LOWELL (CBS) – On a fall morning in 1969, the body of a Tewksbury teenager was found in a vacant field in neighboring Lowell.
John Joseph McCabe, 15, had last been seen alive at a dance. When his body was discovered, he was bound with rope; his eyes and mouth were taped shut.
WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports
For 41 years, his murder remained a mystery. “It’s good to have closure. I’ve waited 41 years for it,” said John’s mom Evelyn McCabe.
Friday morning, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone announced that investigators had cracked the decades-old cold case.
Three men – ages 57, 59 and 60 – are now in custody. At the time of the crime they were 16, 17, and 18-years-old.
Walter Shelley, 60 of Tewksbury, is charged with murder. Edward Alan Brown, 59 of Londonderry, is charged with manslaughter. Michael Ferreira, 57 of Salem, N.H., is facing murder charges in juvenile court, because he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged crime.
Authorities recently reopened the case and Brown confessed.
Brown’s wife Carolyn told WBZ-TV Friday night that he confessed, “because I believe he is an honorable man.”
“I’m just glad his (McCabe’s) parents have found resolution,” said Carolyn Brown.
John’s sister, Deborah McCabe Atamanchuk has mixed feelings.
“He should have done it a long time ago,” said Atamanchuk. “When you’re truly sorry you do it right away.”
WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports
Brown told police, at the time, he and his friends were trying to rough up john over a girl.
According to prosecutors, the three set out on September 27, 1969 to teach John McCabe a lesson; they thought he was paying too much attention to Walter Shelley’s then-girlfriend.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson reports
They allegedly grabbed McCabe after a dance, brought him to an abandoned lot off Maple Street in Lowell, roughed him up, tied him up, and left him. When they returned two hours later, John McCabe was dead. Investigators say he died of strangulation while trying to escape the ropes that bound him.
The three teenaged friends vowed never to talk about what happened, prosecutors said in court Friday.
All these years later, people in Brown’s community of Londonderry, New Hampshire said they never would have guessed. “Shocking,” said neighbor Bill Dolan. “Everybody’s got something in their past I guess. Too bad, nice guy.”
Walter Shelley has kept a clean record all of these years; then in 2008 he was informed the case of John McCabe’s death was being revived, and that he was a suspect.
Shelley pleaded not guilty to murder on Friday and was ordered held on $500,000 cash bail. Brown also pleaded not guilty and was released on personal recognizance. Ferreira faces a fugitive warrant in New Hampshire before he can appear in a Massachusetts courtroom.
WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson contributed to this report.