Brown Says Ferreira Threatened To Kill Him, Shelley After Murder
Co-Defendant called to the stand on Day 4 of cold case murder trial.
Michael Ferreira threatened to kill Walter Shelley and Edward Alan Brown if they ever talked about the events that led the death of Tewksbury teen Johnny McCabe in a vacant lot in Lowell in September, 1969.
But that's exactly what Brown did Friday on Day 4 of Ferreira's 1st Degree Murder trial in Woburn's Middlesex Superior Court.
Brown recounted how fellow Tewksbury High students Ferreira, 16, and Shelley, 18, came to his home on the night of Sept. 26 and recruited him in a mission to find the 15-year-old McCabe and "teach him a lesson" for flirting with Shelley's 13-year-old girlfriend, Marla Shiner.
Brown said they found McCabe hitchhiking on Route 38, after having left a dance at the Knights of Columbus. He said Ferreira got out of Shelley's car, grabbed McCabe in a “bear hug” and forced him into the backseat of the car, where Brown was sitting.
As the victim's parents and sisters watched from the first row, Brown described Johnny McCabe as being "sad, scared. He didn't know what was going on."
"(McCabe) kept saying, 'let me out. I don't want to be here.'"
Brown testified he thought the plan was just to scare McCabe and "slap him around." Instead, he said, Shelley drove to the vacant lot just off Maple Street in Lowell, where McCabe was forced to the ground by Shelley and Ferreira. Brown said he helped hold down McCabe while Ferreira bound his ankles and wrists and put tape across his mouth to keep him quiet.
"(McCabe was saying) 'get off me, leave me alone.' He was crying," said Brown.
Then, Brown said, Ferreira attached a third rope, pulling his ankles up and wrapping the rope around his neck. It was that action, prosecutors allege, that led to McCabe death, as he struggled to free himself.
Brown testified that after McCabe was bound, the trio left the scene and drove around, drinking beer, before returning to the lot to release McCabe. Brown said he stayed in the car, while Shelley and Ferreira went over to untie McCabe. About 30-45 seconds later, the two hurried back to the car and told Brown that McCabe was dead.
Brown said it was then that Ferreira swore the others to secrecy.
"He said 'if anybody tells anybody about this, I'll kill them,'" said Brown.
Brown said he kept that vow of silence for more than 40 years, not even talking to Shelley about it while the two were in Air Force boot camp together and not even talking to Ferreira about that at family gatherings (Ferreira's wife, the former Nancy Williams, and Brown's brother's wife are sisters.)
Brown now lives in Londonderry, NH. Ferreira lives in Salem, NH.
During cross-examination, Ferreira's attorney's pounded Brown for inconsistencies in details of his testimony, compared to earlier testimony before a Grand Jury and at a Transfer Hearing. They also highlighted the fact that under intense interrogation by detectives in 2011, Brown at first denied involvement in the crime and then provided several different accounts of the events leading to McCabe's death.
Brown denied that his testimony was only because of a deal with prosecutors that will allow him to plead guilty to manslaughter with a sentence of 10 years probation in exchange for his testimony against both Ferreira and Shelley.
"I'm a parent, and if something happened to my kid, I'd want to know what happened to them," said Brown.
Also testifying on Friday was Marla Shiner, who now lives in California with her family. Shiner at first testified that she was dating Walter Shelley at the time of McCabe's death but later said she thought they didn't start dating until later. The two married when Shiner was 18 and later divorced.
She acknowledge under questioning that she told a man named Joey Richards that Shelley was jealous and that he had a mean streak.
"I didn't have to tell him. He already knew," she said.
However, Shiner denied having a romantic interest in Johnny McCabe or that she was aware McCabe had any interest in her.
She broke down in tears, as she recounted how, in 2011, investigators told her they believed it was jealousy over her that led to Johnny McCabe's death. She said the revelation was devastating but that she didn't feel responsible for the murder.
As Shiner left the courtroom, she touched William McCabe, Johnny's father, on the shoulder and bent down and said, "I'm sorry for your loss."
The trial will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 22, with Brown returning to the witness stand for additional testimony.
Jurors were told by the judge that the trial was on track for deliberations to begin either Wednesday, Jan. 23 or Thursday, Jan. 24.