by Robert M. Cook
Foster's Daily Democrat, September 5, 2004
CONCORD — When Raymond Fowler has trouble sleeping at night in his prison cell, his nightmares revolve around the two biggest mistakes he has made in his life.
The first one was on May 1, 1990, when Bill Flynn, Vance Lattime and Patrick Randall pulled up in a car and asked him to go for a ride to Derry where Flynn and Randall would later murder Greg Smart in his condo. That mistake would make Fowler, then 18, spend the next 12 years of his life in State Prison.
Fowler waited in a car while friend William Flynn shot insurance salesman Greg Smart in the Derry condominium he shared with his wife, Pam, prosecutors said. Flynn, 16 at the time, had been having an affair with Pam Smart, a 22-year-old media coordinator at Winncunnet High School in Hampton that the teens attended.
Smart's lawyers argued that Flynn wanted Greg Smart out of the way so he could continue the affair, which began when he was 15. Prosecutors said Smart wanted her husband killed so she wouldn't lose her condo, furniture and dog in a divorce.
The second mistake happened 14 months after Fowler finally was paroled in April 2003. During the wee hours of the morning of June 8, he decided go to Salisbury, Mass., where his ex-girlfriend was staying and talk to her after he was told she was doing drugs while pregnant with his child.
The Salisbury Police Department cited him for disturbing the peace. Less than a month later, Fowler was charged with the much more serious felony charge of witness tampering after he allegedly contacted his girlfriend's mother to have the mother persuade the girlfriend not to file a complaint.
By then he was already back at the State Prison where he had to trade blue jeans for a green jumper with his new prisoner ID No. 36134. The Parole Board revoked his parole in July and a Hampton District Court judge found probable cause in August to forward the felony charge to a Rockingham County Grand Jury.
On Sept. 15, the Parole Board is scheduled to hold a second hearing to determine how much time Fowler will have to serve for the new charges. If he is found guilty of witness tampering, a Class B felony that carries a 3 1/2- to 7-year sentence, Fowler knows he could spend another eight years in State Prison.
At 32, Fowler has already lost his 20s to prison and now he could potentially lose his 30s. After getting a taste of freedom during his 14 months of parole, Fowler said he doesn't know if he can stand a long jail sentence again.
During an interview with Foster's Sunday Citizen inside the State Prison's Visitors Room on Wednesday afternoon, Fowler shared his hope that the Parole Board might give him a second chance to rebuild his life.
With his lawyer at his side, Fowler said the only way he will be able to make it on the outside is if the media stops grouping him with Pam Smart, the woman who coerced Flynn and his friends to murder her husband in 1990.
Fowler believes that everything that happened at his Parole Board hearing in July and the witness tampering charge are related to the public's skewed perception of his role in the Pam Smart case.
"I want to have it known to the media when they refer to me, refer to me as Raymond Fowler," he said. Over the years, whenever the media has written about him, Fowler said his name is always grouped with Pam Smart.
"I'm not here for that. I have already done my time for that case," Fowler said. "I'm here for the parole violation."
Fowler pulled out several newspaper clippings from inside a yellow envelop to illustrate his point. In one article about his last parole hearing, a photo was published of Pam Smart.
When N.H. Probation and Parole Officer Robert Meegan initially charged him with the parole violation on June 15 — a week after the incident involving his ex-girlfriend — Fowler said Meegan confused his role in the Smart case with Lattime by asking Fowler if he was the one who obtained the gun used in the murder.
Fowler echoed the same arguments his lawyer, Attorney Jorel Booker of Raymond, made before the Parole Board and in Hampton District Court: That the system is railroading him back to prison because of the Pam Smart case.
"Obviously, this is political," Fowler said. He believes that any other inmate who was cited for disturbing the peace would not be back in Concord.
"I was on parole for 14 months and I did excellent. I was a model parolee," Fowler said. He said he never missed a meeting with his parole officers and always called them to get permission to do things like work in Massachusetts to make sure he didn't do anything that would send him back to prison.
Fowler admits he made a mistake when he went to see his ex-girlfriend at 2 a.m., "But should I be put back in jail for that for six or seven months? I don't think so."
