EPPING — Police aren’t ruling out filing additional charges against an accused thief charged with stealing cigarettes from a local store clerk who later died after suffering an apparent heart attack.
Police Chief Michael Wallace said the case is still open and investigators will likely have further discussions with the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office before deciding how to proceed.
However, he said it would be difficult to bring a charge against suspected thief Jeffery Seymore that links the theft to the death of clerk Norman Blais.
“It was a tragic event. It’s something that never should have happened, and our heart goes out to the family and we feel bad for the family. However, when it comes to prosecuting somebody for an offense more serious than the theft, we have to prove intent. That’s very hard to prove,” Wallace said.
Blais, 67, of Nottingham, died on Christmas Day — just two hours after Seymore allegedly entered the Cumberland Farms on Route 125 just after 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve and stole four cartons of cigarettes.
Police said Seymore, 27, of Manchester, fled the store and was found a short time later in Raymond, where he was arrested and charged in connection with the theft.
Blais’ wife, Denise, told the New Hampshire Union Leader last week that it appears her husband of 19 years died of a heart attack. He called her to come to the store after the theft had shaken him up. She said the theft scared him and put him behind schedule. He collapsed two hours later as he quickly tried to finish up his work so that he could leave by midnight, she said.
Denise Blais insisted that the theft contributed to her husband’s death, and she wants Seymore held accountable.
But police said filing “anything more severe than a theft charge is an uphill battle and very hard to prove at this point in the investigation.”
Wallace said the case remains under investigation, and that police will await the results of an autopsy and lab reports before consulting further with the county attorney’s office.
Police contacted interim Rockingham County Attorney Jim Boffetti immediately after the death to seek guidance.
Boffetti, who heads up the consumer protection bureau at the state Attorney General’s Office, is filling in for embattled County Attorney Jim Reams after he was suspended in November.
“I would be happy to revisit it with Epping,” he said of the theft case.
Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Strelzin, who handles homicide cases for the state, said his office is not involved the Epping case. If additional charges are pursued, Strelzin said they would come from the county attorney’s office.