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Son in Winchester slayings may have seen ‘horrid acts’

Court releases portion of father’s alleged confession

By Jonathan Saltzman
Globe Staff / September 24, 2010
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The Winchester sales executive charged with murdering his wife, daughter, son, and mother-in-law allegedly wrote in a suicide note that his 4-year-old namesake saw some of the slayings before he was killed, according to a newly released portion of the note.

“I expecially [sic] sorry to Finn that he had to witness these horrid acts,’’ Thomas J. Mortimer IV allegedly wrote in a paragraph the state Appeals Court unsealed yesterday. “It was not supposed to be this way. I disgust myself.’’

Finn was the nickname of Mortimer’s son, Thomas Mortimer V. The elder Mortimer, 43, allegedly cut his throat and that of his 2-year-old daughter, Charlotte. Prosecutors say he fatally stabbed his wife, Laura Stone-Mortimer, 41, and her mother, Ragna Ellen Stone, 64, in one of the most brutal homicide cases in Massachusetts in recent years.

Mortimer’s wife and son were found June 16 lying in pools of blood in the family room of their Winchester house, according to prosecutors. His mother-in-law was found in the living room under a rolled-up Oriental rug, evidently having tried to flee the house. His daughter was found in her crib on the second floor.

Investigators found two identical copies of the typewritten note in the Winchester house on June 16, two days after Mortimer’s wife, two children, and mother-in-law were last seen alive, according to prosecutors. He allegedly wrote it on his laptop computer as the bodies lay nearby.

The newly released paragraph was included in a graphic nine-page summary of the case filed by Middlesex County prosecutors. Mortimer’s court-appointed lawyer, Denise Regan, had persuaded a Superior Court judge earlier this month to seal the summary, saying it contained inflammatory information that could jeopardize her client’s prospects for a fair trial.

Responding to legal challenges by The Boston Globe and the Associated Press, the Appeals Court released the case summary Tuesday over Regan’s objections. But the court withheld the paragraph, which Regan had found particularly prejudicial, to give her time to appeal to the Supreme Judicial Court. Regan decided not to file an appeal by yesterday’s deadline.

Mortimer allegedly murdered his family hours after his wife confronted him about bouncing a $2,499 check to the IRS, according to the previously released portions of the summary and alleged confession. He blamed himself in the note for “bottling up my anger . . . until one murderous night’’ and said he should have divorced his wife but “took the easy way out.’’

As the homicide case proceeds to trial, the purported confession is all but certain to play a crucial role as evidence to support or debunk a potential insanity defense.

Mortimer apparently tried to asphyxiate himself in a car in the garage after the killings but then fled Winchester, prosecutors said. He was arrested in the small rural town of Bernardston in Western Massachusetts on June 17 by the town police chief, who had spotted him driving his sport utility vehicle.

Mortimer pleaded not guilty to four counts of first-degree murder on June 18 and is being held without bail at the Billerica House of Correction.

Regan has said her client’s mental health will be an issue in the case, signaling a potential insanity defense.

Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.

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