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‘Cult killer’ seeking new trial

JRC News Service, USA
Oct. 19, 2004
Gregg M. Miliote • Wednesday October 20, 2004

TAUNTON — The attorney for convicted “cult killer” Carl Drew began to piece together his clients case for a new trial by asking retired Fall River Detective Paul Carey a litany of questions pertaining to his initial investigation into the grisly 1980 slaying of Karen Marsden.

Drew, 48, of Fall River, was convicted of the first degree murder of Marsden in 1981 after an investigation into a string of similar slayings which were apparently connected to a satanic cult operating in and around the Spindle City.

Drew, though, has filed a motion for a new trial based on explosive accusations of prosecutorial misconduct and coercion. His motion includes sworn statements by three trial witnesses who now claim they were threatened by former prosecutors Ronald Pina and David Waxler into either testifying falsely against Drew or not testifying at all.

Carey, who served nearly 30 years on the city police force, was the top investigator looking into the ritualistic style murders for the department in 1979 and 1980.

He has also claimed that Drew is innocent and was set up by his co-defendant, Robin Marie Murphy, to take the fall for the murder.

Murphy, who was a key prosecution witness in the case against Drew, was granted a second degree murder plea bargain in exchange for that testimony and testimony against others charged with the slayings of Fall River prostitutes Barbara Raposa and Doreen Levesque.

During the first day of several scheduled evidentiary hearings to determine whether Drew will be granted a new trial, his attorney, Michael Cutler, called Carey to the stand to begin to show the recanting witnesses current stories jive more with the statements they initially made to police, rather than their “coerced” trial testimony.

“The witness statements immediately after Karen Marsdens murder were preserved in real time in police reports,” Cutler said. “Many of these witnesses will testify here during these hearings. We will hear how consistent those statements to police 24 years ago are with their current stories.

“Paul Carey is a precursor to what our other witnesses will testify to.”

During his time on the witness stand, Carey explained his role in the case and his eventual role as a private investigator attempting to track down former trial witnesses.

Carey was provided with numerous police reports he filed during the investigation into three city murders over a six month stretch. The reports, written by Carey after speaking with potential witnesses in 1980, led him to deduce that Murphy was responsible for the Marsden murder.

Also, in an apparent attempt to preempt accusations that Carey recently provided favors to the recanting witnesses in exchange for their help in exonerating Drew, Cutler fired off a line of questions to Carey asking for a detailed account of what he did with the recanting witnesses and what he may have given them.

Carey testified that he frequently provided rides to doctors, coffee, donuts and even a junked vehicle to Carol Fletcher, one of the key recanting witnesses.

But when asked, Carey said he provided small favors for some of the recanting witnesses because they were taking time out of their lives and agreeing to talk about a subject they would rather forget.

“I wanted to know who these people were,” Carey testified. “I wanted to make sure they were telling me the truth, so I developed a relationship with her.”

Carey said of the three recanting witnesses, he only paid one of them, Lea Johnson.

Johnson, who has claimed prosecutorial coercion in a sworn affidavit, had been released from prison in Rhode Island on the day Carey tracked her down to conduct an interview. After some time, in late 2003, she told Carey she would agree to an interview and tell her story provided she was being paid for her time, Carey testified.

“She asked to be paid for her time,” Carey testified. “Reluctantly, I agreed.”

Carey, who has yet to be cross examined by prosecutors, will retake the stand this morning.

But before Mondays testimony was complete, Cutler also began to introduce what he sees as a crucial piece of evidence ignored by Drews original attorney during the initial trial.

The official timeline of events leading up to Marsdens murder does not make sense and could prove to help his clients case for a new trial, Cutler said.

The official story of the murder states that Murphy and Marsden were at the home of Marsdens childs foster parents on the evening of her murder. Trial testimony by the foster parents indicated Murphy and Marsden left the Fall River house at 8:15 p.m., then hitch-hiked to Bedford Street before getting into another car with Drew and another man, Carl Davis.

The foursome, according to original trial testimony, then drove to the Westport woods, got out of the car and began dragging Marsden into the forest.

Then, according to court transcripts, Murphy and Drew murdered Marsden, decapitated her and performed a lengthy satanic anointing-of-the-blood ceremony on her corpse before finally finishing up and disposing of the body before leaving.

But police reports from the day after Marsden went missing, discussed in court Monday, indicate Murphy showed up at Maureen “Sonny” Spardas Fall River apartment at 10 p.m. that night, meaning only 100 minutes had elapsed since Marsden and Murphy first set out on foot for Bedford Street earlier that evening.

Cutler has consistently asserted it is impossible for all of these events to have occurred in such a short period of time.

Drew, smiling at times and attentive at others, appeared to be happy to have his day back in court.

Aside from the continuation of Careys testimony, Murphy will also be called to the witness stand today.

Murphy is considered the wild card witness in the case. After serving 23 years in prison for the second degree murder of Marsden, Murphy was recently paroled.

But during her parole board hearing, Murphy made stunning claims that her trial testimony was false and that she was not present at the murder.

Since she has not been interviewed by Cutler or prosecutors prior to these hearings, what she may testify to remains unknown and a subject of vast speculation.

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