- Associated Press - Thursday, October 9, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein says the killing of his stepmother in a home invasion reinforced his appreciation for law enforcement.

Havenstein spoke about the 2008 killing for the first time during a crime-focused campaign event Wednesday. He said he never intended to make it a part of his campaign but felt it fit with the discussion about making sure police have the tools they need to do their jobs.

“The law enforcement folks of our country do not get the credit they deserve, and I use this as an example of extraordinary professionalism by at least one, probably many others, in solving this case, and you need to know I’m grateful for that,” Havenstein said in an interview Thursday.

Havenstein, a retired defense industry CEO, is running against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is seeking a second term. Most polls show Havenstein trailing Hassan, and a first-term incumbent in New Hampshire has lost only twice since 1953.

Havenstein’s stepmother, Mary Havenstein, was killed during a home invasion in Bethesda, Maryland, in September 2008. Police couldn’t immediately solve the crime. But a month later, the officer who handled the case was searching the home of a burglary suspect, Jose Garcia-Perlera, when he noticed something that jogged his memory: a medallion from NASA’s Project Mercury, which Havenstein’s father had worked on.

Havenstein said he and his siblings were asked to go through the stolen goods found at Garcia-Perlera’s home and his younger brother immediately recognized the medallion. He said that prompted a DNA test, which linked Garcia-Perlera to his mother’s killing.

Garcia-Perlera, who also was accused of attacking other women during a string of home invasions, raised questions about the forensic evidence in the case at his trial. He was convicted of murder and other charges and is serving a life sentence in prison.

Maryland does not have the death sentence. Havenstein, former leader of defense contractor Science Applications International Corp., opposes repeal of New Hampshire’s death penalty. Hassan supports repeal.

Havenstein, after speaking about the killing on Wednesday, called his brothers and sisters to let them know there may be new news reports about it.

“It’s a very sensitive subject,” he said. “It was relevant to the conversation we were having at the event. Other than that I never would have brought it up.”

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