Real Name: Daniel Neal Paquette
Location: Hookset, New Hampshire
Date: November 9, 1985
Details: Danny Paquette was the son of fifty-four-year-old housewife Rena Paquette. In January 1964, the body of fourteen-year-old Pamela Mason was found in the town of Hooksett, New Hampshire--four years after the body of Sandra Valade was discovered. Both girls had disappeared during snowstorms and were found raped and murdered, their belongings scattered around town. Rena claimed to know the identity of the girls' killer, but the police did not act on her tip.
On the morning of February 3, Danny, then thirteen, came down for breakfast and found that Rena was not home. He called his uncle and the two searched for her throughout their farm. They figured something was wrong because it was a cold morning and she had left her winter clothing behind. After searching for over an hour, Danny noticed smoke coming from their barn, which was one mile from the family home. Inside the barn was Rena's charred body.
Surprisingly, the police ruled Rena's death a suicide; however, her family believes that she was murdered by the same man that killed Pamela and Sandra. A few weeks after Rena's death, a local delivery man named Edward Coolidge was arrested and charged with Pamela's murder. He was later convicted of the murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Danny was deeply affected by Rena's death. As he grew up, he became closer to his brother, Victor. Danny's adolescence and adult life were troubled. He married and became a father, but in 1981, he and his wife divorced. In a bitter legal battle, he lost custody of his children. In the summer of 1981, after becoming frustrated that he could not see his children, he went to his ex-wife's home and demanded to be let in. She called the police and he was taken into custody.
After the outburst, Danny was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Under hypnosis, Danny revealed that he had seen Rena arguing with a delivery man on the day that she was killed. He later claimed that the man was Edward Coolidge, the murderer of Pamela Mason. However, Rena's case was not re-opened.
Five months later, Danny was released from the hospital and tried to change his life for the better. On November 9, 1985, he was repairing a bulldozer while his two friends were working in the garage. At around 11am, his friends heard a loud pop. They found him lying on the ground; he was shot in the back and had been killed instantly. Near the site where Danny was killed, police found footprints that they believe belonged to the killer, who had apparently ran from the scene.
The bullet that killed Danny was found in a nearby telephone line. The authorities investigated the possibility that Danny had died accidentally and was shot by hunters in a local gravel pit. The gravel pit was approximately one mile from the area where he was shot. However, the theory was later discounted because of the distance between the pit and Danny and the fact that the bullet would have had to go through various obstacles in order to reach him.
Some of Danny's friends and family now believe that the same person who killed Danny was responsible for Rena's death years earlier. However, Danny and Rena's deaths remain a mystery.
Suspects: Initially, it was suspected that Danny was accidentally killed by a hunter. However, this theory was discounted. Police speculated that Danny may have been mistaken for his brother Victor and killed as a result. However, no evidence was found to support that theory. Shortly before his death, Danny got into a physical fight with the son of one of his girlfriends. There was speculation that his murder was related to one of his relationships.
Danny's family believed that his murder was related to the death of his mother Rena. Edward Coolidge, the killer of Pamela Mason, is a possible suspect in Rena's death. However, he could not have physically killed Danny as he was in prison at the time.
Extra Notes: This segment originally aired on the October 24, 1990 episode of Unsolved Mysteries. Danny's murder was also documented on Unusual Suspects and On the Case with Paula Zahn.
Results: Solved. In 1991, Rena's body was exhumed and her cause of death was changed from "suicide" to "undetermined". Her death remains a mystery. That same year, Edward Coolidge, the man serving time for Pamela Mason's murder, was released due to a legal technicality.
In 1992, Danny's relatives appeared on a New Hampshire TV show to talk about his case. Shortly afterwards, they received two anonymous letters which stated that a man named Eric Windhurst was the killer. However, investigators were unable to corroborate the information. In 2004, the case was re-opened and detective William Shackford was assigned to the case. He reviewed the entire casefile and felt that Eric needed to be re-investigated. By then, investigators had received more tips pointing to Eric as the killer. One of the tips was from Eric's former girlfriend and another was from a high school friend. In December 2005, he was arrested and charged with Danny's murder.
At the time of the murder, Eric was seventeen and had been dating Danny's fifteen-year-old stepdaughter Melanie Paquette (now Melanie Cooper). When originally questioned, the two claimed that they were at a field hockey game at the time of the murder. However, when Melanie was re-interviewed in 2004, she admitted to being with Eric when he killed Danny. She claimed that Danny had sexually abused her. When she told Eric about the abuse, he decided to kill Danny. Around that time, Eric also learned about sexual abuse in his own family. It is believed that this abuse also helped motivate him to kill. Surprisingly, Eric's family members told police that they had known about him committing the murder, as it had been an "open secret" among the family.
In August 2006, Eric pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and received a sentence of between fifteen and thirty-six years in prison. In December, Melanie was sentenced to three years in prison for hindering the investigation into Danny's murder. She was released after serving fifteen months. In 2016, Eric asked the court to have his sentence reduced; the request was denied. In October 2020, he was granted parole. He was released in December.
- Police haven't surrendered on unsolved killings - December 17, 1989
- Family searches for the truth about death of their mother - December 22, 1991
- Killing probe revived - June 22, 1992
- Arrest made in 1985 Hooksett shooting death - December 14, 2005
- Murder suspect's name emerged years ago - December 17, 2005
- Two deaths haunt a N.H. family. Arrest stirs pain of unsolved cases - December 19, 2005
- Mysterious deaths shake up family - December 19, 2005
- New evidence emerges in 20-year-old murder case - December 22, 2005
- Suspect to enter plea in case of 1985 death - August 21, 2006
- Man gets 15 years in 20-year old case - August 21, 2006
- Man pleads guilty to 1985 murder - August 22, 2006
- Windhurst sentenced to 15-year minimum in 20-year-old murder - August 22, 2006
- Sentence set in old N.H. killing - December 1, 2006
- Mother goes to prison - December 6, 2006
- Woman awaits sentencing in 20-year-old crime - June 16, 2007
- NH woman in old murder case talks about prison - March 12, 2010
- Book delves into Paquette slaying - May 2, 2010
- Man, 48, who shot dead his friend's abusive stepdad three decades ago asks for his sentence to be reduced - March 2, 2016
- Man who killed friend’s abusive stepdad wants sentence cut - March 2, 2016
- N.H. Murder Convict Seeks Prison Release - April 17, 2016
- Man who killed friend's stepdad loses his bid for freedom - May 10, 2016
- Family of murdered man cannot forgive killer - October 24, 2020
- Man who killed friend’s stepfather in 1985 released on parole - October 24, 2020
- Danny Paquette at Find a Grave