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Husband held in deaths, may fight return to US

Financial problems called possible motive in slayings

By Raja Mishra and Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / February 10, 2006
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British police yesterday pulled Neil Entwistle from a London subway train and arrested him on charges that he shot his wife and infant daughter in their Hopkinton bed, a dramatic turn that provided a suspect and possible motive in a murder mystery that has gripped many on both sides of the Atlantic.

Entwistle flew to his native England soon after the slayings, and yesterday he refused an initial request to return to Massachusetts to stand trial.

Massachusetts prosecutors said yesterday that Entwistle used a .22-caliber revolver from his father-in-law's gun collection to shoot his 27-year-old wife, Rachel, and their 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose.

Prosecutors theorized that the failed entrepreneur was so distraught by his financial problems and shortcomings as a breadwinner that he planned a murder-suicide, only to back out after allegedly killing his family.

''In theory . . . if you are a breadwinner . . . and you feel you can't protect everybody, some of it is about you and 'I can't do my job, and so I'm going to end this,' and for whatever reason [he] decides to take everyone else with him, but then backs out of the deal," Middlesex District Attorney Martha Coakley said last night on WGBH-TV's ''Greater Boston."

Rachel Entwistle's family, mentioning their son-in-law for the first time since the slayings, said they were shocked and heartbroken by his apparent betrayal.

''Rachel and Lilly loved Neil very much. He was a trusted husband and father, and it is incomprehensible how that love and trust was betrayed in the ultimate act of violence," they said in a statement read by a family spokesman yesterday.

Coakley said that forensic evidence linking Entwistle to the murder weapon emerged late Tuesday, setting into motion a rapid chain of events that led British police to arrest the suspect.

Clad in casual athletic attire, Entwistle, 27, appeared briefly yesterday in Bow Street Magistrates Court in London and refused to return to the United States voluntarily.

Though legal specialists said they expect Entwistle will eventually be extradited, it could be a year before he sets foot in a Massachusetts courtroom to face two counts of first-degree murder, each carrying a penalty of life in prison without parole. He also faces charges of illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of ammunition.

The bloody dissolution of the Entwistle family -- youthful, attractive, seemingly in love -- has intrigued people on two continents, with the slain young wife and her baby joining murdered mother-to-be Laci Peterson, missing Aruba tourist Natalee Holloway, and slain congressional intern Chandra Levy in the recent pantheon of highly publicized tragedies.

''It's our worst nightmare in some respects, mother and child," Coakley said. ''It's very -- it's a very sad story, frankly."

Rachel Souza was a College of the Holy Cross exchange student in England in 1999 when she met Neil Entwistle, a computer specialist who wooed her after the two joined the rowing team at the University of York, their love blossoming amid the British countryside.

They married in 2003, lived for two years in England, moved to the United States last summer, and lived with her parents in Carver, before settling last month in a $2,700-per-month rented house in Hopkinton. Neil Entwistle drove a BMW, and the family basked in the attention of nearby relatives from Rachel's side of the family, a seeming picture of suburban contentment.

But at some point in recent months, Neil Entwistle's money problems, both here and in England, began closing in on him, prosecutors said.

''Having entered into some debt obligations in England, having moved to this country with his new wife and child, attempting to start businesses, which as many of you know were not effective," Coakley said, Entwistle ''may have found himself in financial difficulty."

Unable to find a job, Entwistle apparently turned to the Internet. He has been linked through public records to a British website that offered to make people millionaires by hosting pornographic websites, in return for upfront payments of about $1,700. That website has been shut down, and it is not clear if he ever collected any money.

In December and January, about 200 British customers complained that Entwistle had promised to deliver heavily discounted software he sold them on eBay, the Internet auction site. Entwistle appears to have collected at least $10,000 through these offerings, which angry customers called a scam.

''He had no money and really had no assets," said Coakley.

