WOBURN (CBS) – One of three suspects in the 43-year-old cold case murder of a teenager has been acquitted.

Michael Ferreira, 59, of Salem, New Hampshire was the first to stand trial in the death of John Joseph McCabe more than 40 years ago.

He was 16 years old at the time of the murder.

The jury returned a not guilty verdict after defense attorneys managed to discredit the prosecution’s star witness Edward Allen Brown’s testimony by claiming he was spoon fed the facts for his confession in exchange for a “no jail time” plea deal.

Ferreira’s attorney said, “We are extremely pleased with the jury’s verdict, but our sorrow still continues with the McCabe family and all they have been through over the last four decades.”

Decades after the murder, Brown was the one who went to police. He testified that he helped snatch 15-year-old John McCabe off the street as he walked home from a Tewksbury dance in September of 1969, supposedly as payback for flirting with the wrong girl.

Brown had claimed Ferreira and his friend Walter Shelley took the frightened teen to a Lowell field, bound his hands, feet, and neck with rope and left him there.

Ferreira did not take the stand, content to let his attorneys blast away at the differing versions of Brown’s cold case confession, insisting they don’t fit the evidence.

McCabe’s sisters were in disbelief after the verdict was reached.

Debbie McCabe AtamanchucK spoke for her family, saying, “Obviously we’re really upset. The last 43 years have been a nightmare for our family. When John’s life was taken, our lives stopped. Nobody should ever have to go through this. Nothing can remove the sadness and pain of losing a child, a brother and a son.”

District attorney Gerry Leone vows to fight on for the McCabes. Leone said, “We fully intend to move forward with the outstanding charge against Mr. Ferriera and the outstanding case against Mr. Shelley.”

Debbie McCabe Atamanchuck wanted people to know, “Our family wasn’t looking for revenge we were just looking for justice.”

WBZ-TV’s Karen Anderson contributed to this report.


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