Suspect to change plea in North Andover murder

Brian Chevalier

Accused murderer Brian Chevalier, 54, is scheduled to change his not guilty plea in Salem Superior Court early next month, according to Carrie Kimball, a spokeswoman for Essex District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett.

When asked about a possible plea deal, Kimball said she could not discuss that ahead of the hearing because “he can change his mind at any time.”

“To discuss it ahead of time could potentially create prejudice against him should he elect to go to trial,” the spokeswoman said.

Chevalier has remained in Middleton Jail since his arrest for first-degree murder more than two years ago.

Police announced the morning of April 21, 2018 — a Saturday — that an upstairs neighbor at 50 Lincoln St. in North Andover found Wendi Davidson unresponsive and apparently strangled just after midnight.

The Essex District Attorney's Office, North Andover police and the Essex State Police Detective Unit collaboratively investigated it as a homicide.

Davidson was 49 and a mother to two sons.

Within a week investigators tracked down her ex-fiance, Chevalier, and charged him with first-degree murder. Officials said at the time he fled to California from his home in Merrimack, New Hampshire.

Records show he was on parole in his home state after serving 14 years of a potential 30-year sentence for kidnapping another ex-girlfriend.

While incarcerated in Middleton, Chevalier wrote to The Eagle-Tribune questioning decisions made by the New Hampshire Department of Corrections and the state Parole Board to set him free.

"I know for a fact that if I was given the help I was asking for and needed all of this could have and would have been prevented," Chevalier wrote.

Chevalier was released by the New Hampshire Parole Board after testifying that he had a bright future and wanted to go home to care for his elderly mother. He had been in a halfway house since St. Patrick's Day 2017, he said, and had not attempted to reach out to the victim in the kidnapping case.

"I have a really good job," he told Parole Board members, noting that some of his co-workers put their names as references for him. "It took me a while to grow up, but ... yeah, I have a really good future to look forward to."

But in the letter sent to The Eagle-Tribune, Chevalier argues that the system let him and the public down by failing to provide the treatment he needed to get well. He said he was denied the medication he needed to address post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, "hearing voices, panic attacks and having many suicide attempts etc...etc."

"They knew about my mental health history and refused to do anything about it," he wrote.

Since then, new leadership has been appointed to the Parole Board, and a damning audit pointed out deep disarray in its operations.

Then-Chairwoman Donna Sytek said at the time the board stood by its October 2017 decision to release Chevalier — despite a fearful victim statement.

The victim of the 2003 kidnapping that put Chevalier behind bars submitted a statement that was read at his parole hearing, when he was approved for release from prison at the earliest possible date his sentence would allow –– on or around Dec. 14, 2017.

In her statement she said Chevalier — held in prison before his trial in the kidnapping case — conspired to escape and "finish the job" of killing her. She also detailed lasting personal trauma and emotional hardship she endures as a result of the crime.

Chevalier, at his parole hearing, denied that he had ever held her against her will, and maintained his trial defense that everything was consensual, despite having been convicted of and serving years for the kidnapping.

His violent history dates back to at least 1990. That year, he was indicted on five counts of aggravated sexual assault, but his weeklong rape trial ended in a mistrial after a Superior Court jury was unable to agree on a verdict, according to court documents.

Chevalier claims he tried to get help when he told his parole officer that he was very unstable.

"About a month to a month and a half before the incident, I went to my parole officer and told them that I need help," he wrote in the letter to The Eagle-Tribune. "Everything was building up and I was afraid that I was going to snap. I made them aware of my mental condition and I was told that they did not have the resources available to them to help me."

Chevalier does not specify what he means by "the incident."

He reiterates several times throughout the letter that he feels failed by the officials who were "supposed to help me reintegrate into society and keep the public safe."

And he writes that he contacted the press "to let the (Davidson) family know that this could have been prevented and for them to file a wrongful death claim against the New Hampshire Department of Corrections and the New Hampshire Parole Department so no other family will be affected by something like this in the future."

Litigation was not filed.

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