TAUNTON — After 11 days of testimony from more than 20 witnesses, the fate of convicted “cult murderer” Carl Drew now rests with Superior Court Judge John Connor.
The evidentiary hearings to determine whether Drew will be granted a new trial came to a close Wednesday afternoon in Superior Court. Drew was convicted of the first-degree murder of 20-year-old Karen Marsden and is currently serving a life prison sentence.
During the final day of testimony, retired Fall River Detective Alan Silvia took the witness stand to field a host of questions regarding his investigation into the gory string of slayings from late 1979 to early 1980.
Silvia testified that he still believes Drew is guilty of the Marsden murder, but also said Drew’s co-defendant, Robin Marie Murphy, was likely the ringleader.
Murphy, the only witness connected to all three Spindle City murders, received a second-degree murder plea bargain in exchange for her testimony against Drew and others charged with the murders of at least three Fall River prostitutes.
Murphy was paroled earlier this year and is currently residing at a Dorchester halfway house.
“Robin is a vicious individual who was very intimidating and was able to control many of the young ladies on the streets,” Silvia testified. “She was manipulative and intelligent.”
Although initially listed as a prosecution witness, Silvia was called to the stand Wednesday as a defense witness.
During questioning, Drew’s attorney, Michael Cutler, attempted to have Silvia paint a picture showing Murphy as the “real” murderer who set Drew up as a patsy.
Silvia said he has received personal threats from Murphy over the years and added that he still fears her.
Drew’s motion for new trial is based on numerous allegations of prosecutorial coercion and misconduct leveled against former top Bristol County prosecutor David Waxler. At least four of the original trial witnesses have since recanted their testimony and have all claimed Waxler or former District Attorney Ronald Pina threatened them into testifying falsely about Drew’s role in the bizarre Marsden murder.
But during cross-examination Wednesday, Silvia called Waxler an “extremely skilled prosecutor” who was “focused and diligent.”
But Cutler maintained Silvia’s testimony regarding Waxler’s handling of witnesses is irrelevant, since he had no contact with the witnesses in the 10-month span between Drew’s arrest and his eventual 1981 trial.
Silvia also testified about his dealings with Drew during the investigation that eventually led to his arrest.
“(Drew) cooperated with us, answered our questions and provided us with hair samples,” Silvia testified.
The former detective also corroborated Cutler’s claims that no witness placed Drew at the apparent murder scene in the a densely wooded section of Westport until two months after Marsden’s Feb. 8, 1980, murder.
Silvia’s testimony marked the end to the evidentiary hearings, but Connor is still awaiting final legal briefs from both sides. The final briefs are to be filed with the court no later than Dec. 10. Closing oral arguments on the case may occur Dec. 17, but no solid date was determined Wednesday.
Connor will now begin the daunting task of poring over thousands of pages of police reports, court transcripts, personal letters and submitted evidence before making a decision on whether Drew should receive a new trial.
Cutler said Connor will likely make his decision based on the credibility of the witnesses he called during the hearings.