I have spent two decades covering crime. As a result, I never date a guy without conducting a thorough background check on him. Initially, my research was prompted after a couple of dates with a guy who wrapped his arm around his dinner plate, “Walpole-style’’ as they call it up here in Massachusetts, referring to the state’s super-max prison. Sure enough, that gruff yet buff date had spent a decade at Walpole perfecting his plate protecting. Then there was that swarthy Italian guy in New York I dated while working as the police bureau chief of the New York Daily News. He turned out to be a Gambino crime family associate with a rap sheet.
On June 3rd, the same day my book Heartless: The True Story of Neil Entwistle and the Cold-Blooded Murder of his Wife and Baby will be released by St. Martin’s Press true crime division, Neil Entwistle (pictured above) will go on trial for the 2005 assassinations of his infant Lillian Rose and his bride Rachel. The motive that provoked the Brit to allegedly pump a bullet into his baby’s stomach and his wife’s head, prosecutors believe, was money. In his case, the complete lack of any.
Entwistle was one of those guys who could become whoever you wanted him to be; the master con artist. His wife Rachel had no idea that the charming raven-haired genius she met at a rowing club in England, the man who told her he had a top-secret job at an intelligence firm, was actually just an unemployed chump living off credit and trolling Internet sex sites for clandestine hookups. Even her mother and her step-father were snowed by Neil Entwistle. To them he was nothing other than a doting husband and loving dad – that is until that January 2006 day when the bodies of his wife and baby were found under a rumpled comforter in their idyllic New England home. He fled the country after finding their bodies, without calling police, and was arrested for their murders in England months later.
But Entwistle is not the only guy with a shaky past who went on to kill his lover. In fact, Massachusetts has a macabre history of providing the backdrop for infamous crime scenes where women were brutally slain by men they trusted. This week the trial of James Keown--the radio talk-show host who is charged with spiking his wife's Gatorade with anti-freeze, fatally poisoning her in 2004--ended in a mistrial. Keown is accused of killing his wife Julie in an attempt to collect on a $250,000 life insurance policy. Julie, a dedicated nurse who was 31 years old when her kidneys began to fail, had no idea that the love of her life was broke, and desperate enough to kill her - according to Massachusetts prosecutors.
Keown was transmitting his radio show from their Waltham home because he convinced his employer - and his wife - that he had been accepted to Harvard Business School. In fact, he had taken a night course on the Cambridge campus, but had flunked it. Prosecutors said they will retry Keown on June 9, meaning his murder trial will take place down the hall from Neil Entwistle's double homicide trial.
Here are just a few others:
- Christa Worthington - the fashion writer who was found bloodied and stabbed in her Cape Cod cottage with her two-year-old daughter Ava desperately trying to breastfeed from her mother’s dead body. Her alleged sometime lover, the local trash man, was convicted of raping and killing the wealthy, attractive single mom one winter afternoon in 2002. That arrest came after her other lovers' reputations were stained with accusations that they were suspects.
- Carol DiMaiti-Stuart - Carol and her unborn son Christopher were shot dead by her dashing husband Charles Stuart after they attended a Lamaze class together in 1989. Stuart, a greedy Newbury Street furrier, blamed a black man and set off a near-race war in Boston, all motivated by a half-million life insurance policy. He threw himself off the Tobin Bridge when the cops closed in. But was it really suicide? That remains a Boston mystery.
- Laura Jane Rosenthal - Laura was beaten to death with a rock by her financier husband Richard who then impaled her heart and lungs on a stake in the backyard after she burnt the ziti she was cooking for dinner in 1995. The handsome well-to-do businessman is serving life.
- Kenneth Seguin - Kenneth was a handsome, successful businessman who had never been in trouble when he drove an axe into his wife Mary Anne’s head then drugged his two children and hacked them to death in 1992. Currently, he heads a Lifers Group – a union of sorts for convicted killers in Massachusetts jail.
All of these men shared something in common: a hint in their backgrounds that something might snap. The trash man that killed Worthington had a long history of violence. Charles Stuart had taken out a massive life insurance policy on his wife before they married and she got pregnant. Richard Rosenthal had a history of mental illness. Seguin was going broke.
Credit and criminal checks work, as does some old-fashioned shoe leather reporting. Ask about old girlfriends and family trees; snoop just a little bit to make sure there are no prescriptions for psychotic episodes in the medicine cabinet. A little research could have provided that mustard seed of information that would have made these slain women just a little bit more leery.
We do background checks on used cars before we buy them, why not build workups on the men in our lives?