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Family of victim tells killer, 'I hope you rot in hell'

Special to the Union Leader

February 21. 2013 7:16PM
Convicted killer Robert LaCombe and his attorney, New Hampshire Public Defender Caroline Smith, listen as the victims; family give impact statements at LaComber's sentencing hearing Thursday. (BOB HOOKWAY)

HAVERHILL - The killer of a young Grafton couple who had befriended, fed and supported him before he turned on them was vilified by a steady parade of the couple's family members Thursday in Grafton County Superior Court.

Robert R. LaCombe wept at several points during the sentencing hearing and told the family and friends of William Hatch, 24 and Crystal Farnham, 23 - who he shot to death in a vicious 2011 attack at their home - that he expected them to hate him forever. But, LaCombe added, "None of you hate me worse than I hate myself."

Judge Timothy J. Vaughan then sentenced LaCombe to 55 years to life for the two murders.

"Life in prison is very difficult, and not a lot of people survive to age 80," Vaughan told the 26-year-old.

Five years of LaCombe's term could be deferred after he serves 10 years; five more at 20 years, and an additional five at the 25-year mark. Illustrating how long it would be before he could earn the 15 years, Vaughan told him, the judge who eventually makes those determinations, "may well be a judge who's not yet born."

Will Hatch's stepfather, Kenneth Carter Sr., looked across the courtroom and told LaCombe he was "getting off very light."

He noted that the majority of the couple's family did not agree with the state's sentencing deal. LaCombe, originally charged with first-degree murder, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

"If there was a firing squad to settle an argument like this, I would like to pull the trigger myself," Carter said. "You see all the people he's hurt. It's terrible that he's wasted three lives; theirs and his."

According to police, witnesses and prosecutors, the young couple took LaCombe, who had spent most of his life in Florida into their home for some four months, giving him a place to live and feeding and otherwise supporting him.

Senior Assistant New Hampshire Attorney General Janice Rundles told Vaughn Thursday that LaCombe was addicted to methadone, was jobless, and before coming to New Hampshire, had been sponging off his elderly grandparents at a Florida retirement community. She said the dispute at the Island Road home in Grafton on the night of June 24, 2011, that ended with LaCombe shooting Hatch and Farnham numerous times was over LaCombe's continued freeloading.

"The victims were fed up with the defendant and wanted him to leave," Rundles said.

Relatives said Thursday that Crystal Farnham loved helping people, wanted to be a nurse, and worked at Hanover Terrace caring for elderly patients. Will Hatch, meanwhile, was a talented carpenter, according to statements in court.

Will Hatch's father, John Hatch Sr., told LaCombe his son and his fiancée had given him "a chance to be someone.

"You are somebody now. A murderer!" he told LaCombe.

"If you decide to take your own life, you have my blessing," the elder Hatch concluded.

"I hate you! I will never forgive you at all," Crystal Hatch's mother, Lisa Hamel, told LaCombe. "You shot my daughter as she was trying to get away from you. You took money out of their pockets as they laid on the floor. You took their Jeep. You took two lives with your selfish addiction," she said.

She continued: "You're always trying to play everyone. The game is up. I hope you rot in hell."

With public defender Caroline Smith at his side, LaCombe rose and said. "I don't know what to say; Will was like a brother to me. I've destroyed you guys, I've destroyed my father. If you think I have no remorse or that I don't care, you're wrong. I'll always love them. I never wanted this; I never wanted this," he said.

As deputy sheriffs led LaCombe from the courtroom, someone shouted from the gallery, "Enjoy your life in hell, buddy!"

The sentence, to be served at New Hampshire State Prison in Concord, was part of an agreement last month between LaCombe and the New Hampshire Attorney General's Office. To shave 15 years off the minimum sentence, LaCombe's prison behavior must include no major disciplinary violations that include the use of drugs or violence.

The judge gave him credit for the 606 days he has spent in the Grafton County jail in North Haverhill.

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