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Trial set to begin for man accused of killing drummer with sucker punch

By KIMBERLEY HAAS
Union Leader Correspondent

August 22. 2017 10:06PM
Eric Langlais looks over his shoulder during a pretrial hearing at Strafford County Superior Court on Tuesday. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

Mandy Patch, a co-defendant of Eric Langlais, described him as her best friend during a hearing at Strafford County Superior Court. Langlais is going on trial Wednesday. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Correspondent)

DOVER — The jury trial for a Barnstead man accused of killing a popular Seacoast drummer with a sucker punch last year starts Wednesday.

Eric Langlais is facing charges of manslaughter and felony riot after he allegedly punched James Unfonak of the band Bang N Jane in the jaw outside Gary’s Sports Bar in Rochester on Jan. 31, 2016. Unfonak, 44, of Rochester, fell to the ground and struck his head. He later died at Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Prior to jury selection Tuesday, a hearing was held before Judge Mark Howard.

The prosecution and defense each had pieces of evidence they wanted Howard to suppress.

Defense attorney Joseph Welsh argued that evidence of Unfonak’s intoxication should be considered by the jury. Welsh said Unfonak used fentanyl and was drinking, which could have impacted his balance. He has blood tests and text messages to prove it.

Howard asked Welsh if he will suggest that Unfonak’s level of impairment may have been the reason for the fall, even though Langlais punched him. Welsh said he plans on telling the jury Unfonak slipped during mutual combat.

Deputy County Attorney Timothy Sullivan said even though Unfonak used drugs and was drinking, the defense cannot establish he was intoxicated.

“He’s stumbling in the video,” Welsh argued.

Sullivan wants to admit evidence that prior to going to Gary’s Sports Bar, Langlais punched another man outside a bar in Dover. During their investigation, detectives talked with Forrest Rollins, who was with Langlais and codefendant Mandy Patch of Rochester, on the night Unfonak was punched.

Rollins told detectives that after Langlais was cut off from alcohol at Cara Irish Pub, there was an altercation outside between patron Marcus Thomas and Langlais. Bouncers told police a man matching the description of Langlais punched Thomas in the head, knocking him down, and sending him to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital.

Patch took the witness stand during the hearing Tuesday. When asked for details on the incidents in Dover and Rochester, Patch said she was drinking beer and hard liquor and could not remember much. Patch described Langlais as her best friend.

Patch and her sister, Laurie Henner of Farmington, were both charged with Class B felony riot for their alleged involvement in Unfonak’s death.

After Henner, Patch and Langlais were escorted from Gary’s Sports Bar for starting trouble, they waited for 20 minutes for Unfonak to come outside so Langlais could attack him, according to the state.

Patch was sentenced to two separate 12-month sentences, with the second suspended if she is of good behavior. Henner was sentenced to up to a year in jail.

If convicted of manslaughter, Langlais could be sentenced to 15 to 30 years in prison. He faces 3½ to 7 years for the felony riot charge.


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