Entwistle defense offers alternative

Questioning points to wife as possible suspect

Medical examiner William Zane, testifying in Neil Entwistle's murder trial, described how Rachel Entwistle was shot. Medical examiner William Zane, testifying in Neil Entwistle's murder trial, described how Rachel Entwistle was shot. (C.J. Gunther/ASSOCIATED PRESS/pool)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Franci R. Ellement
Globe Correspondent / June 20, 2008

WOBURN - In a stunning move yesterday, the defense team for accused killer Neil Entwistle suggested that the British man's wife, Rachel, could have been so depressed that she shot her infant daughter and then herself in the couple's bed on the morning of Jan. 20, 2006.

"The difference between homicide, suicide, or an accident may be difficult, sometimes impossible, to determine," defense lawyer Stephanie Page suggested to a witness for the prosecution, medical examiner William Zane, yesterday during the 10th day of testimony in Entwistle's Middlesex Superior Court trial. "You do know there are instances when parent and child end up in a murder-suicide?"

Prosecutors say Entwistle, now 29, shot to death his wife and 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose, in their Hopkinton home because he was under financial pressure and sexually unsatisfied in his marriage.

Prosecutors said that Rachel and Lillian were killed on Jan. 20 between 9 and 11 a.m., but Zane estimated they could have died three or four days before their autopsy was performed, on Jan. 24.

After finding the bodies on Jan. 20, Entwistle flew to his native England without reporting the gruesome discovery to the authorities or telling his wife's family, according to prosecutors. He told police that he had returned home to find the pair dead.

Rachel, 27, died immediately, Zane testified, when she was shot in the head.

Lillian died within a few minutes after being shot in the chest, with the bullet obliterating her kidneys and liver, Zane said. "Bleeding to death would occur fairly rapidly," he said of Lillian's injury.

Page said that Rachel could have cuddled with Lillian and reached around to shoot her in the chest, with that bullet lodging in Rachel's own chest. "It's the kind of injury where you could still move, right?" Page asked Zane.

Page suggested that Rachel may have shot herself at the top center of her head, above the hairline. "If someone is shot in the frontal top of the head, that is something that can be easily reached by that person, right?" she asked Zane.

The speculation stunned some in the courtroom, including Rachel's family, who looked down and covered their mouths with their hands.

Page said she would have thought Zane would want to know whether Rachel was depressed, suffered from postpartum depression, was taking medication, or had access to guns. Zane said he knew none of those answers.

Page also criticized State Police and prosecutors for not telling Zane that Rachel was the only one found with gunshot residue on both of her hands. To Page, that suggested that she fired the gun herself. But to Zane, it meant nothing significant.

"That only tells me that the adult female was in the room when the gun was fired," he said.

Middlesex Assistant District Attorney Michael Fabbri asked Zane whether he would change his opinion of how the two were killed now that he knew Rachel had gunshot residue on her hands.

"Not with regard to the findings I have," Zane said.

Prosecutors allege that the murder weapon - a .22-caliber revolver belonging to Rachel's stepfather, Joseph Matterazzo - was stolen from his house by Neil Entwistle, who then returned it after the killings.

Page also suggested that Rachel Entwistle made the Internet searches on "how to kill with a knife" that a computer specialist had previously testified were conducted with Neil's computer, using ENT as the login.

"I'd want to know why they had done research on suicide and how to kill, isn't that right?" Page asked Zane.

The computer specialist, Lawrence James, also testified earlier yesterday morning about Neil Entwistle's profile on a "swinging adult" website.

"I am looking for one on one discreet relationships with American ladies and always aim to make all experiences ones to remember," James read from the profile. "I am looking to meet American women of all ages - much better in bed than the women over the ocean. We both want the same thing so there is little point dragging it out here."

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