Walter Shelley: Where is John McCabe’s Killer Now?

Image Credit: Lowell Sun/YouTube

On the night of September 26, 1969, 15-year-old John McCabe attended a dance event filled with the typical excitement of a boy his age. Tragically, he never returned home. The following morning, police arrived at his parents’ door with devastating news: John’s body had been discovered by children in an empty lot in Lowell, Massachusetts. Despite relentless investigation, the case initially yielded few leads. In the ’48 Hours’ episode titled ‘The Pact,’ CBS thoroughly recounts the eventual capture of Walter Shelley as the perpetrator and the subsequent legal proceedings.

Walter Shelley Committed a Crime Because He Was Jealous

In 1969, Walter Shelley, then 17 and residing in Tewksbury, Massachusetts, was drawn into a tragic sequence of events. On the fateful night of September 26, 1969, Shelley was visited at his home by his friend Mike Ferreira, aged 16, who arrived in his maroon 1965 Chevy Impala. Ferreira informed Shelley that John McCabe, whom they had prior conflicts with, was attending a dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall and would return home late that night. Motivated by animosity towards McCabe, Shelley and Ferreira decided to take action and “teach him a lesson.” They enlisted the help of another friend, Edward Alan Brown, to accompany them.

The trio encountered John and pulled him into the car, shoving him into the back seat. They then drove to a vacant lot in Lowell, Massachusetts, conveniently close to John’s home in Tewksbury. According to reports, Shelley had been romantically involved with a girl named Marla Shiner and suspected that John had been flirting with her. At the vacant lot, the three individuals assaulted John, tying his hands and legs with rope and placing another around his neck while he lay face down. After leaving briefly and returning, they discovered that John had succumbed to his injuries.

They fled the scene and made a pact to keep silent about the crime they had committed. As the police began their murder investigation, Shelley and Ferreira were among those interviewed because rumors suggested they were discussing their involvement. Both denied these allegations. Despite Shelley undergoing five polygraph tests, which indicated deception patterns, there was insufficient evidence to link him directly to the crime.

After the leads in the case dried up, Shelley moved forward with his life, eventually joining the military and marrying Marla. However, their marriage was short-lived, marked by allegations from Marla of jealousy and violence. The relationship quickly deteriorated. In 2000, a childhood friend of John’s informed his parents that during a cookout in Tewksbury, Ferreira had confessed to being involved in John’s murder along with Shelley, even providing a motive. Subsequently, in 2003, after verifying this statement, police interviewed Ferreira. He claimed he had made those remarks while intoxicated, and again, lacking physical evidence or eyewitness testimony, the case came to a standstill.

In 2007, law enforcement reignited their investigation into the case with renewed determination. During their review, they identified another individual named Alan, who had been present with Shelley and Ferreira on the night of the murder. Alan was subsequently brought in for questioning, and after multiple rounds of interrogation that spanned several years until 2011, he confessed to his involvement in the murder in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Based on Alan’s testimony, Shelley was indicted for first-degree murder. At the time of his arrest in 2011, Shelley was 60 years old and employed at a box-making plant. He had remarried and resided in Tewksbury, near his and John’s childhood homes.

Walter Shelley is Serving His Sentence Today

Walter Shelley’s trial commenced on September 3, 2013. His defense team argued vehemently that no physical evidence linked Shelley to the crime. They also brought in Marla Shiner, who was alleged to have been Shelley’s girlfriend at the time of the murder. Shiner testified that she was not his girlfriend and that their relationship only became close after the incident. The defense further contended that Alan Brown, the man whose testimony had implicated Shelley, had been guided and coerced by the police into making false statements. Given the complexity of the case, the trial extended over a week, and the jury took approximately two days to deliberate before reaching a verdict.

Shelley was found guilty of first-degree murder and intimidation and was subsequently sentenced to life in prison. In 2016, following a motion, his charge was reduced to second-degree murder, which automatically changed his sentence to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 15 years. He is currently incarcerated at the North Central Correctional Institute in Gardner, Massachusetts, and will be eligible for parole in 2029 when he will be 79 years old. John McCabe’s family has vowed to oppose his release vigorously.

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