TAUNTON – With Robin Marie Murphy sitting silently outside the courtroom, Assistant District Attorney Stephen Gagne spent more than three hours Tuesday cross-examining former Fall River Detective Paul Carey.
The unexpectedly lengthy cross-examination of Carey meant Murphy’s much-anticipated testimony will come this morning. She is expected to take the stand around 10 a.m. after Carey’s third day of testimony is completed.
Drew, formerly of Fall River, has been in prison serving a life sentence since being convicted of Fall River prostitute Karen Marsden’s macabre slaying in 1981.
Murphy, his co-defendant in the Marsden case, is expected to be a crucial witness in the case.
It was her dark tale of Satanism, sex, prostitution and power that eventually led to Drew’s conviction. And thanks to that story, she was offered a second-degree murder plea bargain in the Marsden case, while also being granted immunity for the murders of two other Spindle City prostitutes in 1979 and 1980.
Drew and others have insisted that former District Attorney Ronald Pina was duped into believing Murphy’s ever-changing stories. Drew, through the help of three former trial witnesses, is also claiming Pina and his former assistant, David Waxler, coerced, intimidated and threatened witnesses into testifying falsely about the murder in order to ensure Drew’s conviction.
Murphy’s initial trial testimony indicated that she, Drew and two others dragged Marsden into the dense woods of Westport to murder her on the evening of Feb. 8, 1980.
She told police, and later jurors, that she punched Marsden and slit her throat at Drew’s behest. She went on to say Drew ripped Marsden’s head from her body and the duo then performed sex acts and an anointing-of-the-blood satanic ritual on Marsden’s corpse.
Due to this admission, Murphy was sentenced to prison on a lesser second-degree murder charge, but was eventually released on parole earlier this year.
But during the hearing that led to her release from prison, Murphy told a seven-member parole board that her testimony was fabricated.
Now, in an epic turn of events, the former 17-year-old street girl who was crucial to Drew’s conviction may tip the scales back in his favor.
Her testimony today will likely be her last opportunity to set the record straight about one of the most-talked about murder mysteries in southeastern Massachusetts history. And since she was already granted immunity for the string of slayings, Murphy now has nothing to hold her back from telling the truth.
But what she will say is anyone’s guess. She has declined to speak with attorneys for either side and did not speak with the media Tuesday while she sat outside with her parole officer waiting to be called to the witness stand.
While Murphy was in a corridor pondering what she may testify to, Carey was back on the stand fielding a host of questions from Gagne.
The young prosecutor utilized the three-plus hours of questioning to attempt to erode Carey’s credibility as a witness and as an investigator who located three former trial witnesses who each say they were threatened or coerced into perjuring themselves during Drew’s 1981 trial.
Gagne, at various times, said Carey was biased, sought attention and was out for revenge against state troopers and prosecutors who he claims hurt Carey’s ego when he and his other Fall River detectives were excluded from the conclusion of the Marsden murder investigation.
Gagne also tried to paint Carey as a man who bribed witnesses and set up their statements to jibe with his beliefs, while also pointing out some inconsistencies in his testimony from Monday.
During one segment of questioning pertaining to Carey’s role in finding and recording the various witnesses and their statements, Gagne said, “you refreshed her memory before even asking what her memory was in the first place.”
Gagne was referring to what he saw as the questionable practice of Carey starting and stopping the tape recorder during his interviews with recanting witnesses last year.
Although he did get his points across forcefully at many times, Gagne was rebuked by Superior Court Judge John Connor on a few occasions for “ambushing” Carey at one point and asking “irrelevant” questions about a 1983 rape case Carey had investigated.
Gagne, in an effort to show that Carey is on a “crusade,” began to display an article Carey allegedly wrote, which was posted on Drew’s personal Web site.
But before he could get into the substance of the article and its relevance to the case, Drew’s attorney quickly stood up and objected.
Drew’s lawyer, Michael Cutler, said Gagne never handed the article over to him prior to the hearing as discovery laws mandate.
“It seems to me that this is an ambush,” Judge Connor said, referring to the use of the article.
Although the use of the article was excluded, Gagne did make a lengthy argument that Carey had paid off the recanting witnesses.
Carey, during his Monday testimony and again on Tuesday, asserted that he gave only two of the witnesses a small amount of cash in order to pay them for their time.
Carey also noted that he has turned down offers to be compensated for the thousands of hours of work he has put into this case over the past seven years.
“I was just doing a job,” Carey testified. “The truth is the only crusade for me.”
Carey is expected to finish his testimony during the first hour of a scheduled full day in court today.
Murphy and the first of the three recanting witnesses, Maureen “Sonny” Sparda, will take the stand once the attorneys are finished with Carey.
Sparda was initially called as a defense witness at Drew’s 1981 murder trial. She pleaded her Fifth Amendment rights and refused to testify in front of the jury.
On the witness stand, when being questioned as to why she was pleading the Fifth, Sparda told former state judge Francis Keating that she wanted to tell the truth, but couldn’t. Why she could not testify was never questioned or unearthed.
But in her recently filed sworn affidavit, Sparda sheds new light on what she says occurred just prior to her taking the stand.
She now says she arrived at court March 12, 1981, prepared to take the stand on Drew’s behalf and explain to the jury that Murphy had told her she killed Marsden alone.
But when she showed up, she was allegedly brought into a side room and was “threatened” by Waxler.
“Waxler started yelling at me, threatening to use the law against me unless I agreed to refuse to testify by pleading my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” Sparda said in her affidavit. “He told me, ‘If you say one word that helps Drew out, you will take his (expletive) place (as a murder defendant).”
Sparda’s claims are similar to the claims of two other recanting witnesses, Carol Fletcher and Lea Johnson, who are also set to testify this week in Taunton Superior Court.
Waxler and Pina will be two among dozens of witnesses the prosecution plans to call to the stand during the second half of the evidentiary hearings, slated to begin the first week in November.
Oct. 19, 2004
Gregg M. Miliote