Barnstead man's manslaughter trial delayed yet again

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Bang N Jane drummer Jim Unfonak (Courtesy photo); inset, accused killer Eric Langlais (Rochester Police photo)

DOVER - The much-anticipated trial of the man accused of killing the drummer of popular area band Bang N Jane has been postponed.

Eric Langlais, 41, of 31 Lincoln Lane, Barnstead, is alleged to have fatally injured Jim Unfonak, 44, of Rochester, with a single punch to the head outside a Rochester sports bar around 1:30 a.m. last Jan. 31. He was taken off life support the next day. Langlais was indicted on manslaughter and riot charges in April.

The final pretrial conference was supposed to have been today with jury selection on Jan. 17. Now both are canceled with no new dates yet set, according to court personnel.

Langlais defense counsel Richard Samdperil had already filed a speedy trial waiver that would have forced trial within four months. His motion to continue was filed Dec. 29.

Shortly after the January trial date was set last summer, Assistant Prosecutor Tim Sullivan said one of the reasons for that delay was there was a lot of investigation for attorneys on both sides that had to occur prior to trial.

Sullivan said there could be a number of depositions to be taken as well, noting that there were multiple people at Gary's Sports Bar the night Unfonak's was fatally injured.

Sullivan said at the time there will likely be a number of witnesses, but the names of those expected to testify isn't required until 20 days prior to the final pretrial conference.

The trial is expected to take about a week.

Also charged in the incident were two local women, sisters Mandy Patch, 37, of Old Milton Road, Rochester; and Laurie Henner, 41, of Whitebirch Lane in Farmington; and another man, Forrest Rollins, 42, of Brook St. Rochester.

Patch reached a plea deal with prosecutors in June, receiving two consecutive 12-month sentences, one for rioting and another for assaulting a woman inside Gary's Sports bar earlier the night of Unfonak's death. The second sentence will be suspended for two years after her first sentence is completed.

Henner was sentenced to up to a year in jail in November for felony riot.

Rollins was charged with simple assault in connection with an altercation inside Gary's Sports Bar the night Unfonak was fatally injured. The Lebanon Voice has subsequently learned through a source close to the investigation that the victim of that assault was Unfonak.

Rollins' simple assault charge was reduced to simple assault/mutual combat, a violation in October. He got no jail time, but was ordered to pay a $1,240 fine.

Rochester Police Deputy Chief Gary Boudreau said the assault Rollins committed, which he characterized as a "shove," occurred earlier in the night before Langlais was told to leave Gary's Sports Bar by bar personnel.

Meanwhile, Langlais' alleged motive for the attack laid out in initial police affidavits filed in February paint a night of recrimination, verbal and physical attacks and insults between him and the two sisters, and Unfonak.

In the affidavit it is noted a bouncer at Gary's Sports Bar knew full well that a man and several of his friends were waiting outside the Milton Road tavern waiting to get "a piece" of the Bang N Jane drummer.

Unfonak had had words with the man, identified as Langlais and the sisters earlier that evening. All three had been escorted out of the bar but refused to leave the parking lot.

So around 1:30 a.m. early Sunday, Jan. 31, the bouncer ran protection for Unfanak, escorting him from the tavern door to a waiting car in the dirt parking lot.

Unfonak was almost inside the car, but as he approached the back door to get in, video surveillance shows Langlais coming out of nowhere and hitting Unfonak on the left side of his body, according to a police affidavit obtained by The Lebanon Voice.

When Langlais hits him, Unfonak "takes a few steps back while putting both of his hands up in what appears to be a defensive position," the affidavit notes. "The suspect is then seen punching James once on the left side of his face. James is seen immediately falling to the ground and then Eric is being pulled away from James by other people."

The fatal blow ended the life of the hugely popular Rochester musician, who was rushed to Maine Medical Center where hours later he was declared brain dead and taken off life support the following day.

The fatal encounter was the end of a tumultuous night at the longtime Rochester sports bar, a night full of threats, accusations and what one person interviewed in the affidavit who left before the final violence called "drama."

Rochester Police Det. Joseph Rousseau prepared the affidavit which stated that after the first altercation between Unfonak and Langlais inside was broken up, Langlais and his friends were tossed from the bar and told to leave the premises but didn't.

The bouncer stated he later saw them remaining in the parking lot and told them to leave even threatening to call the police, but they refused saying the wanted a "piece" of James.

The affidavit also reveals what three of the defendants in the case, Langlais, Patch and Henner told police during the investigation.

When detectives first interviewed Langlais, he admitted he hit Unfonak, whom he said he didn't know, with what he described as his "knock out hand." He said it was in response to Unfonak having an issue with his friend, Patch and her sister, Henner, while inside the bar.

Langlais told detectives that when he struck Unfonak he was "defending" the two women who had said they'd been slighted earlier in the evening.

He further told detectives that Unfonak was coming at him in the parking lot and he was defending himself, the affidavit states.

When Patch was interviewed by detectives, she stated the trouble at the bar started when Unfonak called a woman who was friends with her sister "fat."

"Mandy said they were told to leave so they did and waited outside in the parking lot," the affidavit states. "Mandy said that she told the bar staff they were not going to leave and that she was going to wait outside for James and if Eric didn't hit him she was going to."

Patch also said that when James came out of the bar with the bouncer walking behind him, James said something to Eric, so Eric went over and punched him, according to the affidavit.

Rousseau also interviewed Henner, who said she was at the sports bar with the friend Patch said Unfonak called "fat" along with several others.

The next day, however, Rousseau talked with the individual said to have been called "fat" who said she left around midnight because Henner "was starting some drama," which was why she left, according to the affidavit. She further told the detective Unfonak had never said anything to her.

A male friend of the woman said to have been made fun of told detectives when he saw she was gone, he texted her, and while he was, Henner asked him who he was texting. When he said it was his friend, Henner grabbed it, he said, and wrote a text.

The male friend never read the text until he found out Unfonak had been injured. When he showed it to Rousseau, the text, sent at 12:38 a.m., about an hour before Unfonak was struck, it read, "Hey its Lauie im (sic) ----ing him and his girlfriend up the at the end of the night."

On Feb. 8 an autopsy reported the cause of death to be blunt force head trauma.

Langlais faces up to 30 years in prison for manslaughter when his trial finally gets under way.

Assistant County Attorney Tim Sullivan, who is prosecuting the case, was not available for comment on Tuesday.

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