Epping police chief says of store clerk's death, 'If there are any charges we can increase or bring forward...we will'
EPPING — Police Chief Michael Wallace assured selectmen this week that police are thoroughly investigating the case of a Cumberland Farms clerk who died of an apparent heart attack two hours after a man allegedly stole cigarettes from the store.
Wallace briefed selectmen on the investigation into the death of 67-year-old Norman Blais of Nottingham at a board meeting Tuesday night.
"I can tell you this, and I can assure you, from the very beginning we have taken the necessary steps to make sure if there are any charges that we can increase or bring forward … we will," he told selectmen.
The meeting came a week after selectmen voiced concern about the case and whether the accused thief could face more serious charges.
Jeffrey Seymore, 27, of Manchester, was charged with theft after allegedly stealing four cartons of cigarettes from the store on Christmas Eve. He was scheduled to be arraigned today at 8 a.m. in the Brentwood Circuit Court.
Blais' wife, Denise, has said the theft scared her husband and caused him to get backed up with his work that night.
After speaking with police and providing a description of the suspect that was used to apprehend him a short time later in Raymond, Blais returned to his work and was trying to finish things quickly before his midnight shift ended. His wife said he collapsed inside the store just after midnight.
She said it appears he suffered a fatal heart attack and feels the stress of the theft contributed to his death.
Wallace said he was notified of the incident and the death soon after it happened. Police contacted Acting Rockingham County Attorney James Boffetti, who is also a member of the state Attorney General's Office, on Dec. 26 to discuss the case, Wallace said.
"At that time he did not think there was enough to bring (more serious) charges against the individual responsible for the theft," Wallace said.Wallace said police received a state medical examiner's report on Blais' death and that further tests were pending because it was "inconclusive."A representative from the medical examiner's office said Wednesday the case is still pending because a final cause of death has not yet been determined. Wallace said police will revisit the case with Boffetti to see if charges can be upgraded once a final report on the death is available.He also reminded selectmen about the challenges of trying to prosecute the case if police were to bring charges alleging that the theft caused the death. "When you look at the statutes under the homicide statute, every one says 'causes the death of' and that's the hurdle right now we're trying to get over," he said. "I know there are some people out there who say, 'Well he did cause the death,' but it's not that easy. You've still got to be able to prove these things as well."Selectman Jim McGeough, who expressed outrage over the death last week and called on police to investigate all options, praised police for their handling of the case so far. He said he felt police did "an outstanding job" and wants to make sure "people in town know that we don't turn the other way."