Canadian court to extradite 2 to New Hampshire in '88 deaths

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Posted: Apr 24, 2015 2:53 PM
Canadian court to extradite 2 to New Hampshire in '88 deaths

NASHUA, N.H. (AP) — The Supreme Court of Canada has ordered the extradition of two men to New Hampshire to face murder charges in the deaths of two women nearly 27 years ago.

The ruling followed a hearing Thursday on Anthony Barnaby and David Caplin. They are Canadian Micmac Indians who were working construction in Nashua when Charlene Ranstrom, 48, and Brenda Warner, 32, were bound, beaten and stabbed to death in their home in October 1988.

Police said new DNA evidence and witnesses justify extradition. The Canadian government ordered their removal in 2011, but their cases have been under appeal since then.

Three juries failed to convict or acquit Barnaby, the last time in 1990. Prosecutors at Barnaby's trials argued that he killed the women because he disliked their lesbian lifestyle and had a long-standing feud with them over parking spaces and damage to their apartment. Officials dropped first-degree murder charges against Caplin after courts threw out much of the evidence. Prosecutors at the time said the balance of their evidence against him was circumstantial.

"It's about time," Warner's older brother, Leslie Warner, of Manchester, said of the looming extradition.

He said the past 27 years have been horrible for the victims' families, and he and his siblings hope the new evidence will finally lead to a conviction.

"My mother died of a broken heart — my dad as well," said Warner, 68. "My older sister died. It was just horrible the way this happened. It was a blow to my life losing a younger sister so I kept strong. I kept my faith up even after they went to Canada."

Nashua detectives, with the support of the cold-case unit at the attorney general's office, agreed to reopen the investigation in 2010. They reinterviewed witnesses, which led them to new information. They also had advanced forensic tests done on blood and hairs at the crime scene, linking one hair on Warner's body directly to Caplin.

"I'm very happy about the court's decision to extradite these two men," said Frank Bourgeois, a recently retired Nashua police detective sergeant who led a cold-case investigation into the deaths. "We put a lot of hard work into this case."

Mark Sisti, who defended Barnaby years ago and worked on his extradition case, said he's stunned it is being resuscitated. "It's absolutely outrageous," he said. "I can't even imagine this thing coming back here."

Sisti said no one in New Hampshire has ever been tried four times for the same crime.

Susan Morrell of the state attorney general's office, who prosecuted the cases, said she anticipated the two would be extradited in June.

Leslie Warner remains cautious about a conviction; the family has had its hopes raised before only to suffer through three mistrials. Despite those outcomes, he has no doubt about who killed his sister and Ranstrom.

"I know it's these two guys. I know it," he said. "I knew it was them because my sister was telling me about them before she died because they were ruthless. They were very, very mean."

Prosecutors in Canada argued before the Supreme Court that a fourth trial might be unusual but was not necessarily an abuse.

Sisti said there's a long way to go before the two men get in front of another jury.

"What's being set up now is extensive pretrial litigation, reconstruction of the case itself, reopening all of these avenues of investigation, reinterviewing everybody, transcribing and delivering all of the transcripts of all three trials," he said. "It's going to go on for quite a while."

Sisti said witnesses in the case have died, and "all of our police reports and notes and transcripts burned in a fire at my office in 1994."