SALEM — The lawyer for a Peabody man accused of double murder acknowledged on Monday that his client committed the murders, but said he should be convicted on the lesser charge of manslaughter rather than the first-degree charges he his facing.
Wes Doughty is charged with the brutal killings of Mark Greenlaw and Jennifer O'Connor inside a home at 19 Farm Ave. in Peabody in February 2017. On the first day of Doughty's murder trial at Salem Superior Court, defense lawyer John Apruzzese did not claim that his client was innocent.
Instead, he suggested that Doughty committed the murders due to a tangle of relationships among a cast of drug-addled characters who lived and hung out at the notorious "crack house" on Farm Avenue, and was high when he did it.
Apruzzese said Doughty was angry at Greenlaw for failing to take care of a man at the house that Doughty referred to as "Dad," and said another man encouraged Doughty to confront Greenlaw because of a conflict over a woman.
"Essentially this is a case about relationships," Apruzzese told jurors in his opening statement.
But in her opening statement, prosecutor Kate MacDougall said Doughty and another man, Michael Hebb, were upset that Greenlaw had moved into the house and could potentially move in on their crack-dealing business. Hebb was also angry because Greenlaw had an affair with Hebb's girlfriend, Tina Cummiskey, according to MacDougall.
On the day of the murders, MacDougall said, Cummiskey was upstairs in the house and overheard Doughty and Hebb "making some kind of plan."
"Wes said, 'When you see me on the surveillance cameras outside between the two lions, you'll know it's going to happen,'" MacDougall told the jurors.
"What happened next was the defendant, Wes Doughty, fired a single blast from a shotgun into the face of Mark Greenlaw," MacDougall said. "Mark Greenlaw died almost immediately inside the kitchen at 19 Farm Ave."
MacDougall said Cummiskey then heard the screams of O'Connor. MacDougall said Doughty brought O'Connor into a bedroom and "repeatedly slit and slashed her throat while she begged for help" and returned upstairs "covered with blood."
As MacDougall described the scene, a person in the courtroom audience gasped.
MacDougall said Doughty and Hebb wrapped the bodies in carpets and stacked them in the basement, surrounded by cans of kerosene and oil, with the intention of burning down the house and all of the evidence.
Cummiskey eventually fled the house in her stocking feet. She flagged down a car on Farm Avenue and literally jumped into the car through the passenger side window, stunning the driver, Anne Mailo of Peabody.
"She was screaming at me to get her out of there," Mailo testified.
Another witness, Dale Girard of Danvers, testified that she went to the house after midnight unaware that the murders had taken place. Girard said she was a good friend of David Moise, who rented the home, and a regular visitor to the house.
Girard testified that Doughty was taking a shower upstairs when she arrived. When he came out of the shower, he pointed a gun in her face and yelled, "What are you doing here? Are the cops out there?," she said.
A SWAT team later responded to the house, but by that time Doughty and Hebb had fled through the woods out back. Hebb was arrested in Middleton two days later. He was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to O'Connor's death, and of attempted arson, and is serving a six- to seven-year prison term. He has asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify at Doughty's trial.
Doughty was eventually captured in South Carolina. He is also charged with carjacking and kidnapping when he was on the run. On Monday, he sat in court next to his lawyers wearing a black suit jacket and blue shirt, taking notes on a yellow legal pad.
In her opening statement, MacDougall painted a picture of 19 Farm Ave. as a dilapidated "crack compound" where several people addicted to crack cocaine came to buy and use drugs. Moise, who was in his 60s and disabled, would sit in a wheelchair with a White Russian drink in one hand and a gun in his lap "day and night," she said.
Girard testified that Moise, who has since died, was quick to anger and would throw objects at people, or even shoot his gun into the wall. Asked what she would do when Moise got into one of his moods, Girard replied, "Duck."
Despite his behavior, Moise inspired a "strange loyalty" among the visitors to Farm Avenue. People would take turns caring for him, including carrying him to his car to take him to dinner and changing his diapers, she said.
MacDougall said that O'Connor and Greenlaw, who were engaged, both led troubled lives, including battling addiction. She described O'Connor, 40, who grew up in Beverly, as "blonde, pretty, even a cheerleader." Greenlaw, 37, who grew up in Salem and Peabody, was trained as a carpenter and had a son who was 18 when Greenlaw died.
"I expect in the evidence in this case you won't actually hear much about them," MacDougall said. "You see, the truth is that Mark and even to a greater extent Jennifer were very peripheral to the nonsensical and twisted reasons that led to their murders."
Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or email@example.com.