Charlestown man sentenced to prison in beating death over backpack

  • Hilary Conant, center, thanks Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway, right, after the sentencing of Marcel Boucher in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport, N.H., on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, to three to seven years in prison after he plead guilty to negligent homicide in the death of her brother Christopher Conant. In November 2022, Boucher sought out Christopher Conant, who was in possession of his stolen backpack, and punched him multiple times causing injuries from which Conant died 21 days later. From left are Conant’s step-mother Connie Conant, and step-brother Matt Ellison. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to valley news photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Marcel Boucher, of Charlestown, listens to his attorney Richard Guerriero, right, present his case for a shorter minimum prison sentence for Boucher, who plead guilty in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport, N.H., on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023, to negligent homicide in the death of Christopher Conant. Boucher, who admitted punching Conant multiple times after finding him in possession of a stolen backpack, was sentenced to three to seven years in prison. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to James M. Patterson

  • Hilary Conant shows a photograph of her brother, Christopher Conant, hooked up to life support, to Marcel Boucher, third from left, and others gathered in Sullivan County Superior Court in Newport, N.H., for Boucher's sentencing hearing on Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. Boucher was sentenced to 3 to seven years in prison after he plead guilty to negligent homicide in the death of Chris Conant. Conant died of his injuries 21 days after Boucher assaulted him in 2022. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/14/2023 8:49:06 PM
Modified: 9/17/2023 2:40:07 AM

NEWPORT — The victim’s family and the perpetrator’s family recounted how their lives have been shattered by physical violence Thursday as a Charlestown man was sentenced for negligent homicide in Sullivan County Superior Court.

Marcel Boucher, 43, of East Street, pleaded guilty in the death of Christopher Conant, 53, of Charlestown.

Days after Thanksgiving last November, Boucher punched Conant multiple times while he was sitting on a bench on Main Street because Boucher believed that Conant had stolen his backpack.

Boucher, who at times dabbed his nose with a tissue and hung his head, expressed sorrow for the loss he brought upon another family that, like his, has deep roots in Charlestown.

Although “I didn’t show it at the time,” Boucher said, he had grown to be “absolutely remorseful” for his violent action.

“I know that punishment with a prison sentence is appropriate,” he said.

“Punishment is an issue here,” Judge Martin Honigberg said a few minutes later in a pronouncing sentence of three to seven years in state prison.

Honigberg shaved six months off the minimum sentence sought by the state, citing as Boucher’s absence of any prior criminal conduct.

Nonetheless, Honigberg affirmed that “what Mr. Boucher did was appalling, unacceptable. One can’t take the law into one’s own hands.”

If Boucher completes the conditions of his incarceration and remain on good behavior, he could be released on parole in three years, as New Hampshire typically does not afford much in the way of early release on minimum time to serve.

Boucher was indicted on Dec. 19, 2022, two days after Conant died at the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative & Hospice Care at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon and 22 days after the Nov. 27 attack. Boucher had been ordered to home confinement while his case was pending.

Neither the prosecution nor the defense disputed what occurred the day of the beating, which was caught on video security cameras and a 58-second clip of that was played for court officers: Boucher, angry over what he believed was Conant involvement in the theft of his backpack containing keys, a knife and glasses, was notified by one of his daughters that she saw Conant with a backpack sitting on a bench on Main Street.

Boucher, who at the time weighed 200 pounds, drove to the spot between the Jiffy Mart and Sumner House restaurant. He approached Conant, who at the time weighed 138 pounds, frail from alcoholism and a body severely burned and mangled in 2000 house fire.

Boucher punched Conant three times in the head, “threw him off the bench,” grabbed the backpack and left the scene, Sullivan County State Attorney Marc Hathaway said in presenting the prosecution’s first detailed account of the incident.

“Shortly after” Boucher showed up at the Charlestown police station to report that he “was involved in the events at Jiffy Mart” and “agreed to an on-the-record in a non-custodial interview after being advised that he was free to leave,” Hathaway said.

During the interview, Hathaway said, Boucher acknowledged to police that he had confronted Conant earlier that day about the allegedly stolen backpack. When Conant “started to answer and (Boucher) assumed the answer was going to be ‘yes,’ (Boucher said) that he ‘tuned him up a couple of times,’ meaning that he had hit Mr. Conant in the face a couple of times” with a closed fist, Hathaway explained.

