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Victim's family confronts a murderer
CONCORD — The family of murdered nursing student Molly Hawthorn-MacDougall was divided Monday over a plea bargain that put her murderer behind bars for 42 1/2 years to life.
Some, including Hawthorn-MacDougall's husband, agreed to the sentence of Haitian native Roody Fleuraguste, 24, in order to put the brutal murder behind the family.
But during a hearing in Merrimack County Superior Court, others said they disagreed with the plea bargain, which convicted Fleuraguste of second-degree murder.
“Second-degree murder here, second-degree murder there and crimes against women seem less disturbing,” said Margaret Hawthorn, Molly Hawthorn-MacDougall's mother. The minimum sentence, negotiated back and forth between prosecutors and defense lawyers, seemed more like a real-estate deal, she said.
Earlier this month, Fleuraguste admitted to shooting Hawthorn-MacDougall on April 29, 2010, at the farmhouse where she lived with her husband, Daniel Paul. Fleuraguste was the brother of a farmhand who worked on the Paul farm and had been befriended by the extended family.
In a jailhouse confession, Fleuraguste said he had wanted to have sex with Hawthorn-MacDougall and she refused.
“I can't believe what this person did for sex, for wanting to have sex,” said her father, Bruce MacDougall. “There are times when the rage swells up so hot in me that all I want to do is bust your shins with a bat,” he said.
But he knows violence isn't right, so the rage becomes sadness, and that sadness will last until he dies, MacDougall said.
As part of the sentence, Fleuraguste cannot petition for a sentence reduction for 30 years. And once his incarceration is completed, he will be turned over to immigration authorities for deportation.
Homicide prosecutor Susan Morrell said the sentence is the second-longest ever in a plea-bargain from a first-degree murder charge. She also said there was strong evidence to win a first-degree murder charge.
Superior Court Judge Larry Smukler delayed the sentencing hearing for more than an hour while he considered whether to reject the deal. Smukler said he wanted to be sure the public, both in the United States and Haiti, would be safe from Fleuraguste, who will be 65 when he reaches his minimum.
“If you had gone to trial and you were convicted of first-degree murder, I would have signed that (life sentence) order in a heart beat,” he said.
When he spoke, Fleuraguste said he hopes the death of Hawthorn-MacDougall will not haunt her family. Rather, he said he deserves to be haunted by her ghost.
“There is not a word to describe the pain, the regret, the shame, the guilt I feel,” he said. “I'm sorry with all my heart; I'm sorry.”
Hawthorn-MacDougall's husband, Daniel Paul, did not speak. But in a brief statement distributed during the hearing, he wrote that the plea-bargain brings some relief in knowing the legal process has reached a definitive end.
The sentencing hearing drew about 90 people. Several recalled Hawthorn-MacDougall's trusting nature and the love she had for her family and friends.
In a letter read by a relative, sister Ruby Hawthorn-MacDougall described Fleuraguste as “evil without shape.” Her other sister, Sadie Hawthorn-MacDougall, called Fleuraguste a coward and dared him to look at her.
“You're hiding behind a system the same way you hid behind a gun,” she said.
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