Hollis man sentenced for murdering wife
NASHUA - A Hollis man on Monday pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the killing his estranged wife in 2009.
Gary Marchand was originally charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of his wife Phyllis, 45, after her body was discovered in the bathtub of the couple's Hollis home in September 2009.
On Monday Marchand pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of second-degree murder at Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua and was sentenced to 25 years to life in New Hampshire State Prison. The state reduced the charge and recommended the sentence in return for the guilty plea.
Before sentencing, Judge Diane Nicolosi commented on Marchand's apparent lack of remorse.
"I don't think I have ever taken a plea in a case such as this without some kind of apology to the people who suffered such a great loss," Nicolosi said.
Calling it a brutal murder with a defense that included efforts to tarnish the victim, Nicolosi said she didn't see much in the record that would ever warrant the type of rage shown.
Taking into consideration Marchand's history of depression and the fact that he initially raised an insanity defense, Nicolosi pressed to make sure he understood all aspects of the plea bargain.
"Are you resolved that this is in your best interest?" Nicolosi asked.
After a long pause Marchand said he has not been able to deal with his psychological issues during his 3½-year incarceration and still doesn't understand his feelings. But, Marchand said, he has weighed the issues and all possible outcomes before taking the plea bargain.
Attorney Sarah Newhall said her client understood and was comfortable with his decision.
"I just feel that going through with the trial would be more abuse to me than what I could cope with," Marchand said.
Relatives of Phyllis Marchand, displaying anger and grief, said the sentence was not long enough. Patricia Simpson tearfully described her sister as a kind woman who went out of her way to help others.
"Ever since her brutal murder, the hardest thing is for me to get out of bed every day and face another day," Simpson said.
Younger brother Thomas Simpson said his sister was a small woman with little hope of defending herself against the much larger Marchand. His children lost the opportunity to have their Aunt Phyllis in their lives, Simpson said.
"Her kindness killed her," Simpson said. "We all told her to stay away from him, but she wanted to make sure that everything that needed to be taken care of was taken care of."
Simpson read a statement from his wife, Krista, describing Phyllis as a woman who brought joy to everyone. Calling the murder a devastating loss for the entire family, Simpson wrote that Marchand should never be allowed out of prison.
"It is beyond my comprehension how a person could do this to another person," Simpson wrote.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Janice Rundles said that a 25-year sentence was at the low end of the scale but given the defendant's age she felt it was acceptable. She requested and received a no-contact order preventing Marchand from trying to communicate with any member of the victim's family.
"I think it is clear that we consider this to be a quintessential example of an abusive marriage," Rundles said.
Prosecutors said the victim was an abused wife who returned to the home she shared with Marchand after leaving him to help prepare the property for sale and to assist Marchand with finances, resume writing and other chores.
Had the trial gone forward, prosecutors said they would have presented evidence that on Sept. 25, 2009, Marchand asked a friend for a ride to Southern New Hampshire Medical Center to treat some cuts on his arm. Phyllis Marchand did not live in the home at the time but the friend noticed her car was in the driveway as it was the day before. The friend contacted police after Marchand admitted that he had killed Phyllis three days earlier, Prosecutors said.
Two Hollis police officers found blood and footprints in the kitchen and blood in the hallway leading to the bath where they found Phyllis Marchand's bound, beaten and cut body in the tub covered with a shower curtain. Prosecutors said she died of asphyxiation.
The scene showed signs of a cleanup attempt, prosecutors said.
The state also said it had security photos of Marchand purchasing bleach, surveillance video of him getting cash at an ATM, and a Walmart receipt for a cash box. The box and over $4,000 cash was later turned over to police by the friend who said Marchand gave it to him with instructions to take care of Marchand's mother.
Evidence would show that Marchand's sneakers matched the prints in the kitchen and that the victim's blood was found on men's jeans and sneakers in the house and on a knife in the kitchen, Prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys agreed with the manner of death and that it resulted from Marchand's actions but had a different characterization of the marriage.
"It was apparent early on that the two probably should not have been together," Defense Attorney Caroline Smith in a prepared statement read in court.
The couple unsuccessfully sought counseling, Smith said. After purchasing a larger home finances went downhill and Phyllis began selling items online to help meet the mortgage, Smith said. Stress affected Gary's work performance and he lost his job. After Phyllis left him, Marchand realized that several of his items had been sold. On the day of the murder Marchand was suicidal but projected his despair on his estranged wife, Smith said.
"It became a rage. It became an explosion and it caused her death," Smith said.
While there is no excuse and her client is responsible for what he did, many factors contributed to his actions, Smith said.
Initially Marchand claimed to be insane at the time of the killing but said he would not produce an expert witness as to his insanity. He instead planned to provide testimony from five physicians who provided psychiatric treatment for him prior to the murder.
Marchand's claim that requiring a psychological evaluation by the state's expert violated his right against self-incrimination was upheld by a lower court ruling that requiring the exam was unconstitutional.
In August 2012, a Supreme Court ruling overturned the lower court's decision but stipulated that prosecutors could only use the exam results to rebut the insanity claim, not as proof that he committed the crime.
As part of the plea deal, Marchand will reimburse the Victims Compensation Fund $4,268 for funeral expenses. Money from the confiscated cash box paid a majority of the debt with the remaining $985 coming from Marchand's Fidelity account.