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Cellmate now a player in Nashua murder case

Union Leader Correspondent

February 03. 2013 9:19PM

NASHUA - Defense attorneys for Matthew Packer, the man accused of killing a local EMT in 2011, are asking the court's permission to interview one of Packer's former cellmates.

Packer, 20, is charged with first-degree murder and two alternative counts of second-degree murder alleging he knowingly and recklessly killed Paul Frontiero III on Oct. 9, 2011, during a fight on Spruce Street.

Since Packer's arrest, prosecutors have filed nearly 2,000 pages of discovery following depositions with multiple individuals, including one of Packer's former cellmates, according to court documents. Representatives from the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office interviewed Robert Ryan, who bunked with Packer during the summer of 2012 at the Hillsborough County House of Corrections. Now, Packer's defense team has filed a motion to depose Ryan as well, questioning his motive for sharing information with police. A court hearing has been scheduled for Feb. 21 at the Hillsborough County Superior Court to discuss the request, which is being opposed by the state.

Packer previously told authorities he took out a six-inch pocket knife, but only after being punched in the ear by strangers in the fall of 2011. During a probable cause hearing, the lead detective in the murder case told a judge that Frontiero died after allegedly being stabbed by Packer 16 times, including one puncture to the heart.

Other vital organs, including Frontiero's lung, left kidney, diaphragm and spleen were damaged from the knife wounds, according to Detective Daniel Mederos.

While serving time since his arrest, Packer allegedly spoke to his cellmate, Ryan, about the stabbing.

After Ryan's release from prison, he was again arrested by Nashua police in September 2012 on a larceny charge. During his time in the holding cell at the Nashua Police Department, Ryan told Mederos that he wanted to talk to authorities about Packer's case. An hour-long interview was conducted and a summary of Ryan's comments were recorded, according to court documents. In addition, prosecutors filed more than 100 pages of discovery from their deposition of Ryan, which are now sealed in court.

"Mr. Ryan said Matthew seemed to want to 'get things off his chest,' yet also said that 'he was not remorseful,'" according to court records.

Defense attorneys Julia Nye and Cynthia Robinson are questioning Ryan's mental state at the time he spoke to police, noting authorities seized a hypodermic needle and a knife at the time of Ryan's arrest.

They are also questioning Ryan's criminal history, "which is relevant to his motive to cooperate with police," court documents said.

Ryan has been incarcerated 17 times in the past decade, with convictions for disorderly conduct, criminal trespassing, simple assault, theft and more.

"A deposition would allow defense counsel to review his contacts with the police," says the motion seeking deposition.

The motion was originally granted by Judge Diane Nicolosi before the state filed a separate motion objecting to the request.

Now, a hearing on the matter will be held later this month. The defense plans to introduce evidence that Packer was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder at the time of the attack and has filed a notice of defense claiming Packer was legally insane during the stabbing, according to court records. Frontiero was reportedly trying to protect two females when the stabbing took place.

Jill Arnold and Kathryn Libby, both of Nashua, were injured in the attack, as Packer is also accused of assaulting them.

He has been indicted on related charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault and attempted murder. Frontiero worked for EasCare Ambulance Service out of Dorchester, Mass., and was training to become a paramedic.

He planned to leave for the Dominican Republic for his second medical mission trip just days after his murder.

Frontiero's mother, Cathy Frontiero of Gloucester, Mass., said previously that her son died a hero, and that he was trying to save the two women from possibly being killed.

Packer's trial has been tentatively scheduled for May.

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