Coakley said it appears neither his wife nor her family knew of Entwistle's problems. ''If the financial world around him was crumbling, it does appear that he may have been the only one who was aware of that," she said.

Coakley said Entwistle had not taken out a life insurance policy on his wife, so prosecutors have ruled out that he sought to pay his debts by killing her and collecting the insurance.

Enwistle knew he could get a gun from his father-in-law Joseph Matterazzo's collection, because he had used the .22-caliber handgun while target shooting together, said Coakley. Entwistle also knew where Matterazzo kept the key to his gun cabinet, the prosecutor said.

Prosecutors said that on Friday, Jan. 20, sometime around 7 a.m., Entwistle shot his wife in the head with Matterazzo's .22-caliber gun. Then, he shot Lillian Rose in the abdomen, the bullet passing through the infant's body and into Rachel Entwistle's chest, according to prosecutors. Mother and daughter were wearing ''sleepwear," said Coakley, and Entwistle left them lying under a thick pile of comforters. Coakley said it is unclear if they were awake or asleep when killed.

''We believe possibly that this was intended to be a murder-suicide, but we cannot confirm that," said Coakley. ''Obviously, the murder was effected; the suicide was not."

With his family dead, Entwistle drove about 50 miles to Carver and placed the gun back in Matterazzo's gun cabinet while his in-laws were apparently at work, Coakley said. The gun became the linchpin of prosecutors' case, the only piece of physical evidence disclosed thus far.

''We have forensic information that links it both to him and to Rachel, and we know Rachel had not used that gun," Coakley said.

She declined to be more specific, but criminal trial specialists say the forensic evidence could be matching the bullets found in the bodies with the gun or finding Rachel Entwistle's DNA on the gun.

''At a close-range firing, it's not at all unusual to find trace evidence of blowback," said Wendy Murphy, a former Middlesex prosecutor who teaches at the New England School of Law. ''Often it's blood, sometimes it's tissue . . . and not-so-clever criminals think they can wash it off, but it's not that easy."

Robert M. Griffin, a defense lawyer who worked as a Suffolk County prosecutor from 1989 to 2002, said Coakley had a strong circumstantial case, given Entwistle's flight to England and decision not to attend Rachel and Lillian Entwistle's funerals. But prosecutors needed physical evidence to back it up, he said.

Some lawyers have remarked on the striking similarity to the plot of the movie ''Match Point," in which the killer takes a gun from his father-in-law's collection, kills his girlfriend, and returns it.

The night of Jan. 20, after prosecutors say Entwistle returned the gun, he was captured by surveillance cameras parking near Logan Airport's international terminal, where he apparently failed to get the last night flight to London, instead sleeping overnight in his car, according to two state officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

Early the next morning, Entwistle bought a one-way ticket to London on his credit card, ending up with his family in the town of Worksop, about 150 miles outside London, where he holed up for weeks.

Back in Hopkinton, worried friends and relatives alerted police after knocking on the Entwistles' door for a planned dinner party and receiving no answer. Police found the two bodies that Sunday evening.

On Monday, three days after the slayings, Matterazzo told Entwistle in a phone conversation that his family had been killed, prosecutors said, refusing to provide details of the call, which Entwistle initiated from England.

That same day, Coakley declared that Entwistle was a ''person of interest" in the case, a status that continued until yesterday, when he was charged with murder.

John R. Ellement and Donovan Slack of the Globe staff and Globe correspondents Elizabeth A. Raftery and Alana Semuels contributed to this report. Semuels reported from London.

Related:
 Husband held in deaths, may fight return to US (By Raja Mishra and Jonathan Saltzman, Globe Staff, 2/10/06)
 ARREST: In UK, police find Entwistle at tube station (By Alana Semuels, Globe Correspondent, 2/10/06)
 REACTION: From Mass. to London, emotions pour out (By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff, 2/10/06)
 THE LEGAL PLAN: Suspect indicates he'll fight US return (By Shelley Murphy, Globe Staff, 2/10/06)
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