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Alleged McCabe Killer Draws Fear, Indifference From His Adopted Town

Michael Ferreira faces charges related to the 1969 murder of Johnny McCabe. Reactions of Salem residents ranged from fear to indifference.

In 1999, Michael Ferreira moved to Salem, NH. Last week he returned to Massachusetts to defend himself against and reactions to the news in his adopted hometown have been varied.

For many people living and working in Salem, a town of approximately 30,000 people just over the Massachusetts border on I-93, have largely either been too busy with their daily lives to have heard the news that an alleged murderer was living in their midst or were too busy to think much about it.

“It’s just kind of a pointless question to ask because nobody obviously knew that he had committed a murder,” said Kim LaFrance, who works at Barnes and Noble on Route 28. “Murder is obviously a big deal, and it’s been all over the papers, but it hasn’t been a big topic of interest here because people are looking for books, and I don’t think it would come up too much in conversation anyway.”

However, for others in town, such as Tara Blackington, the fact that they may have had met Ferreira during their daily routine in the past decade was a frightening prospect.

Blackington moved to Salem in the mid 1990s, just before Ferreira had moved to town. Today she owns Discount Pet Supply, a small store about two miles south of LaFrance’s Barnes and Noble and half a mile north of the Massachusetts border on Route 28.

Like LaFrance, Blackington had not heard much about the issue in her daily life either, but despite her ignorance on the case, she hopes a harsh penalty can be meted upon Ferreira if he is convicted of charges related to the crime so he will not be able to return anonymously to Salem.

“I think it’s pretty scary, and if he did commit murder, he should pay for his crime,” said Blackington, who added that Ferreira should be added to a public list comparable to those given for sex offenders if found guilty of any charges related to the crime. “I haven’t heard anything about it, but for me it’s a big deal that someone who could have committed murder lived on the next street or on the next block.”

Ferreira, and his friends Walter Shelley and Edward Brown, allegedly kidnapped McCabe while he was hitchhiking on Route 38 following a school dance in September, 1969. The motive was allegedly jealousy, as Shelley believed his girlfried, Marla Shiner, was showing interest in McCabe.

According to court documents, the trio allegedly beat McCabe in Shelley's car and drove him to Lowell. There, in a vacant lot on Maple Street, Shelley and Brown allegedly held McCabe down while Ferreira tied his hands, put tape over his mouth and eyes and then tied his ankles together and tied the rope from his ankles around his neck before leaving the lot.

This bondage/torture technique proved to be the cause of death, as McCable struggled to get free, his legs weakened, causing the rope around his neck to pull tighter, ultimately strangling him.

According to Brown's statement to police, the trio returned to the lot after one or two hours and found McCabe dead.

Ferreira, now 57 years old, was a juvenile at the time of the murder in 1969 and will be charged in Middlesex County juvenile court in connection to the murder and will also face charges as an adult for acting as a fugitive from justice and committing perjury in front of a Middlesex County grand jury regarding the case in 2008.

Additionally, in January 2009 he was found guilty of reckless operation of a vehicle and was acquitted of a connected charge of Driving Under the Influence.

The case also includes a charge of murder against Walter Shelley, 60, of Tewksbury, and a charge of manslaughter against Edward Alan Brown, 59, of Londonderry, NH.

According to court documents, it was Brown who finally confessed to his involvement in the murder during an interview with investigators in March. He also implicated Shelley and Ferreira and said it was Ferreira who who prompted the vow of silence in the hours after McCabe's death, allegedly threatening to kill the other two if they ever talked about it.

Ferreira and Shelley are being held on $500,000 cash bail each. Brown is free on personnel recognizance.

All three are scheduled to appear in Lowell District Court on May 26.

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