Trial in 1969 slaying of Tewksbury teen begins in Woburn

WOBURN — In 1969, Michael Ferreira allegedly swore two other teens to secrecy after the murder of 15-year-old John McCabe, and threatened to kill anyone who told, a prosecutor said today at the start of Ferreira’s murder trial.

“He told them ‘We keep it to ourselves we’ll be OK,’” assistant district attorney Tom O’Reilly said in opening statements Tuesday as Ferreira’s first-degree murder trial got underway.

After one of them, Edward Allen Brown, broke the secrecy pact four decades later and cooperated with police, Ferreira, 57, and Walter Brown, 60, were charged with first-degree murder. But Ferreira’s defense attorney, Eric Wilson, said during his opening remarks that Brown, who is facing a manslaughter charge in the killing, is a liar, “fabricating his story” after undergoing intense questioning by investigators, and said his testimony does not match the physical evidence in the crime.

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It’s not clear how long Ferreira’s trial, in a Woburn courtroom, will last.

O’Reilly told jurors that Ferreira and the two others abducted McCabe as he was walking home from a high school dance and drove him to a vacant field in Lowell, where they left him bound and gagged. When they returned, McCabe had died of strangulation. His body was discovered the next day by two boys cutting across the field.

O’Reilly told a jury that one of the boys thought McCabe had been flirting with his girlfriend and wanted to “teach him a lesson.”

“They said ‘That’s what you get for messing with Marla,’” O’Reilly said. “They taped his eyes shut and they leave him there. Fifteen-year-old John McCabe was in total isolation.”

O’Reilly’s also told jurors that Ferreira, as a teenager, had told a friend he killed McCabe.

But Wilson said it was the action of a “16-year-old prankster.”

“Not something to joke about, but not an admission to murder,” Wilson said.

Wilson also said that Ferreira’s story had remained consistent over the years, in contrast to the prosecution’s claims.

“Michael’s story didn’t change,” he said. “Michael just couldn’t remember after 34 years.”

McCabe’s family watched the proceedings from the front row of teh court room. As the charges were read against Ferreira, William McCabe, the victim’s father, shook his head side to side.

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