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October 25, 2013

Jury weighs fate of Peabody woman's killer

Defense claims Chappell was insane when he killed counselor

PEABODY — Deshawn Chappell had a diagnosis of schizophrenia. That diagnosis had led to hospitalizations, medications, and placement in a group home under contract to the Department of Mental Health.

But on the morning of Jan. 20, 2011, he showed none of the obvious signs of the often-devastating mental illness, a prosecutor suggested to jurors yesterday during his closing argument in Chappell’s trial on first-degree murder charges.

The night before, he had asked for a wake-up call from a staff member at the group home in Revere where he lived. That morning he got up, showered, dressed and made himself breakfast, Edmond Zabin told the Suffolk Superior Court jury.

And then he waited for the rest of the staff to leave so that he would be alone with Stephanie Moulton, 25, a Peabody woman working as a counselor there.

“Stephanie Moulton was there alone, by herself and vulnerable, and when she’s faced with her killer — this man — there was nobody there to help her, nobody to hear her cries for help,” Zabin said. “She was in this position because this man planned it that way.”

Not so, argued Daniel Solomon, Chappell’s attorney, who told jurors that the 30-year-old defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity.

Solomon argued that Chappell’s history of mental illness, documented in 1,800 pages of records from at least five hospitalizations, both before and after the crime, absolves him of criminal responsibility for his actions that morning.

Solomon said Chappell was hearing voices, including that of Moulton herself, telling him to kill the young woman.

He pointed to what he suggested were “chaotic and disorganized” attempts to deal with the aftermath of the killing, including a haphazard attempt at cleaning up blood.

“He didn’t flee to New Hampshire or Belize,” said Solomon. He went to a relative’s home in Dorchester, a place where he could be found easily.

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