Image: Gregory Despres
AP file
Gregory Despres left Canada with a chainsaw, sword, and braceknuckles, which were confiscated at the border. He has refused to return to Canada for a court date and is currently suspected of a murder.
updated 6/11/2005 1:17:38 AM ET 2005-06-11T05:17:38

A Canadian senator said Friday U.S. customs should have done a better job after they let a man carrying a homemade sword, a hatchet, a knife, brass knuckles and a chain saw stained with what appeared to be blood into the United States.

Gregory Despres arrived at the U.S.-Canadian border crossing at Calais, Maine, on April 25, saying he was an assassin, the same day he was to be sentenced in Canada on charges he assaulted and threatened to kill his neighbor’s son-in-law.

The following day, a gruesome scene was discovered at the neighbors: The decapitated body of a 74-year-old country musician named Frederick Fulton was found on Fulton’s kitchen floor. His head was in a pillowcase under a kitchen table. His common-law wife was discovered stabbed to death in a bedroom.

Unaware of alleged murders
Canadian police and U.S. customs officials did not know about the alleged murders when custom officials let Despres into the U.S., but they knew he was due in court that morning for sentencing on the assault case.

They let him enter the U.S. anyway.

Colin Kenny, chairman of Canada’s Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defense, said U.S. customs should have at least alerted local police in Maine to keep an eye on him.

“I think I would have wanted to keep a close eye on that fellow for awhile,” Kenny said. “The whole thing gives me a queasy feeling.”

Bill Anthony, a spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Friday the Canada-born Despres could not be detained because he is a naturalized U.S. citizen and there was no warrant out for his arrest.

William Heffelfinger, deputy assistant commissioner for field operations for U.S. customs, acknowledged though that they knew he was probably going to skip his court appearance.

“We knew he was supposed to be at court,” Heffelfinger said. “There was an RCMP officer at the port at that very time and he would not go back to court.”

Heffelfinger said Despres told custom officials that he was “with NSA and with the marine corps, a trained sniper with over 700 kills.”

Police did not track Despres after left customs.

Anthony said they fingerprinted Despres because “obviously you don’t want somebody like that walking out of the port into your community where your officers live and your children play.”

Joseph Gutheinz, a University of Phoenix criminal justice professor, said they could have arrested Despres for lying to a customs officer. The comment about “700 kills should have tipped” them that he was not telling the truth, he said.

‘He said he was an assassin’
Eddie Young sat next to Despres at the customs office when the agents processed them. Young told the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal that he heard Despres tell custom officers he was an assassin.

“That’s the reason I remember him. He said he was an assassin,” Young said. “When he come in they opened his bag up and they took out, it looked like large bayonets to me but they could have been a little bit longer for swords, and then two pairs of brass knuckles fastened on to his bag, a chainsaw and what looked like a flak jacket, a bullet-proof vest.”

Despres seemed intense, Young said.

"I'm going like, Jesus, he's an assassin? Like, 130 pounds, nasty looking little Mohawk. I don't even think he blinked for the 25 minutes we were sitting beside each other," Young said.

Young said the customs officers appeared to be joking around with the swords.

“I watched the Customs guys fling the swords around in the back room,” Young said. “I mean, wouldn’t the evidence be ruined with their fingerprints?”

Young said officials treated him better than he was.

“When I came back in they were giving him a coffee,” Young told the newspaper. “He got processed faster than I did.”

Young said he was detained at the border because he was arrested in Ottawa almost 20 years ago for drug possession.

Despres, 22, became a suspect for the murders because of a history of violence between him and his neighbors, and he was arrested April 27 after police in Massachusetts saw him wandering down a highway in a sweat shirt with red and brown stains. He is now in jail in Massachusetts on murder charges, awaiting an extradition hearing next month.

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