Bijeol held over for preliminary hearing in second-degree murder of Richard Carlson

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Jonathan Bijeol: A troubled life, a tragic outcome.
Jonathan Bijeol appeared at an arraigment Jan. 30 in Manchester District Court on second-degree murder charges.
Jonathan Bijeol appeared at an arraignment Jan. 30 in Manchester District Court on second-degree murder charges. Photo/Carol Robidoux

MANCHESTER, NH – Jonathan “Frenchy” Bijeol, 34, appeared in District Court Monday for a brief arraignment on a second-degree murder charge in the beating death of Richard Carlson, 61. A preliminary hearing was set for Feb. 8 at 8:30 a.m.

It is Bijeol’s most recent and serious crime, but far from his first encounter with the law.

Bijeol was escorted into the courtroom, where several of Richard Carlson’s family members were gathered. He was not shackled and was wearing a dark green jumpsuit. He has been held at the State Prison in Concord since his arrest on an unrelated incident – a warrant issued Aug. 27 for a first-degree assault of a woman, which occurred Aug. 25, 2016, at a Laval Street address.

That was three days before Richard Calson’s bruised and battered body was found by the bleachers at Prout Park. According to the Attorney General’s office Mr. Carlson was beaten on the head, face, neck, and upper torso.

Years of incarceration and addiction

Jonathan Bijeol's mug shot from 2000 in Arizona.
Jonathan Bijeol’s mug shot from 2000 in Arizona.

Bijeol was first incarcerated as an adult in 2001 at age 18 in Arizona and sentenced to serve five years for an aggravated assault conviction.  During his time in prison Bijeol also was cited more than two dozen times for a variety of disciplinary actions – from giving tattoos and drug possession, to manufacturing a deadly weapon, fighting and theft.

He was paroled and eventually made his way back to New Hampshire. In 2012 he was arrested for attempted armed robbery and endangering the welfare of a child, after a loaded gun was found in a stroller he was pushing. The child, who belonged to his companion, was in the stroller. Bijeol was stopped by police for questioning related to a report that he attempted to rob two men at gunpoint.

He was convicted and served time and was released from NH State prison in 2014.

Bijoel's 2012 mugshot, after his arrest in Manchester.
Bijeol’s 2012 mug shot, after his arrest in Manchester.

In an interview with Manchester Ink Link in Aug. of 2015, Bijeol was up front about his past crimes. He said he considered himself a ward of the state since childhood, in and out of foster care, diagnosed and treated for ADHD at age 9, always struggling to find a sense of permanence, security and peace. He said he took the route of self-medication to ease his anxieties and his other mental and psychological disorders.

After his release from NH State Prison in 2014, Bijeol said he had overdosed multiple times until an overdose on Father’s Day of 2015 was his “wake-up” call. He sought help for the first time at rehab. The Farnum Center told him there was a three-week wait for a bed, so he connected with Hope for NH Recovery while waiting for a bed. Once he got into Farnum, he lasted 18 of the 28-day program before signing himself out.

At the time he said he was disappointed in the program – his first counselor left early on and he had to start over with a new counselor, who didn’t seem to know anything about his case. He was on an approved suboxone maintenance program when he entered, but said he felt like he had to fight every day to get his prescribed medications.

During the next year Bijeol became involved with some local treatment and recovery outreaches, including HOPE for NH and Helping Hands, but in a follow-up interview in January of 2016, admitted that he never was able to rise above his addiction.

Amy Lafreniere has had a hard time understanding why Bijeol attacked her with a crowbar. She and her boyfriend, Michael Vincent, understand too well the cycle of addiction. Vincent has a son he hasn’t seen in years and has struggled in the past with addiction. Lafreniere is a felon, who has also struggled with addiction. She has given up all three of her daughters for adoption.

Michael Vincent intervened when Jonathan Bijeol attacked his girlfriend, Amy Lafreniere, with a crowbar.
Michael Vincent intervened when Jonathan Bijeol attacked his girlfriend, Amy Lafreniere, with a crowbar.

But there is a distinction between those who struggle with addiction and the hard-knock life that goes with it, and those who cause harm to others, they say. Bijeol struck Lafreniere two times in the head with a crowbar as she folded laundry at a friend’s house. It was unprovoked violence, fueled by drugs, says Lafreniere.

Word on the street was that he attacked another woman two days earlier, although Lafreniere believes that crime was never reported to police. “Snitches get stitches,” she says.

Despite her current dire straits, she believes she’s lucky to be alive.

“If Michael hadn’t stopped him from hitting me a third time, I know I’d be dead,” says Lafreniere.

According to the police report of the Aug. 25 attack, Lafreniere was visiting a Laval Street residence of a friend that evening. She worked there sometimes cleaning house.

Bijeol was staying at the apartment, also – a friend of the landlord, but Lafreniere says she and Vincent didn’t really know him.

“We had met him briefly the night before, but we didn’t know anything about him,” Lafreniere said.

Amy Lafreniere was attacked inside a Laval Street residence on Aug. 25.
Amy Lafreniere was attacked inside a Laval Street residence on Aug. 25.

According to court records, just before the assault, Lafreniere called her boyfriend, Vincent, to tell him that she felt uneasy because Bijeol was “pacing the hallways and walking between the first and second floors.”

Lafreniere said she had a bad feeling. She didn’t know Bijeol, and her friend had stepped out, leaving her alone except for another resident of the house, who was asleep.

