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A Holiday Nightmare

by Kathryn Casey

You probably wouldn't have noticed him in the crowd, the bearded, 36-year-old man at Wal-Mart two days before Christmas, scouring the tool aisle. He picked up one item after another, examining each, perhaps testing their weight, considering how they were made, the quality of a hatchet, a machete, and a variety of knives. What Jason Bouchard settled on, what he paid the cashier for and walked out the door with, was a crowbar.

Miles away at her Houston home, Terri Sanvincente, a well-known Adam Lambert fan and an assistant manager at a Walgreen's drug store, worried about Bouchard, a man she'd once loved who'd systematically tormented her life.

Two years earlier, she'd had the ex-army paratrooper formally evicted from their home. The separation, however, had dragged on, with Bouchard seeking custody of their three children, ages eight, six and three. Yet that, too, had recently been settled in Sanvincente's favor; six weeks earlier, after an 18-month battle, jurors granted primary custody to Sanvincente. Perhaps it wasn't surprising. At the hearing, Bouchard, who represented himself, surprisingly well, one expert says, admitted drug use and frequent masturbation. The jury ruled that he'd be allowed only supervised visits with his children.

Forty-year-old Sanvincente, it would later appear, took little comfort in the ruling. She continued to worry that she and her children (one dressed as Lambert on the right) remained in danger from a man who'd pushed her and hurled constant insults. “She was always afraid of what he was going to do next,” said Tabitha Charlton, Sanvincente's first family attorney, who walked away from the case fearing for her own safety. “Jason is brilliant in an evil way.”

In the wake of the court decision, Sanvincente became obsessed with protecting her children. She fretted constantly about Bouchard, what he was planning, what he might do to her, to their children. In hindsight, it would seem wisely so.

Last Christmas morning at four a.m., Bouchard parked in front of 16411 Sky Blue, Sanvincente's home, the one in which his three children, their mother and a babysitter slept. With him, he carried the newly purchased crowbar and a gallon gas can. Outside the house, he pulled up the hood on his sweatshirt to cover his head from a stormy night, then walked to the back of the house. Once there, he poured gasoline on a window ledge near the door and ignited it, to trap those inside. As the fire spread, Bouchard circled the house to his children's bedroom. It was there that he used the crowbar for its first intended purpose: breaking the window. Inside, his eight-year-old son heard the commotion, saw the fire, and ran to wake the others. Later Bouchard would say, "I was proud of him at that moment. He wasn't afraid anymore. He took charge."

By then, Bouchard was on his way to the front door. He wasn't finished.

Beating on the door, he waited for Sanvincente. When the door opened, her mind must have been swimming, so much that at first she misjudged the situation. "Have you called them yet?" she asked Bouchard, most likely referring to 911 and the fire department.

"Called who?" he replied. Later, he'd say, her eyes grew wide.

"Oh, my God," she cried. It was then that Bouchard used the crowbar for its second purpose, pummeling Sanvincente. With the first blow to the face, she fell, shouting at her children to run. But Bouchard didn't stop. In all, he struck her at least twenty times, while his two sons watched.

Apparently believing he'd accomplished what he'd come for, Bouchard woke up neighbors, who rescued the children. When police arrived, he surrendered. "I don't think she knew I was going to kill her," he'd say later. "... I thought I'd killed her, yet she lived another fourteen hours."

Why did he savagely beat the mother of his children? In a rare admission, Bouchard gives insight into the psychology of such killers. In a chilling letter to the Houston Chronicle, he wrote: "Killing Terri Sanvincente was my only option left before too much time under Terri Sanvincente's manipulation and influence forever took them down a path of future self-hatred ..."

What Bouchard's letter to the Chronicle gives us is a window into his diseased mind. What we see is a man without remorse, one who has manipulated facts and events to justify his actions and feels blameless. Killers like Bouchard feel entitled. It's what they want that counts.

The rest of us are expendable.
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