Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Double your impact for a FULL year! Make a gift to NHPR today and it will be matched!

Exec. Council Votes Down Pardon Hearing For Murderer Who Used PTSD Defense

stock photo of gavel
Joe Gratz
flickr, creative commons: https://www.flickr.com/photos/63126465@N00/117048243

A Concord man found guilty in the brutal murder of his fiancée in 1983 will not be granted a pardon hearing.

On Thursday, the Executive Council voted 3-2 against the request of Gary Place, who killed 32-year old Wanda Olsen, and then according to newspaper reports from the time, immediately turned himself into police.

During trial, his lawyers argued the murder was triggered by the smell of rice cooking at a nearby Chinese restaurant. Place was a Vietnam Veteran who saw intense combat and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  

Jurors rejected that defense and sentenced Place to life without parole.

Earlier this year, the victim’s sister said she would support a pardon hearing for Place. That prompted two Executive Councilors - Democrat Andru Volinsky and Republican Joe Kenney - to visit Place in prison in Berlin.

“If I hadn’t heard from the deceased sister, and if I knew Gary Place was stateside during the Vietnam War, I never would have entertained a public hearing for a conditional pardon,” said Kenney, who served 37 years in the Marines. “But those two points alone made me want to at least have public discussion about what was going on.”

Domestic violence advocates said granting the public hearing would set a dangerous precedent.

“Leaders should not be diminishing accountability for those who have been found guilty of committing the ultimate act of domestic violence just because time has passed,” said Amanda Grady Sexton with the N.H. Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“Wanda Olsen will never be pardoned from the death sentence given to her by her killer.”

Todd started as a news correspondent with NHPR in 2009. He spent nearly a decade in the non-profit world, working with international development agencies and anti-poverty groups. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University.

You make NHPR possible.

NHPR is nonprofit and independent. We rely on readers like you to support the local, national, and international coverage on this website. Your support makes this news available to everyone.

Give today. A monthly donation of $5 makes a real difference.