Pastor's outreach hits a nerve
Decision to take in paroled killer of a child roils rural N.H. town
CHICHESTER, N.H. - At lunchtime yesterday, as reporters circled on the dirt road outside and the Rev. David Pinckney's cellphone kept ringing, the pastor took a break and sat down for lunch in the kitchen of his home with his new friend, convicted child killer Raymond Guay.
The two men hardly knew each other a week ago. But since Friday, when Pinckney invited Guay, recently paroled, to live with him and his family of five children, the two men's lives have become intertwined.
In recent days, both have become pariahs in this tiny, rural New Hampshire community in the hills outside Concord - Pinckney because of his act of kindness and Guay because of his act of evil. Some locals don't claim to understand either, and many want to run Guay out of town.
Fear is rampant and growing. Many children here are no longer allowed to play outside. Pinckney said he has received more than one threatening phone call from angry people. "No Kid Killers," says one sign in town, hanging off the side of a parked pickup truck. And people have appealed to elected officials as well. In a town meeting this week, more than 200 people gathered to ask that Guay go somewhere else.
But forcing someone to leave isn't exactly easy, or legal. By order of a federal judge, Guay, 60, is supposed to remain in New Hampshire to serve three years of parole. And Pinckney, inviting a reporter into his home for the first time yesterday on the condition that no questions be asked of Guay, made it clear that, protests or not, he and his family are not backing down from their decision to allow Guay to live with them. In fact, on the contrary, Pinckney said, Guay is becoming a beloved house guest. The tall, lanky man with a narrow face and bushy gray beard is making himself useful around the house, helping the Pinckney family to complete an addition above the garage.
At lunch yesterday, sitting with Pinckney in the kitchen, Guay said grace. He thanked the Lord for the blessings before them. And then, as Guay finished praying and the two men prepared to dig into heaping plates of leftover spaghetti, the pastor reached out to the ex-con, patting him on the shoulder.
"Love this guy," Pinckney said. "He's just a good guy."
Plenty of people would disagree with that assessment, however, because of his dark past. On Feb. 9, 1973, 12-year-old John Lindovski was walking home from an after-school square dance in Nashua when Guay picked him up and drove him to a hunters' club in Hollis.
There the boy, a sixth-grader, attempted to escape, running into the woods, where he was shot in the head. Found dead over a month later, he was wearing nothing but his socks, underwear, and eyeglasses.
Guay, who was found with the murder weapon, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to serve up to 25 years in prison. He completed that term, authorities said, but not without incident, escaping from prison at one point and assaulting an inmate on another occasion. He received additional prison time for the assault and was paroled from a federal facility in West Virginia last September, at which point the judge ordered him to serve his parole in New Hampshire.
But state officials, including Governor John Lynch, have fought the decision, not wanting any part of Guay. A stint in Manchester last fall didn't last, and Guay soon found himself in Hartford. Yet to abide by the federal judge's order, Guay returned this month to New Hampshire. Pinckney met him through a prison minister who had counseled Guay behind bars. Convinced that Guay is a changed man - a convert and devoted Christian - Pinckney decided to take the ex-convict into his home for the next two months. And so the prickly problem of Raymond Guay came to tiny Chichester, population 2,400.
"We were warned," said Pinckney, who has four children, ages 13 to 18, living at home and a fifth, age 19, away at school. "It was said this could disrupt life. People wouldn't like it. He's not liked. But at the end of the day, this is what Jesus did. He defended the defenseless. He was a friend of sinners."
Few, if anyone, question Pinckney's intentions. The easygoing minister, who preaches on Sundays while wearing jeans and insists that people call him Dave, is well liked and respected in Chichester. But bringing a high-profile ex-convict, reformed or not, to a rural community where chickens outnumber police officers by a wide margin has not gone unnoticed.
"It's a quiet town," said Chichester Selectman Jeff Jordan. "Somebody's cows getting out in the road, that's the worst thing that happens."
Many people say they moved here from Concord, Manchester, or Portsmouth seeking land, peace and quiet, and safety. Until recently, Dana Ingram said, she'd let her four children out to play in the yard without a worry. And Ken Smith, a 43-year-old father of two, said he never thought twice about his children running around in the woods after school or going down to their barn. Smith, who works in Boston, said Chichester has always been a refuge.
"You know that feeling you get when you go camping and you just feel relaxed?" said Smith, who lives on the same dirt road as Pinckney. "That's what happens when I hit my road. I come back here and it's like, 'Ahhhhh.' You don't want to leave."
But now many locals feel like prisoners in their own homes. Smith said he will not allow his 11-year-old daughter to feed her pony, Wilma, alone anymore. Ingram, who lives near Pinckney, has blocked her back deck with the family's gas grill, a barrier to make sure the children do not go wandering. And police understand the fear. There are just four full-time officers in Chichester.
"My concern is safety," said Merrimack County Sheriff Scott Hilliard, whose department assists Chichester police. "That's the priority, safety of the citizens. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't want Mr. Guay to be living in my town. I'm a parent, too."
Pinckney said he appreciates law enforcement officers' concerns - and their support. What's disappointed him, he said, are the reactions of others, given the lengths he is taking to keep Guay under close watch. Though Guay is legally free to go where he pleases, he has agreed to Pinckney's terms that he always remain under adult supervision, and has even volunteered to wear a movement-tracking ankle bracelet like an inmate on house arrest.
"I'm telling you, there are more dangers on my road with alcohol and firearms than there is with Raymond Guay," Pinckney said yesterday. "I would not have brought him into my home if I thought he was a danger to my town, my neighborhood, my neighbors, or my children."
Some, including the mother of the boy murdered 36 years ago, remain skeptical. In a phone interview from her home in Colorado yesterday, Charlotte Davis, 73, said she doubts that Guay is truly a changed man. She wishes there had been stricter sentencing in 1973 and hopes that no parent, in Chichester or elsewhere, ever has to endure what she has these past three decades. She thinks of her little Johnny every day, she said, often replaying his final moments, when a strange man left him in the woods to die.
"The worst part is the winters, when the wind is howling outside and you're curled up in bed, nice and cozy," she said. "That's when I think about my poor little son out there in the freezing cold in his underpants. Can you imagine?"
Keith O'Brien can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.