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Andover slayings stun town

Friends say couple was devoted to each other, family

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By Peter Schworm
Globe Staff / December 16, 2011
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John and Geraldine Magee met as teenagers at Arlington High School and went on to share what friends described as a charmed life: four decades of happy marriage, trips to exotic locales, a million-dollar mansion in Andover, and a second home on the Florida coast.

To their great pride, their son, John, chose to carry on the family construction business, the third generation of Magees to build houses in the area. Their daughter, Holly, married and had two young children, whom the couple happily looked after each Wednesday morning.

But on Wednesday, the couple’s daughter and grandchildren found the Magees shot to death on the first floor of their home, victims of an apparently targeted shooting. Running ahead in anticipation of seeing their grandparents, the children, ages 8 and 4, were the first to see the sprawled bodies, a family friend said.

Authorities remained tight-lipped yesterday about the circumstances of the slayings and provided no public updates on the progress of the investigation. On Wednesday, police said they had not identified any suspects or established a motive, but reassured residents that the killings were isolated.

The silence from authorities deepened the mystery around the slayings, the first in Andover in a nearly a decade, and heightened unease in the quiet neighborhood.

The couple’s black Lexus sport utility vehicle was taken from their home, part of an upscale subdivision that John Magee had built. The SUV was found burned in Boston’s North End Tuesday night. Authorities are searching the car for evidence.

Those who knew the couple said they could not imagine anyone who would wish them harm.

“They are the nicest people you are ever going to see,’’ said Paul Mercandetti, a longtime friend of the couple. “It doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s just insane.’’

Mercandetti, who grew up with John Magee in Arlington and was the best man at his wedding, recalled the Magees as an “ideal family’’ that he likened to television’s Ozzie and Harriet.

“I have searched my soul, but I can’t think of a single person who could have held a grudge against them,’’ he said.

Mercandetti met John Magee every Sunday for breakfast, and he said there was no hint of trouble in his life.

“If there was anything going on, he would have told me,’’ he said. “We were very close.’’

Magee, 69, built high-end houses and oversaw construction of many large residential developments. But Mercandetti said Magee was known as a fair businessman and said he could not believe the slayings were financially motivated.

In 2003, Magee was involved in a land dispute over plans for a large shopping center in Tewksbury that gained public attention, but Mercandetti and others said it was equitably resolved.

“There were no hard feelings,’’ he said. “Everything was on the up and up.’’

Barry Finegold, a state legislator from Andover, said Magee was well known in town and had a sterling reputation in real estate circles.

Like many in Andover, Finegold was baffled by the killings. “To me it just doesn’t make sense,’’ he said. “This doesn’t happen in Andover.’’

Magee was working with his son, who lives in Somerville, as the younger Magee prepared to take charge of the company.

“They worked really well together,’’ Mercandetti said. “It was a very strong relationship.’’

The couple loved to travel, he said, and had recently returned from a cruise that took them from Turkey to the Greek isles. The family traveled together regularly and often visited a family home in Jupiter, Fla.

“They do everything together,’’ Mercandetti said, saying the children are in shock over the slayings. “They’re in tough shape.’’

Police said there were no obvious signs of forced entry at the home, but would not say whether there was evidence of a struggle or robbery.

Yet shortly after being called to the scene, police said the crime was “an isolated act’’ and said residents did not need to worry.

“The circumstances lead us to believe that there is no further threat to the Andover community,’’ said Brian Pattullo, the town’s police chief. He did not disclose what led police to that conclusion.

Mercandetti and his wife had dinner with the couple last Saturday, and he said the evening was no different than other nights out. They were a lovely couple, he said, deeply devoted to each other and their children.

“Everyone who knew them had nothing but nice things to say about them,’’ he said.

John Guilfoil of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworm@globe.com.

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