New England in brief

SJC appeal set in fashion writer slaying

May 7, 2010

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A trash collector convicted of murdering a Cape Cod fashion writer in 2002 is asking the state’s highest court to grant him a new trial. In his appeal, Christopher McCowen argues that racial bias and other juror misconduct tainted deliberations at his 2006 trial. McCowen was convicted of first-degree murder in the fatal stabbing of Christa Worthington in her Truro home. McCowen’s lawyer argues in his appeal that three jurors made racially charged comments during deliberations about McCowen, who is black. He also argues that jurors should have been sequestered because of frenzied media coverage of the case. The state Supreme Judicial Court is to hear arguments in McCowen’s appeal today. (AP)

Worcester school receives first charter
State education officials have granted a charter to a new Worcester school that will concentrate on teaching mathematics, science, and technology. The Spirit of Knowledge Charter School was the only school to receive its first charter from Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester at a ceremony yesterday. Chester says he has high expectations for the school. Nineteen other schools received renewed charters. Spirit of Knowledge will open in the fall with up to 275 students in grades seven through 12. (AP)

Ex-museum official admits stealing $1.3m
The former chief financial officer of a Massachusetts museum has admitted stealing $1.3 million from the nonprofit and using the money for personal expenses. Peggy Kempton of Hollis, N.H., pleaded guilty Wednesday to 14 counts of larceny over $250, fraudulent use of credit cards, and making false entries in corporate books in the theft from the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard. Prosecutors say Kempton used the money to pay her children’s college tuition and to buy clothes and manipulated the books to make it appear the funds were spent legitimately. Sentencing is June 9. Prosecutors have asked for a 3- to 5-year sentence. Kempton’s attorney, who said she suffers from psychiatric problems, will seek a lighter sentence. (AP)

Catholic school struggles to stay open
A Greenfield Catholic school in danger of closing if it cannot close a projected $200,000 budget deficit will eliminate the seventh and eighth grades and launch an aggressive fund-raising campaign in an effort to stay open. Holy Trinity School principal Arlene Ashby told more than 100 parents Wednesday night that the school will also cut payroll and operating costs and attempt to boost enrollment. Franklin County’s only Catholic elementary school, founded in 1928, is struggling with a $100,000 cut in diocesan financial support, declining enrollment, and increased costs. Ashby says there are currently 87 students and 58 students are preregistered for next year. (AP)

Youths accused of arson on shrine land
Two sheds were destroyed and two others damaged at La Salette Shrine in Attleboro Wednesday in fires set by several adolescents, a fire official said. The blazes were set around 4:30 p.m., Attleboro Fire Chief Ronald Churchill said. He said the youths, ages 12 and 13, decided to light one of the sheds ablaze, and the other buildings caught fire as well. The youths have been apprehended by police, Churchill said. “I think it will be determined by the court system just what kind of actions will be taken.’’

Man with weapons cache avoids prison
A Manchester-by-the-Sea man who allegedly told police he was preparing for Armageddon when they found a cache of weapons in his home has had his case continued without a finding. A Salem Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday that gun charges against Gregory Girard will be continued without a finding for four years if he gets treatment by a psychiatrist and surrenders the weapons seized in the February raid. Police found about 20 guns, body armor, camouflage clothing, and stockpiles of nonperishable food and medicine at the home. The guns were legally registered. Girard’s lawyer has said all the items were legal. (AP)

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