The Boston Phoenix
August 10 - 17, 2000

[Features]

Murder.com

What happened last fall on this tiny New Hampshire street triggered a national debate on Internet crime. But was the Web really to blame for the death of Amy Boyer?

by Chris Wright

NASHUA, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- A little more than 10 years ago, this city was looking like one of history's castoffs. Husks of factories stood crumbling into the Nashua River. Surrounding farmland had given way to shabby strip malls and mismatched suburbs. Main Street slumped into a trough of recession. Pick-up trucks sighed through the streets like tumbleweeds. Like so many New England mill towns, Nashua was chronically, clinically depressed.

No longer. These days Nashua has shaken off its dusty Industrial Revolution heritage. Techno-giants Digital and Lockheed are the city's largest employers. Its regiments of red-brick mills are rapidly being turned into swank condos. Main Street hums with commerce. "Money magazine recognizes Nashua as one of the Best Places To Live in America," chimes the Greater Nashua Center for Economic Development. "People are writing about it, talking about it, and reading about it."

But on the afternoon of October 15, 1999, on a tiny street that the NCED wouldn't even put on a town map, an incident occurred that would put a blot on Nashua's big-little-city status. It would make people write, talk, and read about Nashua for all the wrong reasons.

It was 4:30 p.m., a Wednesday, an unseasonably warm fall day. Rush hour was already in full swing, and at the busy junction of Lowell, Amherst, Concord, and Main Streets, traffic had built to a maddening staccato. The city's landmarks are clustered here: the First Congregational Church, the Hunt Memorial Building, the Civil War monument with its little cannon-flanked garden. The drivers stuck in their cars would have been oblivious to them, and to the unremarkable strip of nearby businesses: Collins Flowers, La Legion barbershop, and the offices of orthodontist John Bednar. All except one driver, that is -- a man in a silver Nissan Sentra who was watching the building very closely.

He watched as Amy Lynn Boyer, a 20-year-old dental assistant and college student, left Dr. Bednar's office. He watched as she strolled with a couple of co-workers through the parking lot. He had, in fact, been watching Amy for years, and as he saw her climb into her red Honda, as he gunned his engine and fiddled with his Glock 9mm, he must have been thinking something along the lines of This is it.

As Amy readied herself for the drive home -- positioned her pocketbook on the passenger seat, maybe checked herself out in the rear-view mirror -- the Sentra flew up the street and screeched to a halt inches from where she sat, trapping her in her car. The Sentra's driver called her name: "Amy!" She would have looked up, seen the gun inches from her face. She raised her left hand in self-defense, and the sound of stop-start traffic was joined by the pop-pop-pop of automatic gunfire.

There was a few seconds' peace -- enough time to load another clip. Then Liam Youens, 21, pushed the gun into his own mouth. A single action, a simple twitch: pop!

Operator: New Hampshire 911. What's your emergency?

Caller: Yes, there's been a shooting on Auburn Street.

Operator: Thank you, sir. Do you know if the assailant is still nearby? Sir?

Caller: Yes, I'm sorry.

Operator: Do you know if the assailant is still nearby?

Caller: No. It looked like he just drove [up] and shot her and then fucken [sic] shot himself.

I. The sad assassin

There were five other homicides in Nashua last year. None, though, shook the city as much as the shooting of Amy Boyer. It would soon become known as the Internet murder, but for now it looked like a low-end city homicide. A seamy, we-should-have-seen-it-coming kind of death. By the time Liam was done with her, Amy was riddled with 11 hollow-point bullets. People like Amy didn't die like this. They just didn't.

Amy Boyer didn't associate with the shadier elements of Nashua society. She wasn't involved in an abusive relationship. She was a decent, industrious young woman, given to taking part in charity events, to tutoring students less capable than she was. Though her family paid her college expenses, Amy opted to work a couple of part-time jobs, at a local Dairy Queen and at Dr. Bednar's office. She was hoping to launch a career in dentistry. As the Nashua PD's Detective Sergeant Frank Paison says, "She was well-adjusted, very well-liked, a caring young woman."

As a criminal case, the killing of Amy Boyer was open-and-shut. The police knew the who, what, where, when, and how. The only thing left was the why. This would prove trickier to unravel. Nothing in Amy's background provided a single clue as to why she would look up to find herself staring into the barrel of a gun, and at first the detectives investigating the case were at a complete loss.

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Chris Wright can be reached at cwright@phx.com.