The Boston Phoenix
August 10 - 17, 2000

[Features], continued

by Chris Wright

When his mother chided him for being "silly," Liam threw a fit, hurling a china cabinet down a flight of stairs and threatening to blow her head off. He was ordered to take anger-management classes and given six months' probation.

"There is no history of him being treated for mental illness," says Paison, "but most certainly there were a lot of issues that were apparent, not diagnosed, not treated." He continues: "I don't point the finger at anybody, but there were people who could have helped. This kid gave out signs, he had them all. Somebody should have recognized this is not normal behavior."

Ironically, had he been given the chance, Amy's brother Brian Boyer, 28, might have been just the person to recognize Liam's warning signs. As a social worker in the Nashua area, Brian specializes in boys like Liam. "My concern is with kids that are isolated and alienated," he says. "The kid that killed my sister was both alienated and isolated. For me, that sends a flag -- that tells me something was wrong. I'd like to reach out to kids like him."

You wouldn't blame Brian Boyer for wanting to reach out to kids like Liam with a baseball bat. Tim Remsberg says that if Liam weren't already dead, he would have to kill him. Brian, though, seems uninterested in revenge.

"This is something I've thought about a lot since my sister got killed," he says. "I don't blame Youens as much as I blame other things -- his situation, his inability to cope with everyday stresses. God knows what his life was like."

untitled no 2

One day fadeds into another

People I used to know go on together

But I stay where I was, were I am

Alone and forgotten, I stay

There was at least one person in whom Liam could confide, a teenager named Pieter. A resident of Greece, Pieter would goad Liam via e-mail messages, telling him not to stop at a single killing. "Pieter recommends I go on a rampage," Liam wrote, "but I don't know."

If Liam did in fact feel "persicuted" by his peers -- "God I hate being made fun of. I can't wait to get out of school" -- why didn't he take Pieter's advice and go on a rampage? Why eradicate Amy rather than his despised classmates? The answer his Web site suggests is that Liam harbored tyrannical, toddler-like envy.

"I think [Amy] may be taking the whole `I love life' thing a bit too far," Liam wrote. He also seemed to allude to some shadowy effort to hamper her progress. "Now she's finally happy, but she could have been happy with a good career."

Then his confidence drooped: "Maybe she really will be a dentist. . . . Oh shit."

Liam's thoughts of killing Amy dovetailed perfectly with thoughts of killing himself. Amy was everything he wasn't. She had everything he didn't. Ending her life was like smashing the toy he couldn't play with.

On October 15 -- fifteen minutes before the murder -- Liam left a message on his site: "Pieter see if I did it," and supplied a link to WMUR-TV.

Operator: Take a deep breath, ma'am. Deep breath. . . .

Caller: Oh my God. Oh my God.

II. The avenger

Extremes of grief and joy have a way of crystallizing experience. So it is that Tim Remsberg can rattle off the specifics of October 15 as if he were reading from a sheet of paper, or watching the events on a screen.

PEACE IN ACTION: since the shooting death of his stepdaughter last October, Tim Remsberg has launched himself into a tireless campaign to stamp out cyberstalking. "We must show Amy that we care about what happened to her," he told a Senate subcommittee.

Tim was filling his car with gas when Helen -- Amy's mother -- got the call: "Get down to the hospital now!" It was Dr. Bednar. He couldn't bring himself to say what had happened, only that there had been an "accident" as Amy was leaving the office and that there was a "criminal investigation." Helen called Tim, who headed over to Bednar's office.

"I thought she was in an accident, you know, so I'm not driving real fast on the way," he recalls. "Then I find the further I go, the faster I start driving, because -- a criminal investigation? Does that mean she was getting in her car and a drunk driver swung into the lot in a big old Caddy and just wiped her out? The more I thought about it, the faster I drove, until next thing you know I'm going like a nut through downtown Nashua." And then an ambulance hurtled by in the opposite direction, driving even faster than Tim. "I knew," he says. "I knew."

In the few minutes it took the ambulance to get to the hospital, Amy had died. When Tim arrived, police and paramedics wouldn't let him see her. Meanwhile, they couldn't confirm that it was his daughter who was lying in the trauma room. Her injuries were such that identifying features like hair color and the condition of her teeth were useless.

"I'm like, `How can you be sitting here telling me my daughter's gone?' " Tim says. " `You can't recognize her, you can't prove it to me.' " Eventually, he learned that it was indeed Amy who had been brought in, that she had been shot, and that the perpetrator was in critical condition with a gunshot wound to the head. (Liam was to outlive Amy by half an hour.)

Then something else occurred to Tim. "I thought, Oh my God, my wife's on her way down here. I've got to tell her this. This wasn't your typical mother-daughter relationship. These two were best friends. I knew what Helen was going to be like."

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Chris Wright can be reached at cwright[a]