On the day that would bring Neil Entwistle a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for killing his wife and infant daughter more than two years ago, the family of Rachel Entwistle were still trying to cope with the pain of their loss.
“I don’t believe any family of a murder victim ever gets closure,” Joseph Flaherty told TODAY’s Meredith Vieira Thursday. “They may get some peace when justice is served, as it is in this case. Their mood is somber and reflecting on what could have been.” Flaherty is an attorney and longtime friend of Rachel Entwistle’s stepfather, Joe Matterazzo.
On Wednesday, after two days of deliberations, a jury in Woburn, Mass., found British national Neil Entwistle guilty of killing his wife, Rachel, and 9-month-old daughter, Lillian Rose, on Jan. 20, 2006, in their home. On Thursday he received his sentence: life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Entwistle did not testify at the trial and his defense lawyer, Elliott Weinstein, called no witnesses. Instead, Weinstein offered the theory that Rachel shot her daughter before taking her own life.
Neil Entwistle’s family repeated that theory Wednesday and expressed anger at the jury and the prosecution for finding him guilty of first-degree murder. Massachusetts law calls for a mandatory appeal.
Grounds for appeal?
Weinstein told Vieira that his appeal will argue that police illegally entered the Entwistles’ home to discover the bodies of the slain woman and infant. Lillian Rose had been shot in the chest, and the bullet had gone through her body and lodged in Rachel Entwistle’s breast. Rachel had been shot in the top of the head, above the hairline.
“It’s outrageous,” Flaherty said of the claim that Rachel Entwistle killed her daughter and herself. “I understand a family being angry at a verdict like this. They’re losing a son. But make no mistake about it, we are here today because of the actions of Neil Entwistle on Jan. 20 of 2006. He’s destroyed a lot of families, including his own.”
On that day, Entwistle told police, he came home to find his wife and daughter dead in Rachel’s bed. He said he found a .22-caliber revolver, which belonged to his father-in-law. Entwistle did not call 911 to report the deaths. Instead, he took the gun back to his in-laws’ house, then boarded a plane to return to his native England.
When Rachel Entwistle’s mother didn’t hear from Rachel for two days, she called police, asking them to check the house. On a first check, police found nothing wrong. Asked to go back, they discovered the bodies in the bed, covered with a comforter. Charges were ultimately filed against Entwistle, who was extradited from England to stand trial.
A different picture
Prosecutors painted a portrait of Neil Entwistle that was dramatically at odds with his image as a gentle and loving husband and father. They said that he was depressed by his inability to get a job and by the mountain of debt he had run up. They also used his computer records to show that he frequently visited sex sites on the Internet and theorized that he was unhappy with his sex life with his wife.
Flaherty said that the revelations about Neil Entwistle’s life that came out in the trial were a shock to his wife’s family.
“That was one of the most troubling pieces of this whole case,” he told Vieira. “Neil was always thought of as a loving, trusted husband and father. This background on Neil that came out at the trial was a total shock to them and really added to the betrayal of this family.”
In a separate interview, Weinstein defended his decision not to produce any witnesses for the defense or to put Neil Entwistle on the stand. He said the investigation was flawed from the outset by an assumption that Entwistle was the murderer.
“In our trial system, all burdens of proof and production of evidence are on the prosecution,” Weinstein told Vieira. “We carefully analyzed the evidence that they put out in the trial. We believe that there was doubt, and reasonable doubt, because of the Neil-did-it filters that the investigation used.”
Weinstein said there was gunshot residue on Rachel Entwistle’s hands. “Those are factors of reasonable doubt,” he said. “There was a time line which was absolutely contrary to the prosecution’s theory, showing Neil in a Starbucks store at 11:30 in the morning, using his computer at 12:30, seeing his daughter’s picture on the screen of the computer — totally inconsistent with the acts and conduct of a man who fired a gun and killed his wife and child. That is reasonable doubt.”
Weinstein said the jury was also swayed by the fact that Neil Entwistle did not testify on his own behalf.
“Unfortunately, a jury … was predisposed to not consider the evidence fairly, which went in with the belief that a defendant should testify, a question that we resisted vigorously with the judge,” he said. “But it showed a mindset, an attitude going into the trial which made it impossible for us to get the type of consideration that we were seeking.”
Flaherty disputed that allegation, telling Vieira, “The jury heard all the evidence in this case. They meticulously considered everything. They took notes … They went in and they deliberated for two days. And they returned a verdict of beyond a reasonable doubt.”