By PHILLIP BANTZ
The Keene Sentinel: March 14, 2009
Five years ago, a jury acquitted Brian R. Chevalier on multiple charges alleging he raped and terrorized his ex-girlfriend, a Jaffrey woman, but convicted him on a single count of kidnapping related to the incident.
The jurors deliberated for two days, then came back with the conviction minutes before Cheshire County Superior Court was scheduled to close for the weekend.
Chevalier, 42, now sits in a state prison in Berlin, serving a sentence of 10 to 30 years.
The conviction carried a harsher penalty because Chevalier, formerly of Merrimack, had prior convictions for property crimes.
Throughout his 2004 trial and ever since, Chevalier has maintained his innocence.
“I’m not claiming to be an angel,” he said. “I’ve done a lot of things. I’ve been in prison before. But I did not do this. I did not rape or kidnap anyone. I’m just hoping that somebody will take another look at this case.”
Two former police officials have taken up Chevalier’s cause, and they aim to free him from prison.
State Rep. Dudley “Dan” Dumaine, R-Auburn, who spent 15 years as a Keene police officer, and John M. Healy of Warner, a retired N.H. State Police lieutenant, believe Chevalier is innocent.
They base this belief on an analysis of the ex-girlfriend’s written statement to police, and what they say are inconsistencies in her retelling of events surrounding the kidnapping and alleged sexual assaults to hospital workers, prosecutors and investigators.
During his trial, Chevalier’s public defender, Hampton W. Howard, said the ex-girlfriend concocted the rape and kidnapping story because her estranged husband and young daughter walked in on her and Chevalier the morning after they spent the night together.
The ex-girlfriend feared she’d lose custody of her daughter if her husband brought up her infidelity during divorce proceedings, Howard said. Dumaine and Healy agree with that theory.
“I truly believe that Brian is not guilty,” Dumaine said. “He is sitting up there in prison and he doesn’t belong there.”
After leaving law enforcement, Dumaine and Healy became private investigators.
They didn’t know each other as officers, but their lives would intersect later, when Dumaine enrolled in one of Healy’s seminars.
Healy trains local, state and federal law enforcement officials on the use of a written statement analysis technique known as Scientific Content Analysis or SCAN.
The SCAN technique is used to examine the words a person chooses to describe an event, and can help investigators narrow their line of questioning during repeat interviews with the same person.
When used correctly, SCAN can be as effective as a polygraph test, according to Dumaine and Healy.
“This is very scientific,” Healy said. “Think of it just like you would a polygraph test. My analysis of a statement is only as good as my training and experience, just the same as a polygrapher is only as good as their training and experience.”
The technique can be applied to victims or suspects, but authorities most often use it on the latter.
“I would be hesitant to use it on a victim’s statement,” Keene police Lt. Peter S. Thomas said. “We don’t want to re-victimize the victim of a violent crime. I’m not saying we wouldn’t ever use it on a victim, it just isn’t something we’ve ever done as far as I know.”
Two Keene police officials have received SCAN training and they’ve successfully used the technique in conjunction with other investigative methods, Thomas said.
“It’s a tool we use to get to the truth,” he said. “We have an officer who’s solved numerous cases with this. It’s not just this technique by itself, but it certainly played a role.”
Healy was teaching a SCAN seminar in Boston after Chevalier’s conviction when a police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, brought in the sworn statement Chevalier’s ex-girlfriend gave to authorities.
The officer handed the three-page document to Healy, who analyzed it and began using it during his seminars as a textbook example of a potentially deceptive statement.
The ex-girlfriend’s statement begins just before Chevalier allegedly ambushed her inside her basement when she returned from work. She wrote that he forced her upstairs and said he wanted to spend one last night with her before being sent back to prison for violating his parole.
“Whenever you see a statement that starts at the significant or main event, the author is hiding everything that happened before that,” Healy said. “That is a huge red flag to me or anybody else that studies this.”
Other “red flags” include the way the woman referred to her husband and Chevalier later in the statement, the investigators say.
She wrote: “My estranged husband was not pleased that I had violated his homestead by permitting Brian in.”
The person introduced near the end of a statement — in this case it’s the husband — is often the factor that triggered the initial allegation, Healy said.
He said the most obvious sign of deception is when a person uses the term “we” to describe his or her relationship with an alleged attacker.
“The whole statement was alarming, but the most important thing is that there ain’t no ‘we’ after a rape. She never uses the term before the rape, but afterward she uses it at least five times,” he said. “When you’re reading a statement by a victim you will never see ‘we.’ The person cannot psychologically use the term ‘we’ after they’ve been frightened, assaulted or raped.”
While Healy used the ex-girlfriend’s statement during his seminars, the identity of its author and subject remained a mystery. Chevalier’s last name was redacted from the statement and the ex-girlfriend’s name was omitted.
It wasn’t until Dumaine attended one of Healy’s seminars in 2005 that the two met and considered tracking down Chevalier.
The two private investigators uncovered Chevalier’s last name by digging through public records and old newspaper clippings. Dumaine finally visited Chevalier in prison in March 2008.
“I was told that a private investigator was here to speak with me,” Chevalier said. “I didn’t want to see him at first because I had no idea what it was about.”
Dumaine was persistent, though, and eventually convinced Chevalier to leave his cell and meet him in a visiting area.
“I was sitting waiting for him and he walked in with his arms folded with a look on his face like, ‘What are you up to?’ He stood there in the doorway and you could see the attitude,” Dumaine said. “He recognized that I was part of the system and he thought I was there to hurt him.”
Dumaine avoided discussing Healy’s analysis of the ex-girlfriend’s statement with Chevalier. He only said that he was there to help.
When Chevalier started talking, his story matched what Healy had gleaned from the ex-girlfriend’s statement.
“He gave me a blow-by-blow description of his relationship with this lady,” Healy said. “When he was finished, it literally mirrored what John had said. It was amazing.”
Dumaine and Healy, who are not being paid for their work on Chevalier’s case, want to overturn his conviction or convince a judge to grant him another trial.
Chevalier has exhausted his appeals to the state’s courts and is now trying to convince the U.S. District Court in Concord that he deserves an evidence hearing, a new trial or the dismissal of his conviction. He is awaiting a judge’s ruling.
Assistant Cheshire County Attorney Kathleen G. O’Reilly, who prosecuted Chevalier, and Jaffrey Police Chief William J. Oswalt, who investigated the case when he was a detective, declined comment.
Several attempts to reach Chevalier’s ex-girlfriend were unsuccessful.
Cheshire County Attorney Peter W. Heed also declined to comment on the concerns raised by Dumaine and Healy, but said his office stands by the conviction.
“Obviously we support any verdict that a jury reaches until such time as a judge tells us otherwise.”