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Victim in murder-suicide opted not to use police escort

Despite promise, went home with father; both shot

Melissa Charbonneau wanted to retrieve personal belongings from her house, where her estranged husband was staying. Melissa Charbonneau wanted to retrieve personal belongings from her house, where her estranged husband was staying.
By Holly Ramer
Associated Press / June 18, 2010

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CONCORD, N.H. — A Manchester woman who was killed by her estranged husband in October assured police two hours before her death that she would not return home without a police escort, according to a report released yesterday by the attorney general’s office.

Melissa Charbonneau, who had her father accompany her instead, was shot to death Oct. 22 by Jonathan Charbonneau, who then killed himself. In a report confirming the murder-suicide, the attorney general’s office describes Melissa Charbonneau’s discussion with police earlier that day about the restraining order she obtained against her husband.

Jonathan Charbonneau, 32, had been released on bail two days earlier after being accused of throwing his wife down the stairs of their house and trying to strangle her. He was ordered to stay away from his wife, but allowed to remain in their home. On the morning she died, Melissa Charbonneau went to the police station and spoke to Officer Kelly McKenney, telling her that she was staying with her parents but wanted to retrieve some personal belongings from her house.

“Melissa confirmed that she knew she needed to call the police for a civil standby if she was going to go back to the house,’’ the attorney general’s report states.

The officer asked Charbonneau if she wanted a police escort then, but Charbonneau declined.

“Melissa said she would call when she needed the police [for the civil standby] and then left the Police Department,’’ the report says.

Two hours later, Melissa Charbonneau, 29, was dead, and her father had been shot in the back. Her death later inspired a change in state law classifying attempted strangulation as second-degree assault, a felony. Previously, it was classified as simple assault, a misdemeanor, allowing Jonathan Charbonneau to get out of jail after paying $30 bail.

The case also raised questions about restraining orders. In seeking the order, Melissa Charbonneau told authorities that her husband had a gun, and she asked that police direct him to turn it in.

The order said Jonathan Charbonneau “shall refrain from possessing a firearm,’’ but the Hillsborough County sheriff has said the box on the order form that would have ordered authorities to seize any guns was not checked.

The attorney general’s report concludes that Jonathan Charbonneau’s primary motive in killing his wife appeared to have been jealousy; he believed she was having an affair with her karate instructor despite their denials. Possible drug use and mental health issues may also have played a role, the report says, noting that toxicology reports showed a small amount of marijuana in his bloodstream, as well as an antidepressant.

Evidence collected at the scene included a semiautomatic rifle, a bullet with a message written on it to the karate instructor, and a two-page suicide note. According to the attorney general’s report, the note included instructions on the distribution of some of Charbonneau’s property, messages of love to his family, and angry statements toward the karate instructor and others.

Melissa Charbonneau’s parents, who pushed for the law change, could not be reached for comment yesterday. McKenney did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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