Friday, June 27, 2008

Entwistle receives life sentence for murders

By Franci R. Ellement, Globe Correspondent, and Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

WOBURN -- Neil Entwistle sat stone-faced and impassive this morning as his mother-in-law calmly excoriated him for shooting to death his young wife and infant daughter.

"Our dreams as a parent and grandparent have been shattered by the shameful, selfish act of one person, Neil Entwistle," said Priscilla Matterazzo,
who remained composed as she read a brief victim impact statement. "For him to have tried to hide behind an accusation of murder-suicide of this beautiful woman and perfect mother is low and despicable."

Matterazzo continued: "Suffering does not begin to describe what we have been enduring without our beloved Rachel and Lillian, who gave our lives such purpose and meaning. I have lost two generations of my family. I would ask the court to impose two consecutive life sentences in the United States, acknowledging the lives of both Rachel and Lillian."

Judge Diane Kottmyer acknowledged the symbolic significance of imposing two consecutive life sentences -- one for Rachel, 27, and one for their 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose -- but she said she feared it would give people unfamiliar with Massachusetts law the wrong impression. The mandatory sentence of life without the possibility of parole means that Entwistle will never be released from prison unless he is pardoned by the governor.

"These crimes are incomprehensible," Kottmyer said, handing down a sentence of two concurrent life terms. "They defy comprehension because they involve the planned and deliberate murders of the defendant's wife and 9-month-old child in violation of bonds that we recognize as central to our identity as human beings, those of husband and wife and parent and child."

The judge stipulated that the 29-year-old Briton could not "profit in any way from the sale of his story either by way of book or otherwise to any media outlet." He will begin serving his sentence at MCI Cedar Junction in South Walpole.

Entwistle did not exercise his option to address the court. He did not testify during the 12-day trial and has not spoken publicly since the killings.

The jury of six women and six men took just 11 hours to convict him on Wednesday of two counts of first-degree murder. The conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole and requires an automatic review by the Supreme Judicial Court.

Those in court Wednesday, including families of the defendant and the victims, remained almost completely silent at the close of the trial that garnered attention on both sides of the Atlantic with its emotional and at times graphic testimony and evidence.

One juror, a woman who asked that her name not be used, described how the jury reached its verdict. She said they began by examining the defense's theory that Rachel Entwistle shot her baby and then herself. The jury even went so far as to have one member who was about the same height as Rachel Entwistle act out such a murder-suicide.

She said the jury, after weighing ballistics and forensic evidence, concluded that a murder-suicide was not logistically possible. Jurors then considered if anyone else might have committed the crimes. But they were convinced, she said, that "there was no evidence anyone else had been in the house" around the time of the killings.

"We tried to look at every aspect and analyze all the evidence that was put before us, because we wanted it to be a fair trial," the juror said. "Nobody came into this thinking automatically that he was guilty. Everybody was in different places at the beginning."

She said that the jury was not influenced by one of the prosecution's main points, that Neil Entwistle did not call police after discovering the bodies and instead flew to his parents' house in England.

"Most people say the fact he didn't call 911" made Neil Entwistle seem guilty, she said, "but we looked at it as a cultural difference."

Andrew F. Tringale, an alternate juror, said the defense's argument -- that Rachel committed a murder-suicide and Neil did not notify police "because he wouldn't tarnish Rachel's memory" -- was unpersuasive.

"Why hadn't they been more blatant about that earlier, if that was a realistic argument?" Tringale said. "Why didn't they call witnesses to substantiate that claim, which itself seemed pretty unrealistic?"

The defense shocked court observers when it did not call a single witness. The prosecution called more than 40 witnesses during the 12-day trial in Middlesex Superior Court.

Tringale said he was comfortable with the conviction. "I think the prosecution presented their case well, and I think the defense made a really unrealistic argument," he said.

Richard D. Vautour, another juror, said the experience was "emotionally extremely difficult and challenging," as well as amazing and educational.

After the verdict was read Wednesday, Priscilla Matterazzo and Joseph Matterazzo, Rachel's stepfather, appeared at a somber press conference during which they thanked the public for sending cards and letters of support.

"We may never know why this happened," said Joseph Flaherty, a spokesman for the Matterazzos. "Rachel and Lillian Rose loved and trusted Neil Entwistle. Neil Entwistle's actions on Jan. 20, 2006, betrayed that love and trust. Neil Entwistle will now live with his evil deeds for the rest of his natural life, only to be judged again."

Entwistle's parents also spoke out, telling reporters that Rachel Entwistle "murdered" their granddaughter.

"We know that our son, Neil, is innocent, and we are devastated to learn that the evidence points to Rachel murdering our grandchild and then committing suicide," his mother, Yvonne Entwistle, said. "I knew Rachel was depressed. Our son will now go to jail for loving, honoring, and protecting his wife's memory."

Entwistle's father, Clifford, added: "From the moment that Joe Flaherty said, and I quote, 'All we need now is the right jury pool,' we knew Neil would not receive a fair trial. We will continue to fight for our innocent son with the hope that one day justice will prevail, and our little granddaughter Lilly may rest in peace."

When the verdict was read, Neil Entwistle's mouth dropped open, and he pressed his eyes shut and shook his head slightly from side to side.

He then turned to look at his parents, who had little reaction, as did the Matterazzos. The courtroom was virtually silent.

Entwistle's mother, Yvonne, and brother, Russell, did not stand when the court was asked to rise for the jury.

Neil Entwistle, the son of a cook and a politician, met Rachel Souza in 1999, when he was a student at the University of York and she was an exchange student from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester. The couple married in August 2003 and moved to Hopkinton in January 2006.

Neil Entwistle had suffered major financial problems and was dissatisfied in the marriage, prosecutors said. Just days before the killings, police said, he had trawled the Internet for "blonde beauties" and "half-price escorts" and searched Google for "knife in the neck kill" and "quick suicide method."

On the day of the slayings, he logged into his account on a website that bills itself as "The World's Largest Sex & Swinger Personals Community," police said.

Prosecutors said he shot his wife in the head and his daughter point-blank in the heart with a .22-caliber pistol that belonged to Joseph Matterazzo. He then covered the bodies with a comforter, returned the gun to his in-laws' home in Carver, and fled to his parents' home in Worksop, England, according to police.

During the trial, prosecutors played an audio recording of Entwistle trying to explain why he did not call police. He said he was in a trance-like state and "just couldn't get it clear in my head to do it."

The defense contended that there was a pattern of shoddy police work in the investigation that distorted facts and ignored other possibilities.

Entwistle's court-appointed lead attorney, Elliot Weinstein, had criticized the Hopkinton police officers who first responded to Entwistle's home because they used a plastic Blockbuster card to pick the lock and enter without a search warrant. He also argued that media coverage of the case made a fair trial impossible.

"Under a different environment," a jury would have reached a different result, Weinstein said. He said that because police twice made "unlawful entries" into the Entwistle home, he was confident that the case "will meet a successful review in the Supreme Court."

David Abel, Michael Levenson, and John R. Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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