UPDATED: Arrests Made in 1969 Murder Case
Three men are identified in connection with the 1969 murder of John McCabe.
A break has been made in a cold case murder that has been hanging over Tewksbury for 41 years.
The Middlesex District Attorney's Office announced this morning the arrests Edward Alan Brown, 59, of Londonberry, NH, Walter Shelley, 60, of Tewksbury, and Michael Ferreira, 57, of Salem, NH.
Brown and Shelley were arraigned in Lowell District Court before Judge Harvey Friday morning. Shelley was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail. Brown was released on personal recognizance. Their next court date is May 26 for a pre-trial conference.
Ferreira was arraigned in Exeter District Court in New Hampshire on the fugitive from justice warrant and was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail. He faces a rendition hearing in Salem District Court on Monday, April 18 at 9 a.m. He will be arraigned on the juvenile murder complaint upon his rendition to Massachusetts.
“After many decades of frustration, the exceptional efforts and dedication of the Lowell Police, the Massachusetts State Police, the Tewksbury Police and the Middlesex DA's Office have paid off. This truly is a remarkable story and much credit is due to Mr. William McCabe, the father of John McCabe, and the entire McCabe family," Lowell Police Superintendent Lavallee said.
"Their determination to see this matter resolved motivated all of us in law enforcement to keep this matter on the front burner. I also applaud all the detectives who worked this case and in particular, Detective Gerry Wayne of the Lowell Police Dept. His investigatory efforts formed much of the basis for the successful resolution of this matter. Unfortunately Detective Wayne succumbed to cancer in 2009 and is not here to see his efforts come to fruition."
Shelley is charged with murder. Brown is charged with manslaughter. Because Ferreira was a juvenile at the time of the incident, he will be charged in juvenile court on the murder charge and will face an adult complaint on a perjury charge for lying to the Grand Jury. Ferreira will first face a fugitive from justice warrant in New Hampshire prior to facing the Massachusetts charges
McCabe's body was found in a field off of Maple Street in Lowell on the morning of Sept. 27, 1969. McCabe had disappeared after leaving a dance in Tewksbury. The teen was found bound with rope and with signs of torture.
The District Attorney's office said it is alleged that Shelley, Ferreira and Brown were all involved in abducting the victim and holding him in a car against his will where they assaulted him, and subsequently bound and gagged him in such a way that it led to his death.
It is alleged that Shelley drove the car to the vacant field on Maple Street in Lowell and that the defendants left the victim in the field, where he died alone, the DA said.
The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to strangulation.
Friday morning McCabe's friends Carol "Maggie" Coffey, Paul Antonelli and Robert Poulin, who had been hounding the Lowell and State Police since their friend's murder, rejoiced.
"My heart is just pounding," Coffey said.
Coffey was the girl who was supposed to meet McCabe at the dance that night until her mother made her stay in and clean her room.
"He was in my art class and had drawn this beautiful 'make love, not war, poster," Coffey remembered. "He approached me and asked me to go to the dance that night. I was so thrilled that a boy noticed me."
Coffey said since that night, she never forgot McCabe or allowed his death to grow cold in her own mind.
"His friends never forgot him," Coffey said noting Antonelli and Poulin worked with her to garner the attention of local police departments. "We wanted this to be solved for his parents. Forty-one years is too long, especially when everyone in town at the time had suspicions about who did it."
The irony of the situation, Coffey said, is that McCabe's parents never even knew she and their son's old friends were pushing for the case to be solved the whole time.
"I knew this day would come because I insisted it come," Coffey said. "I would have accepting nothing other than this day coming. Our goal was to have this case solved while John's parents were still alive."
That Red Headed Boy
To McCabe's friends, his death was more than just a loss of a friend and talented student. It was the end of their innocence.
"It was the 70s drug days and a lot of kids died in Tewksbury of overdoses, and boys were coming home from the war," Coffey said. "But John was the first one of us."
Coffey said she and others in town knew there were witnesses who saw McCabe get into a car with someone that night, but no one came forward.
"There was an intact crime scene, DNA from the crime scene and witnesses, but they couldn't find the person who did this?" Coffey said. "I'm not out to see someone go to jail; I just didn't want 41 years to go by when everyone knew the essentials of what had happened."
Today, Coffey said she is remembering the red headed, freckled kid from art class and will pin a ribbon on the black and white picture of John that has been hanging over her desk.
"It was John's friends who never forgot," Coffey said. "The machine may have solved the case but we weren't giving up."