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Ex-principal and prime suspect in 1984 murder fights return to NH to face charge of raping adult man

New Hampshire Union Leader

July 13. 2018 10:17PM


The state’s prime suspect in the 1984 cold case murder of Christopher Bird is under arrest in Florida and fighting extradition to New Hampshire on a separate rape charge.

The Hillsborough County Attorney’s office indicted Richard Brunt, 73, of Lakeland, Fla., last month on five counts of felonious sexual assault for raping an adult man. The assault allegedly occurred in Manchester between June 1999 and June 2000. Police arrested Brunt near his Florida home June 26 and prosecutors are awaiting a governor’s warrant to have him returned to New Hampshire.

Brunt has been on the radar of Granite State law enforcement for at least a year. Florida court documents filed by the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office say that there is probable cause to believe he murdered Bird in July 1984 while the two were supposedly on a camping trip.

Bird, who was 25 at the time and living with his wife Donna in Haverhill, Mass., befriended Brunt in 1983. Brunt, then 39, was a school teacher in Massachusetts and later became a principal.

Donna Bird told investigators that the two men set out to go camping on July 26, 1984, but her husband never returned, according to court records. Brunt was the last person to report seeing him alive at D&Q Stables in Windham.

State police cold case investigators traveled to Florida in April and “confronted him with their suspicions that (he) had killed Christopher Bird,” according to court documents.

Brunt’s son, Samuel, interrupted the interviews on April 4 and 5, 2017, instructing his father not to talk to the detectives, according to court records, and saying that “he already knew, that his mother had told him years ago.”

Much of the information about Brunt’s suspected involvement in the murder comes from an affidavit from the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office that accompanied a summons request for Samuel Brunt to testify as a material witness against his father. He was asked to appear in Rockingham County Superior Court on Aug. 11, 2017, but it’s unclear whether he complied with the order.

Reached by telephone, Samuel Brunt declined to comment.

Cold case investigators on Friday declined to discuss Brunt’s involvement in the murder. State Police Sgt. Matthew Koehler said, “the cold case unit continues to actively investigate Chris Bird’s murder and that investigation has taken us outside of New Hampshire.”

Assistant Attorney General Susan Morrell said the rape indictment out of Hillsborough County is not directly related to Bird’s killing.

Files in the Hillsborough County case are sealed and Assistant County Attorney Brad Bolton said he could not comment further.


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