A man pleaded not guilty yesterday to second-degree murder in the beating death of a 79-year-old man in the parking lot of a Walmart in New Hampshire. Brian Roberge, 52, of Somersworth, was being held without bail following his hearing. Somersworth police said they arrested Roberge after responding to a call Friday about one man assaulting another. When they arrived at the Walmart, they found Jan VanTassel, of Center Ossipee, unresponsive with visible head and facial injuries. First responders determined he was dead. An autopsy determined VanTassel’s cause of death was due to compressional asphyxia and that his manner of death was homicide. That finding “is consistent with eyewitness accounts that Mr. Roberge was straddling Mr. VanTassel’s chest for several minutes while hitting him in the head and face,” a news release from the attorney general’s office said. Roberge appeared at Monday’s arraignment via video, asking for the names of the judge and the prosecutor. He was represented by a public defender. Superior Court Judge Mark Howard told Roberge he found “convincing evidence” to detain Robert in the police affidavit, which has been sealed.
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