FALL RIVER — Prosecutors attempting to keep convicted “cult murderer” Carl Drew behind bars have submitted a list of at least 26 witnesses they plan to call during Drew’s evidentiary hearing. The hearing could pave the way to a new trial for the man who has spent the past 24 years in prison for a crime he insists he never committed.
The evidentiary hearing has been tentatively scheduled for late August and could take up to three weeks to complete, due in large part to the immense number of witnesses scheduled to appear.
Although the official witness list has not yet been added to the case file, The Herald News has learned that several prominent past and present prosecutors, judges and police officials will be called to testify on behalf of the commonwealth.
Among them are former District Attorney Ronald Pina and former Assistant District Attorney David Waxler.
The two prosecutors and various state police officials are at the heart of the new allegations of prosecutorial misconduct filed within Drew’s motion for a new trial.
Three of Drew’s five witnesses have signed sworn affidavits claiming that Pina, Waxler and some former state police officials threatened or coerced them into testifying falsely during Drew’s initial trial or urging them not to testify at all.
Carol Fletcher, who has since changed her last name, told a jury in 1980 that she was present during the butchering, decapitation and mutilation of 20-year-old Karen Marsden.
But in her affidavit, sworn to under the penalty of perjury, Fletcher not only claims that she was threatened into falsely testifying against the former pimp, but also provides a shocking revelation that she witnessed Robin Marie Murphy beat Marsden to death on the roof of the former Harbor Terrace apartments.
Murphy, the state’s star witness in the Drew trial, was also convicted of the Marsden slaying but was given a second-degree murder plea bargain for her assistance in the Drew case and another murder she initially claimed she observed.
Drew’s Brookline-based attorney, Michael Cutler, filed a motion for a retrial in the Drew case last September.
Drew had moved for a new trial at other times during the past two and a half decades. But this motion caught the attention of many because it included new eyewitness evidence that, if accepted in court, could be the key to the convicted murderer’s freedom.
The motion included sworn affidavits by three witnesses who initially were called to testify during Drew’s 1980 trial.
Two of the three women have recanted their original testimony and now tell a very different story, one that pins the Marsden murder solely on the shoulders of the soon-to-be-released Murphy.
One of the witnesses, Maureen “Sonny” Sparda, was to testify on Drew’s behalf during his 1980 trial, but says she never got that opportunity because former prosecutors with the Bristol County District Attorney’s Office allegedly threatened her into keeping quiet.
The motion for a new trial was also backed up by former Fall River Detective Sgt. Paul Carey, who investigated all three murders. He, too, said he believes that Murphy was Marsden’s sole slayer; he has also noted that his investigations have all pointed toward her as the murderer of the other two young prostitutes.
A Superior Court judge assigned to the case provided Drew with the chance he has been waiting most of his life for: his day in court.
In March, Judge John Connor ordered the case to proceed to the next step, an evidentiary hearing where witnesses will present live testimony on the case.
The cult murders of 1979 and 1980 became a seminal event in Spindle City history. It forced the city to face its prostitution and tough street culture, and shook the city’s residents after it became clear that a satanic cult of some sort may have been at the root of a string of murders that baffled detectives for several months before they officially tied at least three people to the slayings.
One of the murders, that of New Bedford prostitute Doreen Levesque, remains unsolved to this day.
Drew and his co-defendant Murphy were both convicted of slaying Marsden during what prosecutors said was a gory satanic ritual in the woods of Westport near Family Beach.
Murphy — the star witness against Drew in the Marsden case and against a man named Andre Maltais in the murder of Barbara Raposa — told investigators of a low-level gang of devil worshippers she was part of.
Her stories, shocking and amazing to many, told a tale of blood ceremonies, sacrifices of local street girls and meetings where the group would invoke Satan himself.
Murphy struck a deal with prosecutors for her guilty plea on a charge of second-degree murder. She has recently been paroled.
In a shocking turn of events, the former teenage prostitute and pimp recently reversed her entire story and claims there was no cult and that she was not present at any of the murders.
But her testimony, along with that of Fletcher and Leah Johnson (another recanting witness), condemned Drew to a lifetime prison sentence without the possibility of parole.