BOSTON (AP) — The first time police went to the home of Neil and Rachel Entwistle, it was after they received a worried phone call from Rachel’s mother, who had not been able to reach her daughter for two days.

Police took a quick look around, but left when they saw nothing amiss. Neither Rachel nor the couple’s 9-month-old daughter appeared to be home.

The next day, police went into the house again. This time, they followed an odor to the master bedroom, where they found mother and daughter dead, with baby Lillian Rose wrapped in her mother’s arms. Both were covered by a thick white comforter.

Neil Entwistle, a British man, was later convicted of murder in the 2006 fatal shootings of his wife and daughter.

Now the state’s highest court will determine whether Entwistle deserves a new trial.

Entwistle’s lawyer, Stephen Paul Maidman, argues that evidence taken from the couple’s rented house in Hopkinton was seized illegally because police did not have the right to search the home without a warrant.

“On the two occasions when the police entered the defendant’s house, the police did not have objective knowledge of an emergency inside the house or have objective knowledge that there was a person inside the home in need of immediate aid,” Maidman argued in court papers.

Prosecutors, however, say police were justified as “community caretakers” to go into the home after receiving reports from worried family members and friends.

In court documents, prosecutors say that when police went into the house the first time, “it was reasonable to believe that the missing family was within the house and in need of immediate assistance.”

They cite the family’s unexplained absences, Rachel’s failure to show up for plans she had, unanswered phone calls and knocks at the door, the barking of an apparently neglected dog.

Prosecutors argue that the second search of the house was justified because the circumstances “had become even more alarming,” as no one had heard from the family for three days, local hospitals were checked and a police search for the family’s car had been fruitless.

Before Entwistle’s trial, a judge rejected a defense motion to suppress based on similar arguments.

Maidman argues in the appeal that the two warrantless searches of the house violated the state and federal constitutions. He said evidence seized from the house during the searches and any evidence later obtained by police as a result of that should have been suppressed.

Police are allowed to enter a home without a warrant if they have an “objectively reasonable basis” to believe there may be someone inside who is injured or in immediate danger, said Suffolk University Law School professor Christopher Dearborn. Dearborn said he believes Entwistle has made a strong argument that police did not have enough evidence in this case to believe an emergency existed.

“The set of facts here may have given rise to concerns, but it also seems equally susceptible to innocuous explanations” as to what had happened to the Entwistles, Dearborn said.

“There is a very compelling argument that this was an illegal search,” he said.

The case drew widespread media attention.

Entwistle, of Worksop, England, met Rachel, of Kingston, Mass., at college in England in 1999. The couple lived in England for a while after their daughter’s birth, then moved to the United States four months before the killings.

Prosecutors said Entwistle killed his wife and daughter after becoming despondent over his failure to find a job and accumulating debt.

Entwistle also argues in his appeal that Judge Diane Kottmyer did not thoroughly question potential jurors to determine whether they were biased against him.

The Supreme Judicial Court is scheduled to hear arguments April 6.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Comments (6)
  1. thor's hammer says:

    this poor excuse for oxygen consumption on the planet doesn’t deserve ANYTHING. he murdered his wife and child, then fled to england. you deserve far worse than you got. wish your cell was 4ft in diameter, windowless, with random electricity totalling no more than 2 hrs a day. a slot in the door for 2 meals a day, no tv/computer/phone/free education/free health care. no sympathy for the devil. may each day of the rest of your miserable existence be more miserable than the previous day. murder a baby, you coward!

    1. Rachel's former friend says:

      Rachel murdered that baby and Neil is doing well thanks for your concern!

  2. firemanmark says:

    So,let me get this straight.If police and/or fire personell are dispatched for a well-being check and upon entry find a crime scene then the evidence should be disregarded according to Entwistle’s attorney?Next thing he’ll be saying is we are trespassing and maybe we committed the crime.The arguement is rendered moot by the simple fact of us being sent there for a well-being check.Circumstances similar to this could unfold,and have,when we are dispatched to do our jobs.What if the woman was still alive,we didn’t check,and she later died and the assailant had been a total stranger? You can bet your last dollar that Mr.Entwistle would have lined up a massive lawsuit because someone DIDN’T do their job! This appeal is a waste of the taxpayers money.After all,I’m sure he’s indigent and the Commonwealth is picking up the tab.

  3. My_Penny says:

    why are the courts going to waste time hearing this foolishness? Do the right thing, deny all motions and keep the scumbag locked up for life. Let him die while incarcerated. RIP baby and Rachel.

  4. toni says:

    i think he is going to win his appeal, and all of the evidence the police recovered from the scene won’t be allowed in the new trial, and he will be set free

  5. Rachel's former friend says:

    Good for you Toni, he is innocent and will be set free. The SJC will see herfamily and the DA set him up. Rachel killed Lilly then herself! That’s a fact.

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