Gregory Despres, shown in this image from television at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine. (CP PHOTO ARCHIVES/ WHDH-TV)
WASHINGTON (CP) - A New Brunswick man who arrived at the U.S. border toting a red-stained chainsaw faces a hearing Thursday on whether he should be returned to Canada for trial in the murder of an elderly couple - a country musician who was beheaded and his spouse who was stabbed.
Lawyer Michael Andrews, appointed to represent Gregory Despres, 23, said he expects the extradition hearing in Boston federal court to be brief.
"'There's not a lot of grounds to fight extradition," said Andrews, who has raised the issue of his client's mental competency.
"There's not a lot to contest," Andrews said. "I'm not convinced it wouldn't be in his best interests to go back."
Despres has been charged with two courts of first-degree murder in Canada. He's been in a jail in Plymouth, Mass., since his arrest April 27, two days after he entered the country.
Residents in Minto, N.B., where the gruesome attack occurred, say they cannot believe Despres was allowed into the United States after arriving at the border with a backpack full of weapons.
Just a month earlier, Despres was convicted of uttering threats and assault with a weapon after he had pulled a knife on a grandson of one of the victims. Many Minto residents say they don't understand why Despres wasn't locked up then.
The case has prompted a judicial review in Canada and embarrassing headlines in the United States, where editorials, cartoonists and Web bloggers wondered what U.S. Customs officials were thinking when they let Despres through.
There's tremendous anger in Minto, resident Dave Austin said.
"It should never have happened," said Austin, second cousin of murder victim Fred Fulton, 74, a popular local country musician who was beheaded. Fulton's common-law partner, Verna Decarie, 70, was stabbed to death. The attack likely happened in the early morning hours of April 24.
"It's still very sensitive," Austin said. "Fred's daughter is in severe trauma. She's the one who found him."
Despres, a Canadian-born, naturalized U.S. citizen who was the elderly couple's next-door neighbour, showed up at the border April 25 with a chainsaw that had red stains on it. He also had a home-made sword with an engraved swastika, a hatchet, a knife, a mouth guard, two brass knuckles and a can of pepper spray.
William Heffelfinger, a senior U.S. Customs official, said last month that Despres was stripped of his weapons, fingerprinted and questioned for about three hours. Despres boasted he was a "trained sniper with over 700 kills," Heffelfinger said.
The Minto deaths had not yet been discovered at the time.
U.S. officials and an RCMP officer at the border knew Despres was supposed to be sentenced in Canada that day for assault and making death threats. But as there was no warrant for his arrest, they apparently thought there was no legal reason to detain him.
Gary Toft, spokesman for New Brunswick's justice department, said a judicial review of why Despres was out on bail while awaiting sentencing on a violent crime hasn't been completed. Relatives of the victims requested the review in May.
New Brunswick Attorney General Brad Green said the province was considering a larger inquiry into events that led to the murders.
Despres was first arrested in August 2004 after waving a knife at Fulton's grandson, Fred Mowat.
According to an RCMP report, Despres was angry he had no water and blamed it on Fulton, although there was something wrong with the local well and no one in the area had water at the time.
Despres was charged with uttering threats and assault with a weapon. He was convicted March 16 but allowed to go free pending sentencing on April 25 - the day he crossed into the United States.
In a pre-sentence report, a probation officer said he had concerns about Despres's "mental wellness" and suggested he receive community supervision and be restricted from carrying weapons.
The next day, April 26, Fulton's daughter Debbie Mowat went to her father's house. She found his head in a pillowcase under the kitchen table, his body lying in a massive pool of blood.
An RCMP report said the back door of Fulton's house was kicked in. Decarie, found in the bedroom, was stabbed repeatedly.
Fulton was also stabbed, said the report, but sought cover in the bathroom before trying to escape to the porch. He was apparently dragged back into the house and ultimately beheaded.