Family of man shot dead in Chesterfield home raise concerns with manslaughter charge

By ALEXANDER MACDOUGALL

Staff Writer

Published: 06-09-2023 6:00 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The family of Johnathan Letendre, who died from gunshot wounds on the kitchen floor of a Chesterfield home shortly after Christmas, says too many questions remain unanswered about the case for them to be satisfied with last week’s manslaughter indictment against the man who shot him.

Brian Camp, 23, pleaded not guilty to the charge in Hampshire Superior Court last week and is free on $10,000 bail.

“A lot of stuff still bothers me about the case,” said Marc Letendre, Johnathan’s father, in an interview with the Gazette. “[Camp] kills my son, and he gets out on $10,000. He hasn’t seen one day in jail yet.”

Camp is the boyfriend of a woman with whom Letendre previously had a relationship, according to the Northwestern district attorney’s office. The woman’s name has not been made public yet by the DA’s office, and the Gazette is likewise withholding her name.

Letendre showed up at the Chesterfield home where the couple was staying unannounced in the early morning hours of Dec. 27 while they and their two children were sleeping.

After being awakened by the sound of Letendre ascending the stairs, an altercation allegedly occurred between Letendre and Camp, which led to Camp shooting Letendre twice, with an eight-minute interval between shots, according to the DA’s office. First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said the first shot was considered to be self-defense. The second shot hit Letendre in the back of the head, which led to the manslaughter indictment.

“We thank Mr. Letendre’s family, and the community as a whole, for their patience during this lengthy investigation,” Gagne said in a statement following the indictment. “Hopefully, the grand jury’s decision to indict brings some measure of justice for the Letendre family.”

But for Letendre’s friends and family members, there are still many questions unanswered about the case, including what exactly he was doing there that night.

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To many who knew him, Letendre was dedicated to his job, working at Dunkin’ Donuts and eventually rising to become the general manager overseeing the franchise’s three locations in Northampton.

“He was very professional in his job, very, very professional,” said co-worker Lisa Grant. “When he got the [manager] position, he was so proud of himself and he had every right to be.”

Letendre didn’t talk much about his personal life, including his relationship with the woman his family says is at the center of this case, who was one of his co-workers. The two continued to text each other and be in contact after their relationship ended sometime last year.

“He kept a lot of that kind of thing quiet,” said Marc Letendre, who lives in Florida. “Only thing that I knew was that he liked her. He said that she was playing with his heart.”

Shannon Letendre, Johnathan’s mother with whom he lived in Northampton before his death, described the relationship between Letendre and the woman as “off and on.”

“I think she was kind of torn between Johnathan and Brian,” she said. “She would talk to him and then the next day she would shut him off. It was just very back and forth.”

Christopher Baker, Letendre’s uncle and godfather who was at Camp’s arraignment, also said Letendre had a brief relationship with the woman, but they had kept in constant contact afterward, with her even helping set up another date for Letendre.

“They did have some kind of relationship going, but then John told me about Brian and how he carried a gun,” Baker said. “I told him, you need to watch yourself, because it doesn’t sound like that relationship is over.”

Marc Letendre said he had also warned his son about getting too close to her.

“I told him, son, you better stay away,” he said. “But you know how kids are.”

Letendre continued to keep in contact with her, and the two had even exchanged several expensive gifts, with her giving him an Apple Watch for his birthday last July and Letendre buying her a $1,300 Louis Vuitton purse just weeks before he was killed, according to Shannon Letendre.

“He wanted to show her that she deserves better,” she said. She also said Johnathan later told her that the woman had refused the gift.

Tom Kokonowski, the lawyer representing Camp in the manslaughter case, said his client was justified in acting in self-defense that night.

“My client was attacked, while he slept, by a man he did not know, after midnight. His 2- and 5-year-old daughters were in the next room sleeping when the unknown man appeared in the dark,” Kokonowski said. “My client endured an attack that lasted a long time. He fought for the lives of those children and their mother.”

Shannon Letendre said she didn’t buy the narrative that Letendre had been the primary instigator of the incident.

She said Letendre had been scheduled to go into work the next day on the opening shift, which begins at 4 a.m., only a few hours after he arrived at the Chesterfield home.

“There’s things that haven’t been addressed by the DA’s office,” she said. “The only reason he’s even getting the manslaughter charge is the 8½ minutes between the first and second shots.”

Hours before he was killed, Letendre had gone with his mother to the Friendly’s restaurant in Northampton for dinner, and he mentioned to her that he had the woman blocked on all of his social media accounts. That was the last time he had mentioned the woman to anyone before he was killed.

Joshua Berube, one of Letendre’s close friends, said the idea of Letendre blocking her, or vice-versa, on social media wouldn’t be surprising to hear about.

“It wasn’t uncommon for that to happen,” Berube said. “Every once in a while he’d block her, or she’d block him, and then they’d be talking again all of a sudden.”

Although Letendre didn’t tell anybody why he visited the Chesterfield home that night, he appears to have left his home in Northampton suddenly. Shannon Letendre noted that he had not gotten dressed, having gone with her to dinner wearing pajamas due to having to get up early in the morning. She said he did not bring his wallet with him, and the only key he took was the key to his car.

“That’s the only missing puzzle piece,” Berube said. “We don’t have any slight idea why he was there. Obviously, we’re going to have a biased opinion because we’re John’s family.”

Kokonowski said that determining Letendre’s motives for being there that night would be the key for Camp’s coming trial.

“I said at the arraignment that the defense of this case begins with answering the question, what was this person doing ... attacking my client after midnight?” he said.

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