NASHUA, N.H. (AP) – A teenager who volunteered to murder a friend’s abusive stepfather 21 years ago was driven by anger over revelations of incest in his own family, court records show.

Eric Windhurst, now 38, of Hopkinton, pleaded guilty Monday to second-degree murder in the 1985 death of Danny Paquette and was sentenced to a minimum 15-year prison term. The maximum is 36 years.

Windhurst had said previously he was trying to protect Melanie Paquette, a fellow student at Hopkinton High School who claimed Danny Paquette had raped and abused her. She had recently returned from Alaska, where her mother had moved after ending an abusive marriage to Danny Paquette.

But court documents released Monday indicate that privately, Windhurst told a different story resulting from his own family crisis.

Shortly before Melanie Paquette confided in him, Windhurst, then 17, had learned two older sisters actually were half-sisters from his mother’s previous marriage. They had confronted their stepfather, John Windhurst – Eric Windhurst’s own father – with sexual-abuse accusations. The father was never charged.

“He did believe that his father had done it. He said his anger was probably what allowed him to kill (Paquette). He says he’s not angry anymore,” according to grand jury testimony in 2004 from Heather Bouchard, Windhurst’s former girlfriend. “(Melanie Paquette) had said that she wanted him dead and so that’s what happened.”

Bouchard, who was granted immunity, testified that Windhurst told her he chopped up the rifle used to kill Danny Paquette and scattered its pieces during a cross-country drive to Colorado when he was 19. She also said Windhurst was overwhelmed with guilt over Paquette’s death and was “ready to face the music,” yet had asked her to lie for him to authorities.

Windhurst had never met Danny Paquette when he shot him dead at a distance outside his Hooksett home. He had met Melanie Paquette, then 15, just two months earlier in Hopkinton, where she was living with an aunt and uncle.

Monday, relatives of Danny Paquette jeered when Windhurst stood to say “I’m sorry.”

“Turn around!” a nephew yelled. “Spit it out!”

“I have no words to express how sorry I am for what I’ve done,” said Windhurst, looking at the Paquette family. “I hope someday you can forgive me.”

As Windhurst left the court room, the nephew, Doug Paquette, called out, “See you, loser.”

“Eric Windhurst pronounced himself judge and jury and executioner of Danny Paquette,” read a statement from Danny’s brother, Victor Paquette. “Eric, I now promise you that my family will take every opportunity to remind the court of what a cold-blooded killer you really are.”

Windhurst’s first-degree murder trial had been scheduled to begin Aug. 28. Last week, after a judge said he was leaning toward rejecting Windhurst’s self-defense argument, lawyers announced a plea agreement.

Prosecutors said they agreed to the plea because of Windhurst’s age at the time of the shooting and the circumstances and difficulty of proving an old case. A plea also eliminates the possibility of retrials and appeals.

“This plea ends almost 21 years of uncertainty,” said senior assistant Attorney General Jeff Strelzin.

Judge Robert Lynn accepted the plea, crediting Windhurst with 251 days served since his arrest last December.

Victor Paquette had said last week he was upset with the plea deal and accused prosecutors of protecting Windhurst’s prominent family and Melanie’s aunt, Merrimack County Superior Judge Kathleen McGuire.

At the time of the shooting, McGuire was an assistant attorney general and Melanie Paquette was living with McGuire and her husband, who were seeking to become her guardians.

However, when the judge asked Monday whether anyone objected to the plea bargain, no one spoke. Afterward, Victor Paquette said that further court proceedings “would only create more heartache for this family.”

“You have to at some point just accept that this is as good as it’s going to get,” he said.

Victor Paquette also has denied the sexual abuse allegations against his brother.

Paquette said the next step is to go after Melanie Paquette, now married and living in Evanston, Wyo., who has admitted being nearby when Danny Paquette was shot. Melanie Paquette Cooper has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of hindering apprehension in exchange for cooperating in the Windhurst investigation.

“We have succeeded with Eric and now we will deal with his coconspirator Melanie,” he said.

Prosecutors said Melanie Paquette didn’t believe Windhurst would go through with the murder until he called her on the morning of Nov. 9, 1985, and told her he was going to “do it.” Windhurst picked her up and they drove to Hooksett. Standing in the woods, Windhurst told Paquette “that when the flavor from his gum was gone, he was going to go do it,” Strelzin said.

After the shooting, Windhurst and Paquette agreed that if anyone questioned them, they would say they had spent the day at a field hockey game in Plymouth.

Paquette and Windhurst didn’t speak after the shooting, but they didn’t stay quiet about what had happened, prosecutors said. Paquette told her mother and the nanny hired by McGuire. Besides Bouchard, Windhurst’s siblings, their spouses and some high school friends also knew, Strelzin said.

Despite that, Paquette’s death went unsolved for years, even though anonymous letters sent to police and Paquette’s family in 1992 named Windhurst as the killer. Investigators got a break in 2004, when Melanie agreed to cooperate. Her taped phone call to Windhurst led to his arrest.

“When Eric Windhurst committed his supremely unconscionable act, and pulled that trigger 20 year ago, he thought he got away with it,” said a statement from Danny Paquette’s sister-in-law and niece. “But he was wrong. Someone never stopped looking for you.”

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