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Andover couple slain at home

Developer, wife found fatally shot

By Peter Schworm and Brian R. Ballou
Globe Staff / December 15, 2011
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ANDOVER - A married couple was found slain in their million-dollar house yesterday, victims of an apparently targeted shooting. Police said their car had been set on fire in Boston’s North End the night before.

A family member discovered the bodies of John and Geraldine Magee, both in their late 60s, on the first floor of their house at 7 Orchard Crossing shortly after 9 a.m., police said. The door was unlocked, and police said there were no obvious signs of forced entry.

Police said the couple died of gunshot wounds, but declined to elaborate. By day’s end, authorities said they had not identified any suspects or established a motive. Yet they continued to reassure residents that there was no cause for fear.

“The incident appears to be an isolated act,’’ said Andover Police Chief Brian Pattullo. “The circumstances lead us to believe that there is no further threat to the Andover community.’’ He would not elaborate.

Pattullo said police had not received any reports of domestic strife at the home, but declined to say if anyone else lived there. Friends and neighbors said the couple had two adult children.

Those who knew the Magees recalled them as a friendly, happy couple.

Neighbor Hamid Qureshi described John Magee, 69, as “the nicest guy you’ve ever known’’ and said he would tease the former lawyer that he was too nice for that profession.

“You can’t make money being an attorney, you’re too nice, too sweet!’’ he recalled saying.

Magee spent most of his professional life as a residential developer, concentrating on building high-end houses. Neighbors said he built many of the houses on his street, an upscale subdivision of stately drives and professionally landscaped lawns.

Chris Doherty, an agent for Prudential Howe and Doherty Realtors, said John Magee had built houses for decades in Andover, an affluent town north of Boston on the Merrimack River.

He described John Magee as a gentleman and Geraldine, 67, as “a very nice woman.’’

“I’m very sorry to hear this news,’’ he said.

The couple had two businesses listed at their home, Advance Realty Co. and Magee Construction Co. of Arlington.

It was founded in 1951 by Magee’s father, a “long-time plumber, framer, and builder,’’ according to the construction company’s website. Magee took over in 1974 after completing his business degree at Boston University and his law degree at New England School of Law. Magee shifted the company’s focus toward building larger houses in wealthier neighborhoods and completed several large subdivisions in Andover.

Relatives of the family visited the police station yesterday, authorities said.

Despite assurances that the killer posed no threat to the public, residents in the quiet neighborhood said they were shaken by the homicides, the first in town in nine years.

“Its shocking to see this would happen here, especially in Andover where everything is so community-oriented,’’ said Carlos Martinez, 34, who lives in an adjacent neighborhood. “It’s always been a safe place, and it scares me that it could happen here.’’

The lack of information about the crime, some said, deepened the unease.

Police would not disclose whether there were signs of a struggle or robbery and said that investigators were working to determine when the slayings occurred.

“We’re not certain of the exact time frame,’’ Pattullo said.

The Magees’ vehicle, a black Lexus sport utility vehicle, was found on fire on Prince Street in the North End about 10:20 Tuesday evening. Steve MacDonald, spokesman for the Boston Fire Department, said it took firefighters a half hour to douse the fire.

The SUV was taken from the Magees home, police said.

Yesterday morning, police initially issued a bulletin to local police to be on the lookout for the vehicle, saying the weapon used in the shootings was believed to be inside. But investigators determined that the SUV was the one set afire the night before.

In 2003, John Magee was involved in a land dispute about plans for a large shopping center in Tewksbury; he and a development trust both claimed ownership of a 17-acre parcel.

Douglas Sears, a selectman in neighboring Tewksbury who was on the board at the time, said Magee eventually sold the land to the trust for $1 million.

“He was a guy who stuck to his principles,’’ he said. “He was an upstanding guy.’’

Sears said Magee left the legal profession after a divorce client refused to pay him and “went back to pushing a bulldozer.’’

Sears said Magee took pride in building nice houses.

“He was an entrepreneur who did well in an unflashy way,’’ he said.

Town assessors said Magee’s home is worth more than $1 million.

Bob Marcus, a longtime Andover resident, said he was stunned by the homicides.

“It really is a tragedy,’’ he said.

Joe Geary, 57, has lived in neighborhood for 25 years, on nearby Morton Street.

“I’ve never heard of a murder in town,’’ he said. “I’m shocked, I’m stunned.’’

He said this is a well-to-do neighborhood where residents do not expect homicides to happen.

“The 1 percent live here. It’s not what you would anticipate to happen here.’’

Geary’s daughter, Alyssa, 21, is a student in Florida who was visiting the neighborhood on vacation.

“It’s crazy,’’ she said. “First the hazing, now this. I am doubly shocked to hear about the murders.’’

She described Andover as a great place to raise a family, and aside from investigations of underage drinking, she said residents never hear anything going on in the quiet neighborhood.

“This is extraordinarily unusual,’’ she said.

Globe correspondents Miriam Valverde and Jaime Lutz contributed to this report. Peter Schworm can be reached at schworn@globe.com. Brian Ballou can be reached at bballou@globe.com.

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