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Shootings leave town in mourning

Westford stunned by second tragedy

By Milton J. Valencia and John R. Ellement
Globe Staff / February 3, 2010

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WESTFORD - Seventeen-year-old Olivia Marchand did not ask for help, not even in the last moments of her life, when she told a 911 dispatcher that she was fine, that there was no problem. Suddenly, all that was heard over the line was gunshots: She was dead, her mother was critically injured, and her father had turned the gun on himself, the second attempted murder-suicide in this small town in only a matter of weeks.

Investigators have little but the dramatic 911 recording to help explain the shooting Monday night on Makepeace Road, in a white, single-family home on the edge of town. Brian Marchand and his wife, Jody, had recent marital problems and struggled with finances, investigators said, but they could find nothing at a level that foreshadowed the shooting.

The first sign that there was any problem occurred at 8:37 Monday night, when police received a 911 hang-up call from the house and then another. Police officers were directed to the home, and a dispatcher called back to make sure everything was OK.

Olivia, a senior at Westford Academy, answered and told him it was. Then gunshots rang out, followed by quiet.

“This matter occurred within a few seconds,’’ said Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr., who listened to the 911 recording.

Jody Marchand, 50, survived the shooting, but was listed in critical condition last night at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Brian, 59, and Olivia were found dead by police officers who had rushed to the scene. The three of them were found in the master bedroom.

The Marchand family released a brief statement yesterday, saying, “Olivia was a vibrant and loving young girl, no words, no matter how eloquent, could justify or fill the depths of our sorrow.’’

“It’s unbelievable that there would be any reason to kill your beautiful daughter and wife,’’ Leone said yesterday morning during a press conference at police headquarters. “You try to search for some motive that might make it somewhat understandable.’’

Lynn Kibblehouse, the mother of Olivia’s close friend, Nicole, said yesterday that the Marchand family seemed just as happy as any other in town.

“I didn’t ever, in a million years, think her father would do this,’’ she said. “He adored her.’’

Word of the shooting stretched across this small town yesterday, where many residents know one another and which is still reeling from an attempted domestic murder-suicide on Jan. 9. In that case, Frederick Leduc allegedly shot his wife, Karen, 43, before turning the gun on himself. Karen Leduc died the next day. Frederick survived and is facing murder charges.

But the revelation that Olivia was involved in her parents’ dispute only worsened the news from Monday night. Through her work with the town Recreation Department and her involvement in volleyball, cheerleading, and equestrian pursuits, she had connections to many people in Westford. Even Police Chief Thomas McEnaney knew Olivia well through her friendship with his own daughter.

“I think we’re all in a sense of shock,’’ said Jody Ross, the town manager. She said she is working to coordinate some type of community reaction, any way to help the Leduc and Marchand families grieve and to better understand what happened.

“I think we all need to take action,’’ she said. “It’s hard to get your arms around such a senseless tragedy.’’

At Westford Academy, principal Jim Antonelli sent a note to parents yesterday, and grief counselors were made available to students.

“She was a very special child, very bright, and [had] a very bright future that’s been taken away,’’ he said.

Many students wrote notes to Olivia or just consoled one another in groups, he said.

“People are just crying, it doesn’t seem real,’’ said Nicole Cammarata, a 17-year-old senior who knew Olivia since middle school.

Olivia played volleyball and used to be a cheerleader. But she did not belong to any one group and seemed to be friends with everyone, Westford students said.

She was excited about attending the University of Vermont in the fall and starting a new chapter. But she apparently did not let anyone know of any problems at home, if there were any.

Leone said that family members have since told investigators that the couple had recent marital problems and may have been struggling financially.

Brian Marchand, who reportedly had three adult children from a previous marriage, had worked at a Lowell oil company named after his father, Ray Marchand Oil. He then tried to run his own company, but dissolved the corporation last year for reasons that were not immediately clear.

He had recently suffered from throat cancer, but was in a full recovery, a family friend said.

Jody Marchand worked different jobs, recently at a bank, and the two had taken pride in their only child.

Leone said that Brian fired the fatal shots with a 9mm handgun. He had been licensed to carry firearms, but also had firearms in the home that he was not licensed to hold, Leone said, pointing out that Marchand was an avid fisherman and hunter.

Kibblehouse planned yesterday to have the closest friends of Olivia and her daughter Nicole at her home last night, a way for them to grieve together.

The daughter did not want to talk, but gave her mother consent to speak of Olivia.

“She was a beautiful, 17-year-old girl, smart, a bright future,’’ Kibblehouse said.

“She was just excited about college and moving on with her life. Just a bubbly girl.’’