Man found guilty in 1969 murder of John McCabe
LOWELL – A Middlesex Superior Court jury has found Walter Shelley, 61, of Tewksbury, guilty for the murder of John McCabe, 15, who was strangled to death in 1969, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced today.
Shelley was found guilty today of murder and witness intimidation in Lowell Superior Court. Middlesex Superior Court Judge Janet Kenton-Walker scheduled sentencing for October 29 at 2:00pm in Lowell Superior Court. Due to the fact that the defendant was 17 years old when he committed this crime, his sentencing is subject to the hearing requirements currently in effect for defendants who are under the age of 18 at the time of the commission of their crime. It is expected that that hearing and other post-conviction motions regarding sentencing will occur at the next court date.
“More than 40 years ago, this defendant was part of a group of young men who abducted, bound and left to die 5’5” 115 pound 15-year-old John McCabe as he walked home from a town dance,” District Attorney Ryan said.
“This has been a long, difficult, and emotional process for everyone involved. In addition to suffering an excruciating loss, the McCabe family has waited more than 4 decades for this jury’s verdict. My wish is that it provides some peace for them as well as hope for the families of other victims in unsolved homicide cases that they, too, may see justice in the legal arena one day.
I commend the dedicated law enforcement team, including the Lowell Police Department, the Tewksbury Police Department and Massachusetts State Police, that never gave up on this case, working tirelessly to solve this crime and obtain justice for John and his family.
In all unsolved homicides, we remain steadfast in our commitment to actively pursue every lead and employ every new technological advance, wherever appropriate, to bring charges and to hold defendants accountable.”
According to authorities, at approximately 9:45am on September 27, 1969, Lowell Police responded to a vacant field off Maple Street in Lowell for reports of the discovery of a male victim, obviously deceased. The victim, 15-year-old John Joseph McCabe, of Tewksbury, was bound with rope, with his eyes and mouth taped shut. The cause of death was determined to be asphyxia due to strangulation.
Authorities launched an immediate investigation into the circumstances of McCabe’s death. They learned that McCabe had disappeared after leaving a dance at the Knights of Columbus in Tewksbury and was reported missing by his parents when he did not return home.
For more than 40 years, authorities pursued the investigation and in 2011 evidence developed that led them to charge three defendants, including Shelley, with murder.
Authorities determined that the three men abducted the victim, held him in a car against his will and assaulted him on September 27, 1969. Shelley drove the car to Maple Street in Lowell where they left the victim, bound and gagged, to die in a vacant field.
Co-defendant Michael Ferreira was found not guilty following a jury trial in January 2013. Ferreira still faces ongoing litigation over a perjury charge in a companion case. Co-defendant Edward Allen Brown has entered a plea agreement with the Commonwealth and will plead guilty to a charge of manslaughter at a future date.
The prosecutors assigned to the case were Assistant District Attorneys Tom O’Reilly, Elisha Willis and James Kerr. The Victim Witness Advocate was Dora Quiroz. The Paralegal was Erika Willey.