THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Suspects in ’69 Lowell killing led ordinary lives

Man held in slaying called good neighbor

By Travis Andersen and Michele Richinick
Globe Staff | Globe Correspondent / April 17, 2011

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A 60-year-old man charged with murder Friday in a brutal unsolved Lowell slaying dating back to 1969 still lives in his childhood home in Tewksbury, just a couple of miles from the parents of the 15-year-old boy he is accused of killing.

Another suspect — who was 16 at the time of the killing and will be charged in juvenile court — owns lakefront property in Salem, N.H.

And a third man, who his wife said came forward and alerted authorities to the crime after 42 years, won commendations for his work as a US Air Force cargo specialist. He is charged with manslaughter.

Those details emerged yesterday from neighbors, family members, and others who knew the three suspects, describing them as typical Massachusetts and New Hampshire residents who had never talked about the killing of John McCabe, a case that had gone cold four decades ago.

“You would have never thought [there was] something like that,’’ said Rick Olivo, who has lived across the street from suspect Edward Alan Brown in Londonderry, N.H., for more than 20 years.

Authorities said Friday that a major breakthrough in the case occurred when one of the men, whom they did not name, admitted to his role in the crime and named the other two.

Brown’s wife, Carolyn, said her husband decided to cooperate with police because “he’s an honorable man.’’

Walter Shelley, the 60-year-old who was charged with murder, grew up on Nelson Avenue in Tewksbury and now lives there with his wife, neighbors said.

He remodeled the house when his parents died, they said.

“We never had any issue with him,’’ said Bob Langlois, who has lived on the street since 1972. “He is very friendly.’’

Longtime neighbor Louis Chaisson described Shelley as a hard worker.

“My kids knew his kids, not him so much because he was working all the time,’’ said Chaisson. “As far as I know, he is a good neighbor. We wave to each to other.’’ Chaisson said he thought Shelley was most recently employed as a forklift operator, but was unsure where he worked.

According to court documents, Shelley recruited Brown, now 59, and Michael Ferreira, now 57, to kidnap and assault McCabe because he thought the boy had been flirting with his girlfriend.

Shelley and his friends allegedly forced McCabe into a car in Tewksbury, where he was beaten, and drove him to an empty lot, where they tied him up and taped his eyes and mouth, prosecutors said. McCabe later strangled himself while trying to break free of his restraints, they said.

A woman who answered the door at Ferreira’s home in Salem, N.H., on Friday declined to comment.

Neighbor Bob Boucher said Ferreira and his wife have lived in their house on Plaisted Circle for only a few years.

He said he has never spoken with Ferreira, but sometimes sees him doing yard work around his house.

“He’s not very neighborly,’’ Boucher said. “He’s very quiet.’’

Boucher said Ferreira owns a small parcel of land on a lake near the street, and he had a few disputes with neighbors who parked their cars in front of the main entrance to the property. “It wasn’t big trouble,’’ he said.

Olivo said yesterday that he often talks to Edward Brown about “just normal stuff, the weather, the economy.’’

“He’s a really nice guy, just a typical guy,’’ Olivo said.

He said Brown had been serving full time in the Air Force Reserve and worked for United Parcel Service before that. He said Brown never mentioned anything about his past, and news of his arrest came as a shock.

Carolyn Brown said her husband served as a cargo specialist in the Air Force for 35 years, most recently in Iraq, and received many commendations. They have two adult children.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com, and Michele Richinick can be reached at mrichinick@globe.com.