Appeal filed in mother-baby killing
BOSTON -- A British man who was convicted of fatally shooting his wife and 9-month-old daughter in 2006 filed his appeal Wednesday, arguing that he should get a new trial because police searched his Massachusetts home without a warrant when they went to check on the well-being of his family.
Neil Entwistle was convicted in 2008 in the murders of his wife, Rachel, and baby daughter, Lillian Rose. Prosecutors said Entwistle had become despondent after accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in debt and had complained about his sex life with his wife.
In an appeal brief filed with the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Wednesday, Entwistle's lawyer, Stephen Paul Maidman, argues that evidence taken from the Entwistle's rented house in Hopkinton was seized illegally.
Police initially went to the house on Jan. 21, 2006, after friends showed up for a dinner party and no one answered the door. Police looked in the upstairs bedroom -- where the bodies were later found -- but did not see anything suspicious.
The next day, police went to the home a second time, after Rachel's mother filed a missing person's report. During that search, police detected an odor and discovered the bodies, hidden under thick bedding.
Maidman argues in the appeal that the two searches were done without warrants and that the evidence seized as a result should have been suppressed during Entwistle's trial.
"The two warrantless entries into the defendant's house by the police violated the federal and state constitutions," Maidman wrote in the appellate brief.
"On the two occasions when the police entered the defendant's house, the police did not have objective knowledge of an emergency inside the house or have objective knowledge that there was a person inside the home in need of immediate aid."
Before Entwistle's trial, a judge rejected a motion to suppress the evidence based on similar arguments.
Prosecutors said police were justified in entering the home because they were responding to the pleas of concerned family members and friends who had not been able reach Rachel Entwistle for days.
Entwistle's lawyer also argues that Judge Diane Kottmyer did not thoroughly question potential jurors to determine whether they were biased against Entwistle after the case received intense local and international news coverage.
"That there was extraordinary prejudicial pretrial publicity in this case that was both saturating and inflammatory, by Massachusetts and even national standards, cannot be legitimately disputed," Maidman wrote in the appeal.
Kottmyer denied Entwistle's request to move the trial out of Middlesex County.
"The defendant is entitled to a new trial utilizing a jury selection process where there can be no question that the seated jurors are fair and impartial," Maidman wrote.
Entwistle, who was from Worksop, England, had moved to the United States four months before the killings. Prosecutors said he had been unable to find a job, had had several Internet businesses fail and had just moved into a $2,700-per-month rented home in Hopkinton.
Entwistle left the United States the day after the killings and later told police he left because he wanted to be consoled by his parents in England. He said he found his wife and daughter cuddled together in bed, dead of apparent gunshot wounds, after he returned home from running errands.
Friends testified that the couple appeared to have a happy marriage and were both thrilled with their daughter.
But a police detective testified about computer records that showed Neil Entwistle had trolled the Internet for local escort services and joined an online swingers' site.
During the trial, the defense called no witnesses, but Entwistle's attorney claimed during closing arguments that Rachel Entwistle shot her baby and then committed suicide.
The couple met at the University of York in England in 1999, while Rachel, who grew up in Kingston, Mass., spent a year studying abroad. They lived in England for several years before returning to the United States so they could raise their daughter near Rachel's family.
Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone, whose office prosecuted Entwistle, said he received a "true and just" trial.
"The crimes committed by Neil Entwistle against his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Lillian Rose, are to be condemned as horrific and unspeakable acts," Leone said in a statement Wednesday.
"He received a commendable defense and a fair and just trial under our laws."
Maidman did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
Entwistle, now 32, is serving a mandatory life sentence in a Massachusetts prison.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)