Sunday, February 7, 2010

Dad murders 17-year-old daughter; mother shot but survives (Westford, Massachusetts)

Dad BRYAN MARCHAND shot to death his 17-year-old daughter. His wife, the girl's mother, was also shot, but survived. Dad then offed himself. This is the SECOND murder-suicide in Westford this year--and it's only February. That case involved a man shooting and killing his wife. Is this rash of murder-suicides ever going to end? We're told that these events used to be rare; now they're like a viral epidemic.

Together, a town copes with a tragedy
Westford teen loved horses, flowers, life

By Kay Lazar and Emma Stickgold
Globe Staff Globe Correspondent / February 7, 2010

WESTFORD - A chorus of students sang, “I believe all will be forgiven,’’ before nearly a thousand people who gathered at Westford Academy yesterday afternoon to celebrate the life of 17-year-old Olivia Marchand, while just down the road in Chelmsford, a wake was concluding for her father, Brian Marchand, the man authorities say took the vivacious teen’s life.

The shooting of Marchand and her mother, who survived, rocked this community last week. But it was not directly mentioned during the hourlong ceremony. Instead, through songs, stories, video, and photos, the spirited teen who seemed to bring joy to everyone she met was remembered by friends, the family’s pastor, and school administrators.

“She was a young woman who brightened a room as soon as she entered,’’ the school’s principal, James Antonelli, told the gathering.

Behind him, projected on a giant screen, was a photo of Olivia Marchand with her arm draped around her mother, the two beaming into the camera.

On Monday night, at the Marchands’ home on Makepeace Road, authorities said her father shot the teen and her mother before turning the gun on himself.

Her mother, Jody, 50, has been recovering from her injuries at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester. Brian, 59, and Olivia were found dead at the scene.

“Outgoing. Nice. Determined. And focused,’’ is the way Olivia Marchand described herself in an essay that her longtime guidance counselor, Wendy Pechacek, shared with the ceremony, which was entitled, “Liv, Laugh, Love.’’

As many dabbed their eyes with tissues, Pechacek also drew laughter as she described how the determined teen who adored horses would top her Christmas wish list every year with a request for a pony.

Not one to take no for an answer, Marchand took a job at age 12 cleaning barns to raise money for a pony, eventually making enough to pay half the cost to buy her first horse.

But Marchand was not an angel, Pechacek said.

“I am pretty sure,’’ she said, “she is the only student at Westford Academy who made a two-day parking pass last, like, a year and a half.’’

Nicole Kibblehouse, who described herself as Marchand’s best friend, said she was “the most optimistic person I knew.’’

“She might have only been 17,’’ Kibblehouse said, “but that girl knew who she was.’’

Earlier in the day, Kibblehouse told hundreds of people who filled the pews of St. Catherine of Alexandria Church in Westford that “Liv loved life.’’ Then she ticked off a long list of words she’d use to describe her best friend, including “comic,’’ “cutie,’’ “selfless,’’ and “nature freak.’’

If Olivia Marchand did not know all the lyrics of a song, she filled in gaps with her own words, Kibblehouse told the crowd.

A plastic Godiva membership card kept on the Westford Academy senior’s keychain meant she could indulge in a chocolate truffle every month - something she looked forward to with great anticipation.

She loved flowers and kept them long past their prime, and if you texted or called her, she usually got back to you within seconds.

The two friends did their homework together in the library to avoid outside distractions, Kibblehouse said, and when Marchand was angry about something, they would drive along the winding roads in and around Westford.

Kibblehouse’s home has been a gathering point for classmates, but residents of Westford came together at the 8 a.m. standing-room-only Mass said in memory of Olivia, who was not a member of the church. The Rev. Peter Quinn, who officiated at the Mass, said that Kibblehouse had approached the church and asked whether it could be used to bring grieving family and friends together.

Karilynn Howe, 16, a Westford Academy sophomore, was not a close friend of Marchand’s, but said her death has brought townspeople together, and attending the Mass with her mother, Linda, was a way of showing support.

“It’s just so shocking,’’ she said. “It touched everyone.’’

Marchand, who had been a cheerleader, had “one of those faces where everyone knew she was happy,’’ said Howe. “She was just so beautiful.’’

“Everyone loves her,’’ Anna Forsyth, 15, a Westford Academy sophomore, said outside the church after the Mass.

“Everyone’s been suffering,’’ said Dani Pocock, another sophomore.

Marchand was raised in the American Baptist church and frequently attended services with her grandparents at Central Baptist Church in Chelmsford, said its pastor, Tom Goldthwaite, in a phone interview yesterday.

The teen was supposed to attend a grandfather-granddaughter dance on Friday with her grandfather, Walter Toney, as part of a Grotonwood Christian Camp event.

“She was a very bright, sunny, and lovely child,’’ Goldthwaite said.

The attack on Marchand and her mother was the second deadly episode to strike the town this year. On Jan. 9, Frederick Leduc allegedly shot his wife, Karen, 43, before turning the gun on himself. Karen Leduc died the next day. Frederick survived and is facing murder charges.

At St. Catherine’s yesterday, Quinn said the violence “stops you in your tracks.’’

“It reminds you of how life is so fragile.’’