Lebanon Man Pleads Guilty, to Serve at Least 25 Years in Arson That Destroyed First Baptist Church

  • As he is led from the courtroom to begin his sentence, Anthony K. Boisvert waves to family members while his attorney Constantine Hutchins reaches out to shake Boisvert's hand in Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill, N.H., on July 9, 2018. Boisvert pleaded guilty to nine charges of arson, assault and witness tampering, including the Dec. 2016 arson fire that destroyed the First Baptist Church in Lebanon, N.H. Boisvert received a sentence of 25-50 years. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Geoff Hansen

  • Assistant Grafton County Attorney John Bell speaks with the media after Anthony K. Boisvert's plea and sentencing at Grafton Superior Court in North Haverhill, N.H., on July 9, 2018. Boisvert will be serving 25-50 years on nine charges related to arson, assault and witness tampering. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • The First Baptist Church in Lebanon, N.H., is engulfed in flames during a fire that broke out late in the evening on Dec. 28, 2016. Multiple departments were called to the three-alarm blaze. (Valley News - Josh Weinreb) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Josh Weinreb

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/9/2018 11:07:55 AM
Modified: 7/10/2018 12:34:04 AM

North Haverhill — A 29-year-old Lebanon man will spend the next 25 years in prison for a series of crimes in the city, including setting the fire that destroyed First Baptist Church on School Street in December 2016 and then later stabbing a couple he feared would implicate him.

Anthony K. Boisvert pleaded guilty to nine felony charges during a plea and sentencing hearing in Grafton Superior Court on Monday, during which he expressed remorse for some of his actions.

“I just want to say I apologize to the First Baptist Church. I wasn’t in the right state of mind,” Boisvert said during his hearing in the North Haverhill courthouse.

The fire gutted the Gothic Revival church, which was built in 1870, a block south of Colburn Park.

According to an affidavit in the case from Lebanon police Lt. Matthew Isham, Boisvert told police after the incident that he broke into the church, watched child pornography and masturbated into a dirty diaper before lighting an American flag on fire. Boisvert told police he set fire to the church because he was “mad at God for making him a pedophile,” according to a police officer’s testimony in January 2017.

But Boisvert said in court on Monday that he didn’t do some of those acts.

“The dirty things that they say I did in the church, that’s a lie. That never happened. Other than that, I apologize for my behaviors. … I hope I get the help that I need,” Boisvert said.

He ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of arson, two counts of first-degree assault on a Lebanon couple on the night of the church fire, two counts of witness tampering, two counts of burglary and a count of attempted arson.

Judge Lawrence MacLeod accepted the plea agreement, in which Boisvert received a total sentence of 25 to 50 years in New Hampshire State Prison.

“I commend you for making that statement,” MacLeod said. “I think the sentencing is appropriate.”

No one from First Baptist attended the hearing, but church moderator Keith Davio said in an email on Monday afternoon that the church body is disappointed with the destruction of its church, as well as the direction of Boisvert’s life.

“The Bible says in the book of Romans to obey the government appointed over you and God will guide their hand. In this case, ‘the government’ is our justice system, who have now determined Mr. Boisvert’s fate for the coming years. At this point, we all can pray for him and his healing and allow God’s plan to unfold,” Davio said. “With this matter behind us, the church can stay focused on the opportunities a new structure will bring us and how we may use it to be of continued service to our local community.”

Assistant Grafton County Attorney John Bell called the resolution to Boisvert’s case “fair,” while Boisvert’s public defender, Constantine Hutchins, referred to it as a “satisfactory compromise.”

Hutchins previously had raised concerns about Boisvert’s competency to stand trial — during his video arraignment in January 2017, Boisvert had threatened to kill and cannibalize family members — but during Monday’s hearing, Hutchins said that his concerns had been alleviated.

“I had an independent evaluation (done) and my concerns have been dispelled,” Hutchins told MacLeod. Hutchins didn’t elaborate.

No one gave a victim impact statement before the court on Monday, but Wade Bennett, one of the assault victims, told prosecutors ahead of the hearing that he wasn’t satisfied with the resolution, according to Bell. A statement Bennett drafted for the court was sealed, according to a court clerk.

Boisvert stabbed Bennett and his partner, Diane Faughnan, several times at their residence at the Boulders condominium complex four days after the church fire, according to police. Bennett, who had been hanging out with Boisvert around a campfire earlier on Dec. 28, went to police after the church burned down and informed them of Boisvert’s possible involvement, police said at the time.

Boisvert set fire to the church around 11:20 p.m. on Dec. 28, 2016, causing more than $2 million in damage, the prosecutor said.

He then left that location and broke into the Carter Community Building Association and the Upper Valley Senior Center.

That evening he also set a fire in the basement of 68 Mascoma St., an occupied apartment building, “because he knew some children lived there,” he told police, according to an affidavit.

In addition, he told police he started a fire in January 2016 in a building on Hanover Street Extension.

He ultimately received a 7½- to 15-year sentence for each of the assault charges, a 3½- to 7-year sentence for the church arson and a 6½- to 13-year sentence for the apartment building attempted arson, a harsher sentence because people were inside the building at the time. They are to be served consecutively.

He also received suspended sentences on the other charges.

Boisvert must pay $1,000 in restitution to First Baptist Church, which amounts to the insurance deductible.

He also must pay restitution to Davidson Properties, the owner of the Mascoma Street building. He is to have no contact with Bennett or Faughnan.

Davio, the church moderator, said the church community still hopes to break ground on a new structure this fall. First Baptist already has received Planning Board approval to rebuild.

In the interim, the congregation is still holding services at the Lebanon Middle School.

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

December 2016.
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