She didn’t trust him, and he was behaving strangely.

“Jon was obliterated, meth and heroin,” says Vincent. “She texted me and said she was worried. I had just gotten out of work at Complete Labor and cashed my check. Luckily, I was able to get a ride over there.”

Vincent arrived at the Laval Street residence just minutes before the assault.

“I walked in and Jon was in the living room. Amy and I walked into one of the bedrooms, and he followed us in there. He was just standing next to me and was just staring at me weirdly, and then he says, ‘Are we gonna do this?’ I had no idea what he was talking about.”

They excused themselves and went back into the living room.

“We just wanted to get out of there,” says Vincent.

Lafreniere went to finish up folding some clothes she was going to take with her when Bijeol walked up behind her and started hitting her with the crowbar. Vincent says as soon as he saw what was happening, he ran over and grabbed the crowbar as Bijeol was about to hit Lafreniere a third time.

Amy Lafreniere's head wound after she says she was attacked with a crowbar by Jonathan Bijeol.
Amy Lafreniere’s head wound from an attack with a crowbar by Jonathan Bijeol on Aug. 25, 2016.

“I knocked the crowbar out of his hand and then I grabbed him by the head, and put a chokehold on him,” says Vincent, who served in the Army and has worked as a bouncer for years. “I threw him against a wall, and then another wall, then I threw him into a TV, and he just kept coming back at me. He had something in his hand, which I took for a knife, and he was trying to jab me in the chest with it. At that point, I realized the only option was to use lethal force.”

Vincent says he had Bijeol in another chokehold and was determined to stop him once and for all when someone pulled the two men apart.

The other person, who was also staying at the Laval Street residence, ushered Bijeol out of the apartment. He disappeared into the night.

The couple went back to the Cadillac Motel, where they were living at the time, and called 911. Lafreniere was taken for treatment of her head wound. A warrant was issued for Bijeol’s arrest on the assault.

On Aug. 29 Bijeol was arrested by police in Andover, Mass., charged with breaking and entering during the nighttime for a felony larceny. Bijeol gave a false name during booking. But once his true identity was revealed, it led to his extradition on a warrant back to New Hampshire as a fugitive from justice for the assault on Lafreniere.

Bijeol was booked on Sept. 1 on the assault charge and remained incarcerated at the NH State Prison in Concord. Investigators linked him to the homicide in Manchester, and on Jan. 27, 2017, he was charged with second-degree murder.

Their case isn’t resolved yet – they have a meeting next week with the County Attorney’s office. In the meantime, they say they just want to get on with their lives, but they have little to build on right now. They’ve moved several times already during the month of January, and their time at a local rooming house is running out.

They aren’t sure where they will land.

Vincent works as a bouncer at a local night club eight hours a week, where he also does some maintenance. Lafreniere receives disability, and her medical bills have been covered by a victim’s assistance fund.

They depend on one another for survival. “He’s my hero,” says Lafreniere.

The two have known each other for 17 years, and been together as a couple for seven.

Lafrieniere and Vincent say they are glad Bijeol is off the street.  But they both say they continue to struggle – physically, psychologically and morally – since the assault.

“We have no delusions of a happy life. It’s just not going to happen for us,” says Vincent. “Since this happened, I have trouble sleeping. She’s woken me up out of a dead sleep because of nightmares. At the point I had him in a choke hold, and was intent on using lethal force, I looked right into his eyes, and now that’s all I can see, whether I’m awake or asleep,” Vincent says. “I keep thinking if I had done what I set out to do, Jon would be dead and Richard would still be alive. That’s hard to live with.”

Eric Rockwood, nephew of murder victim Richard Carlson, speaks with Brigit Feeney, who serves as a victim advocate for the NH Department of Justice, following the Jan. 28 arraignment of Jonathan Bijeol.
Eric Rockwood, nephew of murder victim Richard Carlson, speaks with Brigit Feeney, who serves as a victim advocate for the NH Department of Justice, following the Jan. 28 arraignment of Jonathan Bijeol.

Following Bijeol’s Jan. 30 arraignment, Richard Carlson’s nephew, Eric Rockwood, spoke briefly on behalf of the family. He expressed the persistent grief they feel, and that the loss of their uncle remains a senseless tragedy.

The question that remains unanswered is simply, “why.” Rockwood said his uncle was a good and gentle man who didn’t deserve to die this way.

“He helped raise me and my brother, he helped a lot of the family, especially when it came to the kids – he was fantastic with the kids. This guy was an upstanding guy,” said Rockwood of Carlson, who was his mother’s brother. “During his younger years he was everything from a caregiver at nursing homes, to a licensed nursing assistant – he was a helpful sort of guy. For this to happen to him, regardless of him being my uncle, it’s just pointless.”

Rockwood said there’s a whole generation of family members who will never get to know their great-uncle, including his own 2-year-old daughter. “She’s not going to remember him. A lot of family history will be lost to our family because this guy decided to do what he did,” he said.

Rockwood said the family was disappointed not to hear anything from Bijeol directly. Knowing some of Bijeol’s back story, and his struggle with heroin and other addictions prior to the murder, does not evoke sympathy.

“When it comes to things like that, you should be responsible for your own choices,” Rockwood said. “Somebody like that? No, no sympathy. If you can’t make the right choices, common sense choices, no sympathy.”

About this Author

Carol Robidoux

PublisherManchester Ink Link

Longtime NH journalist and publisher of Loves R&B, German beer, and the Queen City!