Moreover, Boucher “stated that he did not care how old or frail Mr. Conant was,” justifying his beating by “saying you ‘can’t get away with stealing,’ ” according to Hathaway.

When the police officer noted that Conant had suffered a “pretty big knot in his head,” Boucher replied by “saying, ‘He’s lucky that’s all he got,’ ” Hathaway said.

Asked by Honigberg if Boucher objected to what he had just heard the state present, Richard Guerriero, Boucher’s attorney, responded “we agree that the state could prove the elements of this crime beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence” if the case were to go to trial.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors dismissed a charge of first-degree felony assault, which would have come with a prison sentence of 7½ to 15 years. The judge, in crafting the three- to seven-year sentence, rejected both the prosecution’s request for a minimum of 3½ years and the defense’s request for a minimum of 1½ years.

In their victim impact statements, members of Conant’s family excoriated Boucher for the cold-hearted callousness he showed in attacking their loved one, whose already-slight physique, racked by fire burns, alcoholism and emphysima, had shriveled to 98 pounds at the time his death.

“He was going to teach Chris a lesson, and that brutal assault killed Chris and killed him slowly over a 21-day period,” said Connie Conant, stepmother of Chris Conant, in the first of six victim statements presented in court during the more than two-hour sentencing hearing on Thursday.

Her stepson’s assailant, she said, “broke our family.”

Conant’s mother, Carol Hanna, in a statement read by Hilary Conant, her daughter and Chris Conant’s sister, recounted the horror of seeing her son in critical care at DHMC. , w weekly-or-more phone calls to her always opened with the two words, “Hi, Mom,”

“His head shaved and swollen, a stapled stich, dark, dark red from dried blood, running down center of his head. You see, they had to remove the left part of his skull, to make room for swelling. It’s hard to describe his unrecognizable puffy and swollen eyes, or his 130-pound body connected to different colored wires, a ventilator and feeding tube keeping him alive.

“There is no way to express how this has utterly devastated me,” Hanna said.

In addition to impact statements read into the record from Conant’s aunt and two of his cousins, an emotionally charged statement was delivered by Hilary Conant, the victim’s sister, who memorialized her brother’s virtues of kindness, hard work and humor — “a jokester” who “loved the town of Charlestown” and fishing on the Connecticut River.

She turned the podium so she was facing the defendant and at the end of her statement help up a photograph of her brother with a swollen head and on life support at the hospital and in a sweeping gesture made sure that everyone in the courtroom could see the physical agony her brother endured at Boucher’s hands.

“Imagine how that image can burn, burn, burn over and over in someone’s head,” Hilary Conant said. “This is what I experienced. These are the visions on repeat in my head.”

Then, addressing Boucher directly, she challenged him.

“Have you ever watched someone die? It’s haunting,” she said.

In pleading that the court consider a lighter sentence, a different picture of Boucher was painted by his wife, Sandra Boucher, who began her statement by turning around and addressing members of the Conant family who sat on the visitor benches on the side of the courtroom reserved for the prosecution.

Choking back tears, Sandra Boucher said she wanted to “acknowledge the sadness that you endured that we can’t even begin to understand.”

A devoted family man, he’d reacted on that fateful day to the trauma caused by feeling he’d failed to protect two loved ones who were victims of another crime, Sandra Boucher said.

“My husband’s actions were not representative of his real character,” she said. The stolen backpack with his keys in it reminded her husband how he’d failed previously, she said, and how he had no trust in the police after authorities did not prosecute the perpetrator.

When it came his time to speak, Marcel Boucher expressed regret over his attack on Chris Conant.

“I apologize to Chris’ family and friends, to my family and friends, and the entire community. I was wrong. I accept responsibility for what I did and I know that punishment with a prison sentence is appropriate,” he said.

Boucher attributed his attack on Conant — whom he knew and even bought beer and cigarettes — to a “volcanic eruption” in his temper fueled by his “frustration” over what he said was the police’s handling of the crimes against his loved ones.

The backpack held keys and items that were essential to him getting around and when it went missing he went into a rage, Boucher explained, without considering the consequences,

“It was not my intention to hurt him and I certainly did not intend to cause serious injury or death, but I did hit him, and for that I have to pay,” he said.

Contact John Lippman at

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