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Pair wanted in Nashua shooting say victim shot self in head

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 05. 2012 9:40AM

NASHUA - A man hospitalized with a gunshot wound accidentally shot himself in the head, two witnesses told police after being picked up in Vermont near the Canadian border with a cache of stolen guns in the trunk of their car.

According to documents on file in U.S. District Court in Vermont, Daniel DeGrace, 31, and Benjamin Mayberry, 30, were involved in a burglary of a East Ryegate, Vt. home where DeGrace stole about 25 firearms - handguns and long guns - scrap gold, silver and jewelry. Mayberry was the alleged lookout.

Mayberry and DeGrace agreed to split the profits from the sale of the stolen goods and returned to Nashua where they sold a pink .22 caliber pistol to Billy Jo Parker.

About 11 p.m. Sunday, Mayberry, DeGrace, Parker and a fourth man, identified only as "Jay" in court records, were at DeGrace's apartment building at 1 Salvail Court, across from BAE, when Parker allegedly put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

On Monday morning, Assistant Attorney General Peter Hinckley told federal investigators with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATFE) that Parker was critical, stable and comatose.

DeGrace allegedly took the gun from the scene and fled with Mayberry in a 1995 Toyota Avalon, New Hampshire registration 329-3905. The car was stopped on Monday by U.S. Border patrol on Route 105 in Darby, Vt. DeGrace was driving and Mayberry was in the front passenger seat.

Border patrol agents obeserved three rifle barrels in the trunk of the car.

Both men were taken into custody.

Mayberry waived his Miranda Rights and talked to investigators, which included Nashua police who arrived in Vermont. He initially said he did not want to talk about the "Vermont stuff," but when asked what happened, mentioned there were 25- to 30 guns in the trunk of the car.

Mayberry, during questioning by ATF agents, said DeGrace stole the guns from a camp in Vermont, but he declined to give its location. He said he was the lookout and driver of the car and watched DeGrace remove about 25 firearms wrapped in a blanket from the camp and put them in the car. They agreed to split the profits. He wouldn't tell police if they were involved in other burglaries.

They returned to DeGrace's apartment where DeGrace sold a stolen pistol to Parker for $60. Parker left the apartment and was supposed to resell the gun and maybe sell some of the other stolen guns for DeGrace.

Parker returned to DeGrace's apartment about an hour later and was showing off the gun he bought from DeGrace. Mayberry told police he was worried about Parker's safety with firearms and had personally unloaded the gun before DeGrace sold it to him. Despite that, according to court records, Parker later grabbed a few rounds off a table in DeGrace's residence, loaded a round and racked the slide.

Mayberry said he did not have a good vantage point of the shooting, that DeGrace was closer to Parker and he thought "Jay" had witnessed it. Mayberry thought Parker shot into the air and he heard him say something before the shot. What was said was not divulged in a criminal complaint of possessing a stolen firearm brought against DeGrace by Special ATFE Agent David Campbell.

After the shooting, DeGrace picked up the gun and shell casing from the body because, Mayberry told investigators, DeGace's prints were on the gun after handling it before the shooting.

Mayberry said he and DeGrace fled the scene and drove around confused about what happened. Neither of them called for an ambulance or police. They first drove to Franconia Notch, where they slept for a while, and then they planned to dump the stolen firearms in a lake and flee to Canada.

Mayberry said he had prior felony convictions for several burglaries and knew he was not to carry firearms and he "stayed away" from them.

DeGrace admitted to Nashua police detective Jonathan Lehto that he and Mayberry stole 25 to 30 firearms from a Vermont residence and that he sold one of them, a pink .22 caliber pistol, to Parker. He told the detective he witnessed Parker accidentally shoot himself while handling the gun.

He said he took the gun after the shooting because he was worried it would be traced back to him. He tossed it into the Merrimack River in Manchester.

DeGrace, who admitted he was a drug user, was arrested and charged with falsification of evidence, a felony. Eighteen firearms, both handguns and long guns, were recovered from the car, along with other suspected stolen property including jewelry. Police also found a hunting license belonging to an individual who lives in East Ryegate, Vt.

Vermont State police detectives went to the individual's home, which appeared to have burglarized. They called the resident, who was out of state, who said it was his hunting license and jewelry police recovered form the car. He told them he was missing a black Tauras .22 caliber pistol, which was not recovered from the car.

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