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Two deaths haunt a N.H. family

Arrest stirs pain of unsolved cases

HOOKSETT, N.H. -- When police in this southern New Hampshire town arrested a local man in the murder 20 years ago of Danny Paquette, it revived memories of another suspicious, unsolved death in the victim's family.

Danny Paquette was 15 when he and his uncle, an off-duty Manchester police officer, discovered his mother's burned body in a pigsty on Paquette property, near the family's Londonderry farm.

No one has been arrested in the death on Feb. 3, 1964, of Rena Paquette, 52. The state attorney general at the time, William Maynard, said she had died from ''cremation by suicide," but her family believed she had been murdered.

Her body was exhumed in 1991 and was checked again, and the cause of death was revised to ''undetermined." The medical examiner said homicide was a possibility.

Twenty-one years later, Danny Paquette was shot and killed while driving a bulldozer outside his home in Hooksett. At first, police issued a theory that his death was attributable to a hunting accident; last week they arrested Eric Windhurst, 37, of Hopkinton, and charged him with murder.

Windhurst was 17 years old at the time of the shooting on Nov. 9, 1985, and had dated Paquette's stepdaughter, Melanie.

Danny Paquette's older brother, Victor, and family friends said they had suspected Windhurst.

They said they had gotten an anonymous telephone call and two unsigned letters in 1992.

Last week they said they did not know why Hooksett police had made an arrest, but they voiced gratitude.

In the years after both deaths, however, family members said they had to fight with authorities to get justice, Victor Paquette said.

''It totally destroyed any confidence we had in the legal system," he said.

At the time of his mother's death, victims' families were kept in the dark while politicians made decisions, he said.

David Lord, a retired Manchester police officer who helped investigate Rena Paquette's death in 1964, was quoted as saying in The Union Leader of Manchester in 1991 that detectives had not believed she had committed suicide.

He said officers had been ordered to ''forget" their suspicions of murder.

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