Man, 23, charged with manslaughter in December shooting in Chesterfield

By JAMES PENTLAND

Staff Writer

Published: 06-02-2023 4:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A 23-year-old man was charged with manslaughter Friday following a grand jury indictment in the shooting death of Johnathan Letendre, 27, at a Chesterfield home in December.

Brian Camp, a Southampton resident, appeared in Hampshire Superior Court, represented by attorney Thomas Kokonowski of Northampton, and pleaded not guilty to the single charge. Judge John Agostini ordered him released on $10,000 bail, with four conditions requiring him to surrender his firearms license and all his firearms, not to reapply for a firearms license, and not to live in a house in which firearms are present.

Police were called to a South Street home in Chesterfield at around 1 a.m. on Dec. 27 where they found Letendre, of Northampton, dead from two gunshot wounds to the head and body.

“We knew from the first moments that (Camp) had fired the shots,” First Assistant District Attorney Steven Gagne said after Friday’s brief court hearing. “The question was whether the use of force was justified.”

He said prosecutors presented cases for murder and manslaughter to the grand jury. Manslaughter is a killing committed in the heat of passion induced by sudden provocation or sudden combat, or by using excessive force while defending oneself, according to the district attorney’s office.

Letendre had made his way unannounced that night into the house that Camp shared with his girlfriend and her two children while the family was sleeping, Gagne said. Letendre had been in a relationship with Camp’s girlfriend that Gagne described as brief, but he said Camp and Letendre did not know each other.

Awakened by stairs creaking, Camp confronted Letendre and a struggle ensued, Gagne said. At some point, Camp, who lawfully owned several firearms, grabbed a Sig Sauer P365 semiautomatic pistol and shot Letendre in the torso. Letendre then fell to the floor, where investigators believe he remained. Neither Camp nor his girlfriend reported that Letendre said anything about what he was doing there.

Camp’s girlfriend had already called 911, and Gagne said the line remained open for several minutes.

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“We contend you can hear the first gunshot,” he said. After 8½ minutes, the girlfriend can be heard screaming that another shot has been fired, Gagne said, though audio evidence of the shot is unclear.

That second shot, to the back of the head while Camp was lying on the kitchen floor, which Gagne termed “extremely troubling,” was the focus of the investigation.

“The grand jury was asked to consider the legality of the second shot,” he said, because the first shot was considered to be self-defense.

Factors such as the heat of passion and the heightened state of aggression brought on by sudden combat were weighed, he said. He suggested there was a recognition these emotions “don’t turn off like a switch.”

Gagne said his office believes the manslaughter indictment is a fair outcome.

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

Two of Camp’s family members were in court for the hearing and assisted with posting his bail. His next appearance in court was scheduled for Sept. 13.

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