July 13, 2012

Man's renewed purpose snuffed out by gunman

Matthew Blanchard, 24, was recovering from the tragic death of his girlfriend when he was killed on a Portland street.

By David Hench dhench@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Tragedy had forced Matthew Blanchard to re-evaluate his life.

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Matthew Blanchard had a cast on one leg from a crash injury when he was fatally shot in the chest on India Street.

Courtesy photo

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Fom left, Ryan Blanchard, now 9; Nicci Haycock, mother to two of his children; Taylor Velez, now 9; and Blanchard.

Contributed 2007 photo

Additional Photos Below

The death of his longtime girlfriend in a car crash last month had left him feeling guilty and alone. He wanted to reconnect with his children, whom he had largely ignored over the past few years.

"He was practically crying, 'They're all I have left,'" said Nicole Haycock, the mother of two of his children, Ryan Matthew, 9, and Brianna Lynn, 6. Blanchard had plans to see them Thursday.

Before dawn Wednesday, he was shot in the chest by an attacker on India Street in Portland and pronounced dead at Maine Medical Center. He was 24.

Three men, all of them his relatives, were with him when he was shot.

Joshua Hersom, 24, and John Howard, 20, were shot and injured, and had surgery at the hospital. A third relative, whom police did not identify, was unharmed.

Police continued to seek the public's help Thursday. Security video shows that many pedestrians and cars were in the area around 1 a.m. Wednesday, the time of the shooting, Police Chief Michael Sauschuck said at a news conference Thursday.

Sauschuck asked that anyone who saw Blanchard -- who had a cast on one leg because of the crash and was pushing himself along on a bicycle -- and the others before the shooting to contact police.

The group had walked down Washington Avenue, onto Baxter Boulevard and over to Franklin Street, then went up Fox Street through the Kennedy Park housing development, over to Congress Street and onto India Street.

They interacted with people along the way. Sauschuck said the encounters were not described as hostile, but police want to talk to as many witnesses as possible so they can determine whether any earlier interaction led to the shootings.

"Maybe they were crossing the street and somebody took offense at that," he said.

Logan Ridge-Howard was one of Blanchard's best friends from the time they lived across the street from each other in Gray, when they were in seventh grade.

"He was a bit of a troublemaker in school, but who isn't sometimes?" he said. "We used to spend countless weekends going down to Happy Wheels to do the night skating thing, going four-wheeling, out on the lakes, going to the beach, fishing, camping.

"He got in some trouble here and there. He didn't like authority, liked to do his own thing," Ridge-Howard said.

Blanchard once got drunk and took his father's car, even though he didn't have a license. He paid the price, spending time at the state's Long Creek Youth Development Center.

"He's been trying to straighten his act out," his friend said. "He was a good kid."

Blanchard told Haycock on Monday that he admired the way Ridge-Howard interacted with his 3-year-old son, and that he wanted to emulate that.

"I really believed this time he was going to step up and be their dad," she said.

On Thursday, Haycock was bringing the children to a counselor to help them cope.

"My kids are hurting," she said. "They have a lot of loss. I just want to be safe."

Blanchard also had a daughter, Taylor, who lived with him at times, though not lately, Haycock said.

She and Blanchard became a couple when they were young teenagers. They lived together after high school but broke up when they were 19.

"When we were in school, he was like a bad-boy punk. That's why I was attracted to him," Haycock said. "He was really funny. He just had the best sense of humor, could joke about anything. That's why everyone loved him.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Blanchard with his children Ryan and with Brianna Blanchard, now 6.

Contributed 2007 photo


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