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Lebanon Man Charged in Connection with First Baptist Church Fire, Stabbings

  • Kathy Willis, left, and her daughter Rosemary Fox heard screams from their neighbor's apartment in Boulders Condominiums, in Lebanon, N.H., Sunday night, January 1, 2017. The mother and daughter discovered that their neighbors had been stabbed and called 911. Lebanon police arrested 27-year old Anthony Boisvert a short time later in connection with the stabbings and several incidents of arson; including the fire that destroyed the First Baptist Church in Lebanon. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Two residents were stabbed inside their apartment at the Boulders Condominiums complex in Lebanon, N.H., Sunday night, January 1, 2017. Lebanon police arrested 27-year-old Anthony Boisvert, of Lebanon, in connection with the incident. Boisvert is being charged with two counts of first-degree assault in the alleged stabbings and three counts of arson. Police allege that he is responsible for the fire that destroyed the First Baptist Church in Lebanon on Wednesday night. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Shortly after 9 p.m. on Sunday, January 1, 2017, police received a 911 call from a neighbor reporting a double stabbing that allegedly occurred inside an apartment in Building E at the Boulders Condominiums complex in Lebanon, N.H. Police reported two stabbing victims at the scene. Anthony Boisvert, of Lebanon, N.H., was arrested Sunday night in connection with the incident. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • David Szelowski looks at the damage caused by a fire that broke out in the basement of the apartment building where he lives at 68 Mascoma Street in Lebanon, N.H., early Thursday morning, December 29, 2016. Twenty-seven-year-old Anthony Boisvert, of Lebanon, was arrested Sunday nigh and is being charged with two counts of assault and three counts of arson, in connection with the fire that broke out inside the Mascoma Street apartment and the fire that destroyed the First Baptist Church of Lebanon. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • About an hour after Lebanon police and fire units were called to a fire at the First Baptist Church of Lebanon, on Wednesday night, police and fire units responded to a report of a basement fire in an apartment building at 68 Mascoma Street in Lebanon. Twenty-seven-year-old Anthony Boisvert, of Lebanon, was arrested on Sunday night, January 1, 2017, and has been charged with arson in connection to the incidents. (Valley News - John Happel) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Anthony K. Boisvert



Valley News Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Lebanon — A 27-year-old Lebanon man is scheduled to be arraigned today on three separate felony arson charges, including one accusing him of setting fire to the First Baptist Church of Lebanon, after a stabbing incident on Sunday night precipitated a manhunt that led to his arrest.

Anthony K. Boisvert, of Tannery Lane, is accused of setting the fire that destroyed the church on Wednesday, the same night that firefighters also responded to a fire in a Mascoma Street apartment building, which police now believe was intentionally set.

Boisvert faces two felony counts of arson in connection with the Wednesday night fires and a third felony arson charge stemming from a January 2016 fire that gutted a vacant building on Hanover Street Extension. In addition to the arson accusations, Boisvert faces two counts of first-degree assault in connection with the nonfatal stabbings of two Lebanon residents on Sunday night.

In a news release issued early Monday morning, Lebanon police said an investigation by the New Hampshire State Fire Marshal’s Office and the Lebanon fire and police departments determined the two Wednesday night fires had been deliberately set and that the police had identified Boisvert as “a person of interest.” After failing to locate Boisvert, police concluded that he had fled the area, according to the release.

That night, police responded shortly after 9 p.m. to the Boulders Condominiums complex off Heater Road for reports of a double stabbing. The two victims were known to Boisvert, and both identified him as their attacker, according to the release.

Boisvert allegedly fled the scene on foot, the release said, and law enforcement officers launched a manhunt, deploying a K-9 and keeping their tactical team on standby before detaining the suspect on the street he lives on about an hour later.

He was taken into custody without incident, according to the release.

The nearly 150-year-old Baptist church, a historic landmark at 13 School St., was declared a total loss late last week.

Church leaders say they expect to rebuild with help from their insurance company.

When they received news that investigators believed the fire was intentionally set and that police had arrested a suspect, their reaction was not entirely one of anger.

“The first thing that came to my mind was now we have someone to pray for,” said Keith Davio, chairman of the church executive board.

“That’s what you need to know about this church,” Davio said in an interview on Monday. “It’s a very forgiving church. It doesn’t mean we’re not angry, but you have to go through the process and accept it and move on.”

Neither Davio nor police officers said they knew of any connection between Boisvert and First Baptist that might provide a possible motive.

Two neighbors to the stabbing victims, Kathy Willis and her daughter, Rosemary Fox, said they believed that one of the stabbing victims had filed a report about Boisvert making threats. The neighbors said they believed that the attack was revenge for notifying the police.

Willis and Fox say they were in their apartment in The Boulders around 9 p.m. on Sunday when they heard screaming from across the hall.

“A bloodcurdling, horrible scream,” Fox said on Monday.

Fox said she opened her door to see a blood-soaked Boisvert running from a neighboring apartment and its occupant, 52-year-old Wade Bennett, bleeding from stab wounds.

In a separate interview, Lebanon Police Chief Richard Mello confirmed that Bennett was one of the victims, but declined to identify the second, a 66-year-old woman.

Inside Bennett’s apartment on Sunday, blood was everywhere, and the scene, Fox said, looked “like a movie.”

“I had nightmares from it,” Fox said, speaking from inside her living room on Monday.

Willis and Fox said they called 911 and waited with the victims until emergency responders arrived.

The Lebanon police news release said that two stabbing victims suffered serious injuries from multiple stab wounds, but were expected to recover.

Lebanon police arrested Boisvert about an hour after the stabbing, just after 10 p.m., outside the Tannery Lane apartment where he lives with a handful of family members.

Mello, the Lebanon police chief, said fire investigators and his department had considered the two fires — one at the Baptist church and another, less than an hour later, at a residence at 68 Mascoma St. — suspicious because of their timing and proximity.

“That generally doesn’t happen by coincidence,” Mello said.

The Mascoma Street fire, which appeared to have started from a couch in the basement, was extinguished by sprinklers before emergency responders arrived, police said.

Boisvert has a lengthy criminal record extending back at least four years that includes charges connected with burglary, possession of controlled substances and criminal trespassing in a Lebanon school.

During the course of this past week’s investigation, police said they also came to believe Boisvert was responsible for a suspicious fire in January 2016 that destroyed a vacant wooden building at 174 Hanover St. Extension that used to be part of a brick factory.

Mello confirmed information received by the Valley News that Boisvert also faces numerous misdemeanor counts of child pornography possession in Vermont, but said he was unsure of the status of the pending case.

Boisvert is being held in Grafton County jail. Today’s arraignment will take place in Lebanon Circuit Court.

In their news release, Lebanon police said the investigation is ongoing and additional charges are possible.

Rob Wolfe can be reached at rwolfe@vnews.com or 603-727-3242.