BRENTWOOD — A Manchester man accused of stealing cigarettes from an Epping store clerk who collapsed and died a short time later is now facing a felony charge that could land him in state prison, prosecutors said.
Jeffrey Seymore, 27, is charged with theft by unauthorized taking for stealing cigarettes from a Cumberland Farms in Epping and two other local stores between Dec. 22 and Dec. 24.
Police and prosecutors scrutinized what kind of felony charges they could bring against Seymore following the death of Norman Blais, 67, the clerk who was working at Cumberland Farms during the theft.
The charge is punishable by up to 3 1/2 to 7 years in state prison. Seymore had initially faced only a misdemeanor for the theft. He was arrested shortly after stealing four cartons of Marlboro cigarettes on Dec. 24 from the Cumberland Farms store on Route 125 just after 10 p.m., police said. He allegedly grabbed them from the store and fled.
Blais, of Nottingham, provided police with a description of the thief, and collapsed inside the store about two hours later. Blais’ family maintained that the stress of the incident led to his death.
“I’m sure that Mr. Seymore wasn’t thinking of what the impact could have been on Mr. Blais or what could happen,” said Epping police Chief Mike Wallace. But given the amount of cigarette thefts Seymore is responsible for, “a felony-level charge is certainly justified,” Wallace said.
Wallace said he was pleased that the Rockingham County Attorney’s Office was able to bring a more serious charge in the case.
“Early on in the investigation, we contacted the Attorney General’s Office and the county attorney to look into whether we could seek felony charges for the death,” Wallace said. “Unfortunately, New Hampshire statutes doesn’t provide for that.”
Wallace said his department spoke with Jeffrey Strelzin of the Attorney General’s Office and Interim County Attorney James Boffetti. Wallace also credited prosecutor Heather Newell for working on the case.
A grand jury earlier this month handed up the felony theft by unauthorized taking charge. Prosecutors alleged that Seymore qualified for a felony charge because he targeted three businesses within a 72-hour period. Seymore also stole cartons of cigarettes from an XtraMart store in Epping and a Shell Service station in Raymond, prosecutors said. Seymore remains free on bail.