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December 12. 2012 11:07PM

Trial starts in 1969 murder

Jury selection began Wednesday in the trial of Salem resident Michael Ferreira who is accused of 1969 murder of 15-year-old John McCabe of Tewksbury, Mass.

Ferreira, 58, is one of three men charged in the case. Walter Shelley, 61, of Tewksbury, is charged with first-degree murder and witness intimidation. Edward Allen Brown, 60, of Londonderry, who has been cooperating with police, has been charged with manslaughter.

A spokeswoman for the Middlesex District Attorney's office said opening statements in Lowell Superior Count could begin today or Friday in the case that has taken 43 years to reach a courthouse.

According to authorities, Lowell police responded to a report of a body found by a group of children in a vacant field on Sept. 27, 1969. Police found McCabe hog-tied with rope and his eyes and mouth taped shut.

Investigators learned that McCabe had disappeared after leaving a dance at the Tewksbury Knights of Columbus. His family reported him missing after he failed to return home. Lowell police have said that at the time, they were flooded with tips about the murder but with no eye witnesses or DNA evidence the case eventually turned cold.

However, in 2010, police teamed up with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which brought a new, sophisticated polygraph test into the investigation.

"Through the ATF's polygraph equipment, Captain Jonathan Webb and Detective Linda Coughlin were able to validate and confirm several suspicions," said Lowell Police Superintendent Kenneth Lavallee in a news release. Repeated interviews using that equipment led to a break in the case.

According to a court order from Associate Justice Patricia Flynn, obtained last year by the New Hampshire Union Leader, Brown eventually confessed after being accused of lying by police. Brown then agreed to plead guilty to manslaughter and to testify against Ferreira and Shelley in a deal that allowed him to avoid jail time.

According to court documents, the three men kidnapped McCabe, who was hitchhiking home after the dance, because Shelley thought the teen had been flirting with his girlfriend.

McCabe was dragged into a car, driven by Shelley, and beaten before being bound and gagged. Shelley drove to a vacant lot in Lowell where the three men left McCabe. The rope the three tied around his neck eventually caused McCabe to die of strangulation.

Court documents revealed that trio returned a couple hours later and found McCabe dead.

Brown, who repeatedly described McCabe's death as an accident, told investigators that he and Shelley were scared, but that Ferreira insisted that they all take a vow of silence.

At a pretrial hearing Monday, Ferreira's lawyer, Eric Wilson, told Judge David Ricciardone that there was evidence that points to four other possible suspects in McCabe's murder.

Assistant District Attorney Thomas O'Reilly objected to introducing that evidence and said the prosecution will call an eye-witness to testify against Ferreira.

Ricciardonne agreed to review the defense's evidence and will decide if it can be presented to the jury.


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