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Home » News » Crime

August 18. 2011 9:37PM

TV murder mystery show examines 1985 Paquette case

HOOKSETT — The town’s infamous 1985 whodunit murder case is being profiled this Sunday on the Investigation Discovery Channel’s “Unusual Suspects.”

Danny Paquette was 36 when he was shot in the heart while welding outside his Whitehall Road home. No one was arrested for the crime until 2005.

Investigators operated on different theories for years, and initially thought Paquette may have been accidentally shot by a hunter. But shortly after Stephen Agrafiotis became Hooksett’s police chief in 1999, he breathed new life into the case by hiring local resident and retired county detective William Shackford to investigate.

Shackford is interviewed for Investigation Discovery’s infotainment piece airing this Sunday at 10 p.m., as well as Paquette’s brother, Victor Paquette; Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin; state police detective Roland Lamy; and authors Rebecca LaVoie and Kevin Flynn, who wrote “Our Little Secret,” a book on the Paquette case.

“It’s the history of Hooksett and Hopkinton, so it has value that way,” Shackford said. “It was a landmark case. ... It initiated some of the thought of getting some of these cold cases resolved.”

The show’s executive producer, Kathy Williamson, said the episode is meant to highlight the “amazing journey” of the investigation.

“We’re honoring the police work because it was a very long process,” Williamson said. “It was very difficult to figure out who did it. It was the person you wouldn’t suspect.”

The 20-year investigation into Paquette’s murder revealed he may have created several enemies because he had affairs with married women around the time of his death.

Further digging by detectives revealed Paquette had a dark past, which included allegations against him of violence and the repeated rape of his adopted stepdaughter, Melanie Paquette Cooper, beginning when she was 10. Strelzin says in the piece that authorities believe that Paquette abused the girl.

Detectives initially thought Melanie had an alibi, but looked again in 1992 after receiving an anonymous letter that she and her high school boyfriend, Eric Windhurst of Hopkinton, had been responsible for Paquette’s death.

The case picked up momentum when Shackford spoke with a Hopkinton police officer who was childhood friends with Windhurst, and noted that he was an expert shooter and owned a .270 caliber rifle, the same type of weapon used in the homicide.

The show details how police were able to get Melanie Paquette Cooper and Windhurst to confess to police in 2005, which included Melanie’s agreeing to a plea deal and getting Windhurst to make admissions on a tape recorded phone call.

Cooper served 15 months of a three- to six-year sentence after her conviction of hindering apprehension of prosecution. Windhurst, the shooter, is serving a 15- to 36-year prison sentence for murder.

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