The Boston Phoenix
August 10 - 17, 2000

[Features], continued

by Chris Wright

As Paison and his squad delved into Youens's past, they turned up a couple of links. Like Amy, Liam had lived in a local suburb, and they had both attended the same school: Nashua High. It was hard to find out much more, because although plenty of people knew Amy, no one seemed to know Liam at all.

In police interviews, Liam's fellow students described him as a kind of ghost, drifting through the school's corridors, sitting alone in a corner of the cafeteria eating French fries. "He was one of those people you don't even know he is there at all," said one classmate.

MAKING SENSE: Detective Sergeant Frank Paison of the Nashua police calls the Amy Boyer case one of the most difficult and frustrating of his career. "When people say `Why? Why?' I tell them you're trying to rationalize an irrational mind."

"Who am I?" Liam once wrote. "Well if I had 20 people buried in my back yard my neighbors would have described me as `Quiet, basically kept to himself.' "

Even those closest to him did not have much to say. His sister Trish described Liam as "reclusive" and "very depressed" but had little else to add. His mother, Clarissa, told the police that to her knowledge, Liam had "no friends or contacts whatsoever outside of this house." And that was about it from her.

Liam's home life was as isolated as his school life. The youngest of six children -- four girls, two boys -- Liam stayed rent-free with his mother, his aunt, his niece, and whichever of his siblings happened to be living at home. He avoided contact with the family, spending his time locked in his bedroom, tinkering with his computer and playing video games, subsisting on a diet of frozen pizza and soda.

"I can't find one friend," says Paison. "Not one person can tell me that this kid had one friend in the whole world.

"Someone who has no human contact, this is contrary to the human psyche. This kid was a bomb ready to go off."

The police did find a couple of people who remembered Liam. He had worked for a while at a local Burger King, and then at a 7-Eleven. In interviews with police, a 7-Eleven co-worker recalled a less-than-ideal employee who would ignore customers in favor of his Game Boy. The owner of the store was more damning, telling police he "felt that something was going on inside of Liam Youens that was not right."

Liam's mother and siblings declined to be interviewed for this article, but his estranged father, Leonard Youens, did talk briefly, his voice a faltering singsong of moans and sighs as he discussed the son he was said to have "doted" on.

"I tried to persuade him to stop smoking," Youens says, recalling Liam's pack-and-a-half-a-day habit. "He just didn't want to talk about it. I didn't know what his problems were. I am sort of at a loss as to why I never asked him more questions." He pauses, sighs. "In hindsight, I should have."

When asked to characterize his son, Youens says, "I would describe him as a gentle man."

Why am I killing her?

Why am I killing her?

Why am I killing her?

The night of the killing, Paison and another detective gained entry to Liam's bedroom, and the puzzle started to resolve itself.

In a report, Paison described the room: "[It was] very dirty, disheveled, and disorganized. . . . We observed five various types of firearms propped up against the wall and what appeared to be well over 100 rounds of ammunition strewn on the floor." In all, the Nashua police recovered six firearms from Liam -- all recently, and legally, purchased from Wal-Marts, at gun shows, and through want ads.

In many parts of the world, such a shopping spree might have aroused suspicion. Not in New Hampshire. "Unfortunately," Paison says, "this is not unusual."

What was unusual was the Web site the Nashua PD discovered on Liam's computer:

On the site -- a chronologically skewed, grammatically tortured My Secret Diary-type affair -- he chronicled his deepening obsession with Amy and his own descent into frustration and rage. In a photograph he posted of himself, Liam is wearing a pair of John Lennon shades, sporting a dribble of hair on his chin, and clutching an assault rifle.

The site traced Liam's obsession back to high school. He had first noticed the pretty, brown-haired girl on a bus, and had immediately thought, "God, I love her." At first, Liam contented himself with staring at Amy in the school corridors, agonizing over her potential suitors, and resenting her friendships with other popular kids. By all accounts, the two had never even had a conversation, let alone a relationship. But this fact did nothing to dampen Liam's ardor, and by graduation his obsession had festered into a full-fledged mania.

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Chris Wright can be reached at cwright[a]