounds inflicted on Doyle and her children, when prosecutors outlined key evidence.

''You committed a horrific act and you need professional help. We feel life in prison without parole is a just sentence," said Patricia Bernard, mother of Christopher Bernard and Tricia Doyle.

His voice shaking, Doyle's husband, Robert, called Bernard a coward.

''May you rot in hell for eternity," Robert Doyle said. Holding up a picture of himself, his wife, and their children taken last year, Doyle said, ''This is the life that SOB over there ruined."

Bernard will serve his sentence at the state prison in Concord, Strelzin said.

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