Contrasting views on roommates’ relationship a focal point early in murder trial

Tim Barnum
The open murder trial for Peter Heagany, right, continues in Bay County.

BAY CITY — A Michigan State Police interview with murder suspect Peter Heagany and Trooper Drew Patterson and testimony from victim Brian Charbonneau’s parents drew two different pictures of the roommates’ relationship.

Heagany, 27, has been charged with open murder in the Feb. 8 shooting death of Charbonneau. The defense claims the shooting was an act of self-defense that occurred while Charbonneau was drunk and attacking Heagany. The prosecution has argued that the shooting was premeditated and Heagany’s way of ending his relationship with Charbonneau to begin a new one with a female he had recently met.

Interview tells story of abusive relationship

A video of an interview between Heagany and Patterson was played in 18th Circuit Court in Bay County Aug. 28. During the interview, Heagany described the events of Feb. 7-8, beginning with him picking up Charbonneau from work in Pinconning at 11:30 p.m. and ending with the shooting that allegedly resulted in the death of Charbonneau. According to the video, Heagany drove Charbonneau to two bars, where the latter drank several drinks and shots before the roommates returned home.

Heagany told Patterson at the house, he began preparing tilapia for Charbonneau, who was in the living room texting. He said in the interview that Charbonneau threw his cell phone against the living room wall, and that he approached him to calm him down. Heagany said Charbonneau pushed him away and grabbed a baton-like item and swung it at him. He said he tried to run out the front door, but it was taped closed and snow was pressed up against it, and he could not get outside.

In the interview video, Heagany said he then tried retreating toward the bathroom and alleged that Charbonneau threw a decorative rock at him, at which point he went into a bedroom in the house and placed a chair behind the door to keep Charbonneau out. He told Patterson Charbonneau started smashing through the door with an item.

“It sounded like the hatchet from ‘The Shining’ or something,” Heagany said.

According to Heagany, who was interviewed in a police vehicle, he grabbed Charbonneau’s shotgun that was in the bedroom and shouted “Stop!” several times, warning his roommate that he would shoot if he entered the bedroom. Heagany said he did not know if the gun was loaded or even check to see if the safety was off, but that he just squeezed the trigger and saw Charbonneau drop. He said he attempted to find a phone to call for help afterwards, but thought Charbonneau broke both of their phones.

“I think I dropped the gun and I ran out of the room,” he said. “I was looking for my phone, his phone, any phone.”

Heagany said he was going to leave the house to go get help when he passed out, waking several hours later due to a phone — his cell phone — vibrating. He told Patterson he called his mother and then 911.

Prior to recounting the alleged events of the night, Heagany told Patterson he cared for Charbonneau and wanted to help him. He said Charbonneau had a very violent temper and took medication for bi-polar disorder. Heagany claimed in the past Charbonneau had choked him, threw him around, broke his belongings and hurt his pets.

Heagany told Patterson Charbonneau was a homosexual and violently forced himself on Heagany sexually.

“It sounds like a relationship that you probably should’ve gotten yourself away from a long time ago,” Patterson said toward the end of the interview.

During the video, Heagany, who was not visible, could be heard weeping multiple times, including for several minutes when Patterson exited the vehicle.

Patterson says Heagany’s story inconsistent at times

After the video was finished, Patterson took the stand. He was asked about inconsistencies in Heagany’s recounting of the night’s events, and said several of the times, such as when the two left Rendezvous, returned home and when Heagany was awoken by his phone changed during the interview. Patterson said Heagany also told him different locations as to where his phone was when he eventually found it.

“That’s a little bit confusing to me,” he said. “He really didn’t come up with an exact answer where he did find the phone.”

Patterson said Heagany also told him he was not very familiar with firearms, but then told him he had gone small-game hunting with Charbonneau.

Parents say roommates seemed to have good relationship

While Heagany painted a picture of a relationship that was hostile and abusive, Brian Charbonneau’s parents, Cindy and Anthony Charbonneau Sr., said they never saw the two fight.

Cindy Charbonneau said she had seen only bickering between the two, nothing violent. Anthony emphatically said he had never seen them fight.

“Swear to God, never,” he told Assistant Prosecutor Nancy Borushko while he was on the witness stand.

Both parents said Brian or Heagany could approach them if there was an issue between them. The parents said the two were close friends and always together.

“They hung out together. They went hunting together. They did all sorts of things together,” Cindy Charbonneau said. “When they came over we went out to eat. They were always together.”

“Where there was one, there was the other,” Anthony Charbonneau Sr. said. “Two peas in a pod they were.”

During a cross examination, Cindy Charbonneau was asked by Reyes if Brian Charbonneau had anger problems. She told him that Brian Charbonneau, who was the youngest of three boys, fought with his brothers here and there, but she never saw it escalate much further. Cindy Charbonneau told Reyes an incident with the police in 2003 due to an anger issue at their home was not because of Brian, but one of his older brothers.

The parents said they were unaware of Brian Charbonneau ever being diagnosed as bi-polar, and said that he most likely did not share every aspect of his life with them. Anthony Charbonneau Sr. said Heagany and his sone seemed to have a good relationship, and it was their business.

“They never had to explain anything to us,” he said. “We accepted it. You love them.”

The father said Brian Charbonneau was quiet and happy-go-lucky, and that he felt neither his son or Heagany were not bad kids.

“They were really good kids,” he said. “They never caused anybody no problems or nothing.”

According to Anthony Charbonneau Sr.’s testimony, Heagany was like a member of the family, and he considered him like another son. Heagany was invited to any holiday gatherings or birthday parties, and went on hunting trips with the boys from the family, he said, adding he remembered Heagany shooting his first deer on a trip in 2012.

The parents said Heagany and Brian Charbonneau had lived with them or on their property at different times in recent years. Cindy Charbonneau said around four or five years ago the two lived in a travel trailer behind her house that Heagany’s mother owned. Anthony Charbonneau Sr. said in 2010 after he lost a wife to cancer the boys lived with him and helped him during his difficult time.

Anthony Charbonneau Sr. was asked if Heagany owned any guns while he was on the witness stand. He mentioned two guns Heagany owned — a pistol and a non-automatic assault weapon. He said both Brian Charbonneau and Heagany had pistols and concealed weapons permits at one time, but sold many of their guns to pay bills.

The trial was scheduled to continue for the next several days.


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