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Massachusetts Gunman Pleads Not Guilty to Seven Counts of Murder; Prayer Service Honoring Victims Planned at Nearby Church

Aired December 27, 2000 - 2:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: A day after one of the worst mass killings in Massachusetts history, we're learning more about what happened in chilling detail. Michael McDermott, age 42, the man police say gunned down seven people, made his first court appearance earlier today.

CNN's Frank Buckley is covering this story as well in Massachusetts.

Frank, fill us in.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, it was a packed courtroom here at the courthouse when Michael McDermott made his first appearance. Among those in attendance, his parents, who watched as prosecutors detailed their allegations against their son. McDermott arrived in court under heavy guard. He was escorted by members of Special Operations Unit of the Middlesex Sheriff's Department. McDermott was wearing a bulletproof vest as he came into the courthouse.

Once inside, he stood as a prosecutor described McDermott's alleged actions and a possible motive: anger over a pending garnishment of McDermott's wages related to payment of back taxes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence that we have received so far from witnesses to the scene seem to indicate that Mr. McDermott had an issue with the company concerning garnishment of wages by the Internal Revenue Service that had been ongoing for several weeks. On this morning, he appeared at work in a normal fashion, was at his desk in a normal fashion, had talked to people about the holidays. And somewhere around 11:10, he came in, he walked by individuals who were working and specifically targeted the individuals we believe he shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Authorities say that McDermott shot the vice president of human resources and a receptionist. He then moved to another office where he shot three people to death, then went to an accounting office where employees had barricaded themselves inside. They allege that McDermott used a shotgun to blast away the door so he could gain entry. And that's where he killed two additional people, according to authorities.

McDermott's attorney did not fight the prosecution demand that he be held without bail, but he did ask that the judge ensure that his client have access to medications that he says he will need.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On behalf of the defendant, we would waive argument on a bail. My only concern or request to the court right now would be that when he is remanded to the Middlesex facility, that he has been undergoing psychiatric treatment and he has been on medication. And my concern would be that, with the assistance of the court, that if I have any difficulty having the facility allow him to continue with his medication.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BUCKLEY: Now, some analysts suggest that that is the beginning of the laying of the groundwork for a possible insanity plea. We don't yet know if that will happen in the future.

Authorities also revealed that a search warrant at his work space revealed that they found at least one additional bolt-action rifle. That's in addition to the AK-47 that he had on his body, according to authorities, as well as a shotgun and a semiautomatic pistol.

A search warrant at his apartment also turned up what authorities describe as bomb-making materials -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Frank Buckley. And as Frank mentioned, also in the courtroom today were McDermott's parents. They didn't speak with anyone inside or outside the courtroom. The attorney they hired for their son says the couple cannot believe what has happened.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KEVIN REDDINGTON, MICHAEL MCDERMOTT'S ATTORNEY: I think it's fair to say they're devastated. And they have just as shear human emotion as you can well imagine -- or perhaps you can't imagine. They express extreme regret and sympathy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WATERS: In court, Mr. Reddington there said his client had been undergoing psychiatric treatment and was on medication, as you heard. What kind he did not specify -- Daryn.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, investigators are still going over the offices of Edgewater Technology today. The building is closed for the rest of the week, but some of the employees still showed up this morning at the church across the street.

Bill Shields from our Boston affiliate WBZ has that story for us.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BILL SHIELDS, WBZ-TV REPORTER (voice-over): Silence outside the Edgewater offices this morning as the sense of loss settles in. Next door, at an adjoining office complex, employees showed up for work, but their minds were clearly on the bloodshed that occurred next door.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel so badly for the families that were affected by this. It just doesn't make any sense that their lives are impacted so significantly because of someone who really, you know, wasn't looking at things logically.

SHIELDS: Father Michael Steele's church is right across the street. He's been trying to comfort the survivors. But even he has reason to suffer. It was Father Steele who recently performed the wedding ceremony for 29-year-old Jennifer Capobianco, one of McDermott's seven victims. Yesterday, Father Steele spoke to her husband.

FATHER MICHAEL STEELE, ST. JOSEPH'S CHURCH: You know, I think that his desire was to be embraced, you know, and just to be reassured that someone is there with me. And I focussed on this beautiful child, Eve, just to see that life that was there.

SHIELDS: Kevin Forzese lived in the Haverhill apartment just below Michael McDermott.

KEVIN FORZESE, MCDERMOTT'S NEIGHBOR: Yes, I talked to him Christmas. Christmas morning I talked to him. He was cheery, smiling, said he was going to his mother's house. It's just a horrific thing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAGAN: Again, that story was from Bill Shields, our Boston affiliate WBZ.

One footnote there: An ecumenical prayer service will be held tomorrow night at St. Joseph's Church to honor the seven victims.

And this story, of course, isn't just about Michael McDermott, it is about the victims. Let's tell you a little bit more about them as we learn more. Cheryl Troy was the director of human resources for Edgewater Technologies. She was 50 years old. Another victim, Jennifer Bragg Capobianco, she was 29 and she worked in marketing; 46- year-old Janice Hagerty was the office manager. She lived in nearby Stoneham. Louis Javelle was 58. He was director of consulting, and he normally worked out of the company's Manchester, New Hampshire office. Paul Marceau was a development technician. He was 36 years old. Craig Wood worked in the human resources department. He was 29. He lived in Haverhill, the same town where McDermott lived. And Rose Manfredi worked in payroll. Today would have been her birthday.

WATERS: Late last night, executives with Edgewater Technology released a statement. It reads, in part: "Our deepest condolences are with the families of our friends and colleagues who lost their lives in this senseless act of violence. We want all of our employees to know the company is currently putting in place the necessary counseling and support systems to ensure that our friends and associates have an outlet to help them through the grief associated with this type of tragedy, and to know that the company's Wakefield office will be closed for the remainder of the week."

The message goes on to read: "Although the suspect that the police have in custody, Michael McDermott, is an employee of Edgewater Technology, his actions apparently stem from occurrences in his personal life. We deeply regret that Mr. McDermott's problems manifested in actions against the company and its employees. There was no way to anticipate his actions or any apparent reasons to restrict his access to the building."

Again, that was the initial reaction from company executives.

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