"I'm getting caught between this stuff going on and two parole officers," said Fowler, referring to Meegan and his former parole officer Barry Osborn.
During the parole hearing, Meegan characterized Fowler as a murderer and someone who was in crisis.
"The last time he had a crisis like this, we had a dead body," Meegan told the board. "Mr. Fowler," he said, "is no minor pot smoker."
Osborn told a different story at the same hearing. Based on everything Fowler told him on the morning of the June 8 incident, Osborn saw no reason to arrest him or incarcerate him.
"He just said emotions got a hold of him. He made some bad choices and he reported it," said Osborn, adding that Fowler also took responsibility for his actions. "There was nothing significant that would cause me undue stress or alarm."
Rather than send him back to prison, Fowler said there were a number of other things Meegan could have recommended. He could have asked the Parole Board to subject Fowler to electronic monitoring, 100 hours of community service, or intense parole where he would have to meet with his parole officer every two weeks instead of every two months.
During his time at the State Prison, Fowler said he has seen a lot of inmates lose their parole after committing their fifth or sixth violation of using drugs. In most of those cases, Fowler said they received a 60-day setback.
Life on the outside
In 2000, Fowler unsuccessfully sought a pardon from then-Gov. Jeanne Shaheen. Three years later in April 2003, Fowler became eligible for parole and won his freedom after spending three months in the State Prison's halfway house program.
He also had the blessing of Greg Smart's father, who told the Parole Board he didn't consider Fowler a danger to his family or to society and that he deserved a second chance at life.
When he left the halfway house a few weeks later, Fowler said he moved to Allenstown and Tom Casey was his first parole officer. It was extremely hard for him to adjust to life outside of prison.
Everywhere he went, he felt like people still saw him as an inmate even though he didn't have to wear the familiar green prison jumper anymore.
In prison, Fowler said inmates are told what to do all the time and the stresses are minimal. Other than having to work four hours a day, the rest of the time is spent eating, doing hobbies and crafts, playing basketball or lifting weights and watching television.
"You do that for 12 1/2 years and it's hard to adjust," he said.
The length of time he spent behind bars coupled with the fact that he was just 18 years old when he went in and 32 when he was released was especially problematic emotionally and psychologically, Fowler said.
When he went to State Prison in 1990, the world was a different place. There was no e-mail, Internet or cell phones.
During his time at the halfway house, the only thing he learned was how to keep a household budget. He said there was very little programming offered to help inmates develop good life skills so they know how to cope with potentially difficult situations like a broken love affair, the death of a family member or losing a job.
When Fowler decided to move back to his hometown of Seabrook and live with his then-girlfriend, he also landed a good paying construction job in Massachusetts where he earned as much as $850 a week.
He obtained permission to drive two hours each way to work in Massachusetts and his days consisted of getting up at 4 a.m., arriving for work at 6 a.m., working 10 hours and heading home at 4 p.m. After dinner, he would go to bed and get up and do it all again.
But unlike his prison jobs where he earned $32 a month if he was lucky, Fowler enjoyed making enough money to buy a truck, a boat so he could go fishing and a snowmobile.
H was able to do things again that he loved, like eating lobster or going bass fishing in Seabrook Harbor. He also enjoyed working on old cars and was in the process of rebuilding a motor for a 1986 truck.
He also like being able to help his mother, Paula Fowler, with things around the house. Fishing is still his first love.
"Fishing for me is like getting away from the world where you can relax and just have a good time. If you get hot, you jump in the water," Fowler said.
It took several months for Fowler to get comfortable with his new life. By the time he celebrated his first Christmas with his family in December 2003, everything started to feel good for him.
He was involved in a relationship with a woman he grew up with in Seabrook. In February, Fowler learned she was pregnant and he was estatic. Fowler dreamed of having a wife, children and a home and now it seemed to be within his grasp.
Fowler bought her a diamond engagement ring and talked to a bank about getting a loan to buy a $170,000 home. Fowler said he has always loved children and treated his ex-girlfriend's 10-year-old daughter like she was his own.
He recalled how he liked taking her and her friends to the beach for the day, or out for ice cream. He took her to a father/daughter dance at Seabrook Elementary School. In many ways, Fowler believes he is still the same 18-year-old kid he was when he went into prison.
