, Salem, MA

Local News

October 29, 2013

Chappell guilty in slaying

Jury rejects insanity defense in social worker's stabbing

PEABODY — He mumbled unintelligibly at his arraignment and rolled his head in circles as he sat at the defense table for his trial, as his lawyer repeatedly pointed to 1,800 pages of medical records and a diagnosis of schizophrenia.

But on the morning he stabbed Stephanie Moulton to death, Deshawn Chappell was perfectly capable of knowing right from wrong, a jury found yesterday.

Chappell, 30, had claimed an insanity defense in Moulton’s slaying, but yesterday a Suffolk Superior Court jury rejected that claim, finding Chappell guilty of first-degree murder in Moulton’s Jan. 20, 2011, death inside a Revere group home, Suffolk prosecutors announced.

The jury found that Chappell had acted with deliberate premeditation in the killing of the young woman from Peabody, who was preparing for her wedding at the time.

Judge Jeffrey Locke imposed the mandatory sentence for first-degree murder, life without chance of parole.

“Though this verdict will not bring Stephanie back, justice has prevailed,” said Diane Moulton, the victim’s stepmother, in a statement she read on behalf of herself and Bob Moulton, Stephanie’s father.

The evidence showed that Moulton, 25, was stabbed to death, with what a prosecutor said Thursday were “precision” wounds to the throat. Afterward, Chappell tried to clean up the massive amount of blood at the scene. When that didn’t work, he set a fire.

At some point, Chappell removed some of her clothing, put her body into her Chrysler PT Cruiser, got the keys and drove to Lynn, dumping her behind a church.

Then, he moved quickly to distance himself from the crime, cleaning up, seeking money from relatives and, when that didn’t work, stealing clean clothes from a Dorchester store to replace his blood-soaked garments, which he got rid of along with the murder weapon.

In closing arguments on Thursday, prosecutor Edmond Zabin said Chappell’s actions both before and after the brutal slaying showed that he was in control of his faculties, from his decision to wait until everyone else had left the group home to his efforts to clean up both the scene and himself, and flee.

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