dispute

NEWPORT — A Manchester man accused of helping seriously injure a Langdon resident three years ago was sentenced Monday to up to eight years in state prison.

Willem Wonsang, 46, was convicted of burglary last month in connection with the September 2018 incident, when prosecutors alleged he and another man beat Ben St. Jean at St. Jean’s camper on Jewett Road in Langdon, according to Sullivan County Superior Court records.

St. Jean, 42, suffered life-threatening injuries in the incident and was transported to a Vermont hospital before being transferred to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, where he was intubated and sedated, N.H. State Police Trooper Michael McLaughlin wrote in an affidavit at the time.

Wonsang’s trial had been delayed more than a year after he didn’t appear at the initial proceedings in December 2019, the records state. He was arrested in Massachusetts late last year.

In a complaint filed with the court in September 2018, county prosecutors alleged that Wonsang and his son, Lenny Alvarez, of Manchester, had broken into St. Jean’s camper earlier that month and assaulted him. Tiffany Dyer, also of Manchester, accompanied the two men and encouraged them to injure St. Jean, they alleged.

St. Jean had broken up with Dyer, 42, shortly before the incident, believing she had been cheating on him with Wonsang, her ex-boyfriend, McLaughlin said in his affidavit. St. Jean and Dyer were together in Manchester the day of the incident and got into an argument there, the affidavit states, after which Wonsang, Alvarez and Dyer followed St. Jean to Langdon.

Prosecutors alleged that Alvarez hit St. Jean's head and face while Wonsang struck his legs with a shovel blade. Those details were disputed during the trial, according to Wonsang's attorney, Bruce Jasper, who said Wonsang testified that he'd punched St. Jean while St. Jean said it was Alvarez.

St. Jean told police that Dyer had urged the men to “kill him,” the prosecutors' complaint noted.

St. Jean recovered from the blows to his head but testified during the trial that he suffered continuing injuries to his legs, Sullivan County Attorney Marc Hathaway said Tuesday.

Wonsang was indicted for jumping bail after failing to appear at trial proceedings in December 2019, according to court records. He remained a fugitive for more than a year before U.S. marshals arrested him at a Dunkin' in Townsend, Mass., the N.H. Union Leader reported. Wonsang had adopted a new identity, Ramone Ortiz, at the time of his arrest, the court records state.

He was convicted of burglary — a felony — in June and sentenced by Sullivan County Superior Court Judge Brian Tucker to between two and five years in state prison in Concord. He was also sentenced to a consecutive term of one to three years for bail jumping, as well as an additional term of up to four years that Tucker suspended on conditions of good behavior.

Wonsang was found not guilty of assaulting St. Jean, though his burglary conviction specifies that his actions included helping cause bodily injury. He had already served 207 days of his sentences as of Monday.

Alvarez, 24, entered a plea deal in 2019 and was convicted on separate counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree assault and burglary, both felonies, as well as a misdemeanor for restraining St. Jean while he was beaten. He was sentenced to two consecutive one-year terms in the Sullivan County jail, with Tucker suspending a longer sentence of up to five years.

After also reaching a plea deal, Dyer was found guilty last year of soliciting assault and conspiracy to commit burglary, both felonies. She was sentenced to two years in jail, also with an additional sentence of up to five years suspended.

Jasper, Wonsang's attorney, said Wednesday he was "a little surprised" that his client received a longer sentence than the other defendants.

"I just thought his was a little bit harsher, not knowing whether he was actually the person who caused the injury [to St. Jean] or was just helping someone else," he said.

Hathaway said his office was "pleased" to secure convictions against all three, however, saying Wonsang's sentencing "brings to close a very serious course of conduct.”

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.