By Hadley Barndollar, Staff Writer
Should participation in education programs be reason for a reduction in inmates’ sentences? A nearly three-decade-old case that hits close to home for University of New Hampshire students has recently caused this question to be posed to the justice system.
In 1987, Gary Fecteau, known as the “UNH rapist,” was arrested after assaulting three women. Two were University of New Hampshire students. The crimes took place in both Dover and Durham, according to reports by Seacoastonline.com. Fecteau was initially arrested in 1987 when he broke into a Dover home in the attempt to rape a teenage girl. The girl’s father subdued Fecteau until the police arrived.
In the original trial that took place in 1989, Fecteau, formerly of Newmarket, was convicted of one count of aggravated felony-level sexual assault, one count of attempted aggravated felony-level sexual assault, and two counts of burglary, according to court documents. He was sentenced to at least 26 years in prison.
On Thursday, April 9, Fecteau appeared for a hearing at the Strafford County Superior Court, where he requested a sentence reduction of one year because he has completed two college courses while imprisoned. A new law, New Hampshire House Bill 649, was passed last year stating that, under a judge’s discretion, credit can be given to inmates for completing certain education programs.
In a brief written by the Associated Press in December 2012 shortly after a parole hearing, Fecteau told the board, “I have tried to live down my horrendous acts of 1987.” Referred to in the same AP brief, Fecteau’s lawyer, Michael Iacopino, explained to the board that Fecteau was “aware” of the harm he had brought to his victims.
Stafford County Attorney Thomas Velardi made a statement in 2010 referring to Fecteau as ‘one of the most dangerous criminals his office had prosecuted in 30 years.’ When asked if he remains with the comment, Velardi is persistent.
“It is a fact,” Velardi said. “If you look at his conduct, he’s a serial rapist. And that’s what he was sentenced for.”
While Velardi does see that the new law gives inmates incentives to make better use of his or her time, he is headstrong that Fecteau’s education efforts are not a just cause for a reduced sentence.
“In the 80’s, the judge said [to Fecteau], ‘I am going to give you as much time as I can so I can keep the public safe,’” Velardi said. “I question the wisdom to shortening his sentence by any extent.”
Dover Police Chief Anthony Colarusso Jr. also corroborates with the idea. Colarusso investigated the case in 1987 when he was new to the department.
“I strongly feel that Gary Fecteau should serve his full sentence without reduction,” Colarusso said. “Offenses such as the ones he committed are rare in that he stalked his victims, who were total strangers. He is stressing his “model behavior” in prison as the reason for early release. My concern is, what happens when he is released?  I believe the longer he is incarcerated the safer the community may be.”
There is currently no deadline for the judge’s decision on the possibility of a lesser sentence for Fecteau.
Follow Hadley on Twitter: @hbarndollar

Executive Editor