, Salem, MA

March 13, 2014

Release sought for man charged in attempted strangling


---- — BEVERLY — A Salem Superior Court judge is mulling whether to release a Beverly man on bail while he awaits trial on charges that he tried to kill his wife by strangling her with an electrical cord.

Prosecutors want to keep Jefferson Purcell, 46, of 119 Essex St., held without bail, arguing that he poses a danger not only to that woman but potentially to others. He’s been in custody since his arrest two months ago.

But Purcell’s lawyer argued that the victim simply wants her husband to get mental health treatment and urged Judge John Lu to release the defendant.

“The people who know him know he’s not a violent person,” said Randy Chapman, who pointed out Purcell’s wife in the courtroom gallery, sitting with Purcell’s three sisters.

Prosecutor Kim Gillespie argued, however, that Purcell is still a potential danger to his wife and to others.

She described how, on the night of Jan. 4, the couple had been having a quiet evening at home. Then, the wife fell asleep on the sofa and awoke to find herself on all fours with Purcell pulling on an electrical cord around her neck.

Gillespie noted that there had been a prior restraining order obtained against Purcell.

The prosecutor also said that the woman later discovered that Purcell had used her smartphone’s Web browser to search for information on “how to hang yourself.”

Chapman told Lu that Purcell, who had been having difficulty sleeping for about a year, had considered suicide in the days before the incident. On Jan. 3, Purcell sat in the garage with his car engine and a snowblower running, Chapman said. Purcell had also acknowledged that he had thought about intentionally running his car into an oncoming vehicle while commuting to his job in Portsmouth, N.H., Chapman said.

Chapman said he wants to have Purcell evaluated for sleep disorders and possible effects of over-the-counter medications he had been taking to try to sleep, including melatonin, NyQuil and ZzzQuil.

“This is a psychiatric case,” argued Chapman, who offered to have Purcell wear a GPS bracelet if released.

Lu said he expects to rule on the issue of bail within the next couple of days.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.