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Customs Says Suspect Couldn't Be Held

June 08, 2005|From Associated Press

BOSTON — On April 25, Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood. U.S. customs agents confiscated the weapons.

Then they let Despres into the United States.

The next day, a gruesome scene was discovered in Despres' hometown of Minto, in the Canadian province of New Brunswick: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician, Frederick Fulton, was found on Fulton's kitchen floor. His head was in a pillowcase under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom.

Fulton's friends in Minto, a village of 2,700 people, told the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal that he was a popular musician, a guitarist known as the "Chet Atkins of Minto" and a 2001 inductee in the Minto Country Music Wall of Fame.

Despres, 22, immediately became a suspect because of a history of violence between him and his neighbors, and he was arrested April 27 after police in Massachusetts saw him wandering down a highway. He is now in jail in Massachusetts on murder charges, awaiting an extradition hearing next month.

At a time when the United States is tightening its borders, how could a man toting what appeared to be a bloody chain saw be allowed into the country?

Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said the Canadian-born Despres could not be detained because he was a naturalized U.S. citizen and was not wanted on any criminal charges on the day he approached the border.

"Nobody asked us to detain him," Anthony said. "Being bizarre is not a reason to keep somebody out of this country or lock them up."

Anthony conceded it sounded stupid that a man wielding what appeared to be a bloody chain saw could not be detained.

But he added: "Our people don't have a crime lab up there. They can't look at a chain saw and decide if it's blood or rust or red paint."

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