February 16, 2006

Entwistle pleads not guilty

By Jason Szep

FRAMINGHAM, Mass (Reuters) - A British man accused of
fatally shooting his American wife and infant daughter in
Massachusetts and then fleeing to England pleaded not guilty on
Thursday to two first-degree murder charges.

Handcuffed and shackled at the legs, Neil Entwistle, 27,
said nothing as his lawyer entered the plea in Framingham
District Court, about 20 miles west of Boston. The brief
hearing came a day after his extradition from England and
nearly a month after the slayings of his wife and daughter.

Authorities have accused Neil Entwistle of shooting his
27-year-old wife, Rachel Souza Entwistle, in the head and then
turning the .22 caliber gun on his 9-month-old daughter,
Lillian Rose, as they lay together in bed on the morning of
January 20.

Rachel's parents, Joseph and Priscilla Matterazzo sat
silently in court, holding a bouquet of flowers as they faced
their son-in-law for the first time since the slayings. The
courtroom was packed with U.S. and British media.

Entwistle's court-appointed lawyer, Elliot Weinstein,
angrily criticized news media for the weeks of publicity
surrounding the case as he addressed a bank of TV cameras at a
press conference outside the courthouse. He said he did not
know if his client would ever receive a fair trial.

"I am certain that anybody watching this telecast or
reading the reporting of this arraignment has already formed an
opinion with respect to Mr. Entwistle's guilt," he said as
three news helicopters hovered noisily overhead.

As if to underscore his point, a man in the crowd outside
the courtroom yelled "murderer' as Entwistle was driven away in
a motorcade of at least seven police vehicles.

The double murder in a colonial home in the quiet, affluent
Massachusetts suburb of Hopkinton, about 30 miles west of
Boston, and Entwistle's disappearance to his native England
after the killings have drawn intense media attention on both
sides of the Atlantic.


Police affidavits unsealed this week showed that in the
days before the bodies were found, Entwistle had surfed the
Internet for ways to kill people with a knife and euthanasia,
and how to commit suicide.

They also include forensic evidence linking Entwistle to
the alleged murder weapon -- a gun owned by Rachel Entwistle's
stepfather found with Rachel Entwistle's DNA on the muzzle and
Neil Entwistle's on the handgrip.

The prosecution say they believe Entwistle took the gun
from his wife's stepfather's collection in the Massachusetts
suburb of Carver and returned it on the day of the murders.

"Seeing Neil Entwistle standing accused of this awful crime
does us little comfort and in fact only adds to our moment of
pain and suffering," a spokesman for Rachel's family, Joe
Flaherty, told reporters. "To think that someone we loved and
trusted, opened our home to, could do this to our daughter and
granddaughter, is beyond belief," he added.

If convicted of first-degree murder charges, he faces life
in prison without parole. Entwistle will be held without bail
until the next court date on March 15.

The trial is the state's highest profile case since British
nanny Louise Woodward was convicted in 1997 of shaking a baby
boy in her care to death in Massachusetts. She was later freed
when her conviction was reduced to manslaughter.