GREENLAND, N.H. — The woman who died during a standoff in New Hampshire that also killed a police chief was a 26-year-old cosmetologist who had dated the gunman on and off and had gone to him in recent days to help him sort through issues that were upsetting him, her mother said Saturday.
Brittany Tibbetts was shot to death Thursday, her mother, Donna Tibbetts of Berwick, Maine, said. Authorities have not given her name but have said a woman was in the Greenland home where police tried to serve a search warrant when a man inside opened fire, killing the chief and wounding four officers. After a tense overnight standoff, the gunman, Cullen Mutrie, was found dead in the home early Friday along with Tibbetts. Both died of gunshot wounds to the head in what’s been ruled a murder-suicide, authorities said Saturday.
Donna Tibbetts said the pair dated off and on for about a year and a half. They were broken up and her daughter had moved back home, but “he in the last few days had some sort of issues that were upsetting him and she went back to try and help.”
She said her daughter, an award-winning high school softball pitcher who was Maine Player of the Year in 2003-2004, went on to be trained and to work as a cosmetologist.
The hulking, 6-foot-2, 260-pound Mutrie lived along a busy street near Interstate 95 and had long been a thorn in the neighborhood’s side, working on loud motorcycles and playing music deep into the night. He did odd jobs and helped with his mother’s printing business, said Donna Tibbetts.
Anabolic steroids were once found in his home after he was arrested on domestic assault charges and officers entered to confiscate guns, The Portsmouth Herald reported last year. He hoped to become a firefighter, Tibbetts said.
“We had only met him a few times,” she said of Mutrie. “He was nice enough to us. We might have had some concerns, but we just basically thought that Brittany was a big girl and it had to be left up to her. It was her choice.”
“She cared about him. She must have seen something good in him. That was the type of girl she was. … I don’t want her life to be defined by this one thing because she was a beautiful, caring girl.”
Mutrie was the target of the final drug bust that Greenland’s slain police chief, Michael Maloney, was planning before he retired after more than a quarter-century in law enforcement.
Trying to rid a neighborhood of its menace just days before retirement proved to be the 48-year-old chief’s final act.
“He died trying to make our community safer,” said John Penacho, chairman of the town’s Board of Selectman.
He was a comforting presence in the coastal town of about 3,500. Maloney seemed to be everywhere, working traffic details, keeping watch over band concerts at the park, always ready to listen to residents’ concerns.
“He never put his hand up to stop a conversation and always made himself available,” Another Greenland selectman, John Vitale, said after a memorial at a school Saturday. Many who didn’t know Maloney attended.
“I’ve been a part of the community for 25 years; it’s the least I can do,” said Rick Bzdafka, a Greendale Central School Science teacher.
Maloney had 26 years of experience in law enforcement, the last 12 as chief of the Greenland department.
Yet Maloney was also ready for something different. He said he planned to take a month off before launching a new career. As news of his pending retirement spread, townspeople stopped him to wish him luck.
“I have nine more working days left,” Maloney told a Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night, “and I have one more item I’m going to clear up.”
Maloney and the four other officers, all detectives from other departments, were part of a drug task force run by the state attorney general’s office. They arrived at Mutrie’s house at 6 p.m. Thursday, search warrant in hand. Mutrie was ready, authorities said, opening fire as police tried to gain entry.
Across the street, neighbor Michael Gordon’s family was just cleaning up from dinner when he heard a loud popping sound. He thought one of his young sons was banging on the dining room window and went to tell him to stop.
“I looked out the window and saw the shootout had already begun,” Gordon said. “My first thought was it was a bunch of fools playing paintball in the middle of the day.”
Gordon said he realized the gravity of the situation when he saw a downed officer — Maloney — and realized that no one was rushing to assist him. Gordon herded his frightened boys and his wife to the back of the house and lay on the floor. Eventually they crawled to the basement, where they spent a long, tense night.
Authorities spoke to Mutrie from outside the home a short time after the shooting, but things soon went silent, Delaney said. Around 2 a.m., a tactical team placed a robot equipped with a video camera in the home, and it detected the bodies of Mutrie and Tibbetts.
Two of the wounded officers were treated for gunshot wounds and released. The two others were hospitalized with gunshot wounds to the chest.
The Rev. Robert Fellows, pastor of the Greenland Community Congregational Church, said he led a prayer and moment of silence at the memorial Saturday. Fellows saw the event as a “coming together” for the town.
“It’s a turning point and a new beginning,” he said.
Rubinkam reported from Allentown, Pa. Associated Press writers Lynne Tuohy and Kathy McCormack in Concord, Holly Ramer in Greenland and Dave Gram in Montpelier, Vt., contributed to this report.