Jonathan Bijeol didn’t seem like a murderer when he spoke in a Manchester courtroom Friday.
He addressed the judge with a respectful “Ma’am” during the lengthy back and forth that judges undertake with all people pleading guilty.
Most guys on their way to prison answer with a curt “yes” or “I do.”
Not Bijeol. The 35-year-old was going away for 30 years, and his sentencing hearing was his stage. This final act was his time to strut.
Had he gone over the case with his lawyers? “I have, in depth.”
Discussed possible defenses? “Numerous times.”
He cited the Fifth Amendment. And he said he had a college degree.
Had he not been in green prison pants and a white T-shirt, you might think he was one of the lawyers beside him.
But he is a killer. A killer who chose his victim at random.
A killer who used his fists to beat a harmless Richard Carlson, 61, to death in August of 2016 at Prout Park.
The sister of Carlson was having none of Bijeol’s performance.
“You are nothing. You are scum,” said a forceful Gail Chenell, 74. She glared at him from her wheelchair as she spoke.
“I want to swear at you, but I know I can’t,” she said. “I wish somebody would kill you. I want to slap you in the face. I want to do you harm.”
Also unimpressed was Superior Court Judge Gillian Abramson. At least unimpressed with Bijeol’s eloquence.
Because after sentencing him, Abramson took the rare move of stepping down from the bench, walking past the lawyers, crouching at Chenell’s wheelchair and comforting the family.
Carlson’s murder in the early hours of a late August morning hit Manchester with a blizzard of anxiety.
It took place at a Little League baseball field, a temple of childhood innocence that is found in city parks across this country.
Carlson lived less than a half mile from the park. He was a diabetic with some mental health problems who kept to himself, said a nephew, Eric Rockwood.
Carlson used overnight walks to clear his mind and recharge himself. (And also to enjoy a cigarette or two.)
Rockwood guesses that his uncle was just sitting on the bleachers where he was found. He didn’t have any extra money.
He wouldn’t have instigated anything, Rockwood said. He was an easy target. Carlson’s death was so hideous that police had to remove a portion of the aluminum bleacher his body lay on.
The man who worked as a nursing assistant and dialysis tech in his younger years suffered broken ribs, a broken shoulder bone and broken larynx.
And the reason for his death? Drugs, specifically methamphetamine, according to sealed papers that Bijeol’s lawyers filed two weeks ago. Abramson ordered them released to reporters on Friday.
“Any psychosis that Mr. Bijeol may have experienced prior to, during, and following the death of Mr. Carlson was induced by the injection of methamphetamine,” the filing reads.
Bijeol is also a violent man.
A day after the murder, Manchester police arrested him in Massachusetts on a first-degree assault charge for hitting a woman.
In the early 2000s, Bijeol spent five years in an Arizona prison for assault with a deadly weapon. And he has done prison time for attempted robbery and drug possession.
“He made a bad life choice,” Rockwood said. “He was high on drugs, and he seemed to be pretty good at doing that because he’s been doing it for a long time.”
Few paid attention when Bijeol apologized for his actions in court. The curtain was falling on Mr. Eloquence, who will be offstage for 30 years.
Unfortunately, Carlson’s murder will replay whenever the family gathers or visits Chenell in her nursing home.
She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.
“She’s going to be asking questions about this for the rest of her life,” Rockwood said. “How did he die? Did they catch the guy? Is he in prison?”