He admits that his naivete may have prevented him from seeing the changes that took place in his relationship. He and his girlfriend eventually broke up.
On the morning of June 8, a woman came to his house and told him his girlfriend was with another man doing drugs. Fowler said he and his brother went to the Salisbury, Mass. apartment because he was worried about how the drugs could harm his unborn child.
Fowler said he tapped on the windows and knocked on the door, but did not bang on them as his ex-girlfriend told police. When she didn't come out of the residence, Fowler let the air out of one of her car tires so she would not drive under the influence of drugs.
The Salisbury Police officers who responded did not charge Fowler or his brother with any offenses and indicated he might receive a summons for a violation of disturbing the peace sometime in the future.
When Fowler finally reached his ex-girlfriend later that morning, she told him she had gotten an abortion a few weeks before.
"Now that alone hurt me even more than her being at this guy's house," Fowler said.
Fowler contacted Osborn and told him what happened, but Osborn didn't seem overly concerned about it. Less than a week later, Osborn transferred to the probation and parole office in Nashua and Fowler was reassigned to Meegan.
When Meegan learned about the Salisbury, Mass., incident he met with Fowler and arrested him on June 15.
Fourteen months after Fowler became the first of the four conspirators in the Pam Smart case to have a second chance at life, he was back behind bars.
Back in prison
After having a taste of being a free man for more than a year, going back to prison was the worst thing that could have happened to Fowler.
Fowler has gone from a world where he could see his family and friends everyday to just two visits a week.
Fowler said some of his fellow inmates can't believe that he ended up back in jail.
"It's someplace I wouldn't ever wish on someone to be because they don't just take your freedom. It takes your basic identity of who you are," Fowler said. "I can't be who I am in here. I have to be who they want me to be."
Fowler now lives in the prison's C-3 medium security unit. The are 12 rooms in each pod and eight inmates inhabit each room. Each level has three showers and there is also a pool table.
He said there is always a lot of noise.
"It gets frustrating at times because you just want to be alone and be quiet," he said.
As an inmate, Fowler's day starts at 7 a.m. He showers, eats breakfast and works about four hours a day mopping floors in the prison psychiatric ward. At noon, the prison guards do a standard count to make sure all the inmates are where they are supposed to be and then lunch is served.
Fowler spends most of the afternoon working in the hobby crafts shop where he learned to make furniture during his first 12 years inside.
"I can make anything you have a picture of," he says proudly. He explained he has made his share of tables, shelves, cabinents and amories from maplewood, cherry and oak. He has even donated finished products to the Make-A-Wish Foundation for charity.
After eating again at 6 p.m., Fowler may return to the hobby/crafts shop. He lifts weights around 8 p.m. before returning to his room for lights out at 10 p.m.
During his time at the prison, Fowler became an accomplished weight-lifter who won his share of trophies in prison competitions. A few years ago when he weighed 182 pounds, Fowler said he did a dead lift of 600 pounds, a 360-pound bench press and a 550-pound squat.
Inmates can watch as much television as they want and can buy their own televisions for their rooms, Fowler said. But in the end, inmates still feel cut off and isolated from the world and when they are released it can be a struggle.
In his case, Fowler said the halfway house program didn't provide him with enough tools to make it. He believes that people who go to prison when they are so young need to be treated for several years after they get out, so they don't suffer emotional breakdowns and end up back in prison.
When told that Vance Lattime would be the next person from the Pam Smart case who will be eligible for parole in 2008, Fowler offered him this advice, "Try not to put yourself in a situation that would make you feel angry and upset."
Fowler said it is best for a paroled inmate to take it slow, one day at a time, and get a good handle on who they are as a person before they decide to get involved in relationships.
"The world out there is much faster, much faster. It's like being on a train that goes 100 miles per hour," Fowler said.
If he ever gets another chance to rebuild his life, Fowler said he would be very careful when it comes to getting involved in relationships. He said he would like to move to Florida where his mother plans to live after she sells her home in Seabrook.
If he were to live and work there instead of his hometown, Fowler thinks he would have a better chance of distancing himself from the Pam Smart case.
He still has hope that he will get another chance to rebuild his life after all he has been through, "But the longer I stay here, the less I believe it."