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NH parole board internal review follows release of kidnapper now charged with Mass. woman's murder

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 15. 2018 8:51PM

The New Hampshire Adult Parole Board has opened an internal review into its decision to parole Brian Chevalier, a 51-year-old Merrimack man charged with murdering his ex-fiancee six months after his hearing with the board.

The review is standard procedure in the rare case where a parolee commits serious crimes, said Donna Sytek, the board’s chairman, in a statement. It will afford the seven-member panel the chance to examine both the circumstances of the case and its overall procedures, she said.

“The board strives to assure that all who are released are safe to be in the community, but we rely on the information we have at the time,” Sytek wrote. “Regrettably it is not always complete, and even seasoned professionals on the board, including retired law enforcement and corrections officers and former prosecutors, have been duped by an inmate who appeared to be rehabilitated but was anything but.”

At an identity hearing on Monday, a California judge affirmed that the man captured April 25 near the Mexican border is the man wanted in Massachusetts for Wendi Rose Davidson’s murder. Massachusetts still needs a governor’s warrant to transfer Chevalier back to the Bay State; that could take up to 60 days.

At the time of his release from a transitional correctional facility last year, Chevalier had served half of a maximum 30-year sentence for kidnapping another ex-girlfriend. A jury acquitted him of 10 other charges in that case, including multiple counts of sexual assault and threatening to kill the victim.

The details of that 2003 kidnapping did not come up during the Adult Parole Board’s hearing for Chevalier on Oct. 19, 2017, nor did his previous arrest in 1990 for sexually assaulting a woman. A jury acquitted Chevalier of those charges.

Several months after Chevalier’s release, he met Davidson, of North Andover, Mass., on a dating website and the two were engaged to be married before Davidson broke off the relationship in April, according to her family. Two weeks after the breakup, police found Davidson strangled to death in her apartment.

Mexican authorities caught Chevalier four days later, on April 25. He is currently being held in Imperial County, Calif.

Sytek said in her statement that she is “devastated” by Davidson’s murder and that the case will be thoroughly reviewed.

The audio recording of Chevalier’s 15-minute hearing last October does not fully capture the extent of the work that goes into making parole decisions, she added.

The board reviews inmates’ disciplinary records while incarcerated, their previous performance while on parole, the results of risk assessments, case manager recommendations, rehabilitative programs completed, and housing and employment plans, among other documents.

The offender’s indictment is often, but not always, included in the information packet and the board reviews a list of previous charges and convictions, although the list does not contain details of the crimes, Sytek added.

“I realize there is nothing we can say or do to comfort a grieving family, but the public should be assured that the board is doing its best with available information to determine if an inmate is ready for return to the community,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, we don’t always get it right. In the end, parole board members cannot measure or predict the darkness in a parolee’s heart. We will take the Chevalier case and strive to learn as much as we possibly can from it.”


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