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Christopher M. McCOWEN

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
 
 
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Rape
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: January 6, 2002
Date of arrest: April 14, 2005
Date of birth: 1972
Victim profile: Christa Worthington, 46
Method of murder: Stabbing with knife
Location: Truro, Massachusetts, USA
Status: Sentenced to life in prison on November 16, 2006
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Christopher McCowen is an African American who was convicted in the 2002 rape and murder of Christa Worthington, a former fashion writer.

McCowen had been imprisoned in Florida from 1993-1998 for auto theft and burglary.

Later, McCowen lived in Provincetown, Massachusetts and was a waste collector whose regular route included Worthington's home in Truro, Massachusetts, where the crime occurred in January 2002. Worthington had been raped and killed with a knife.

McCowen was charged on April 17, 2005 on the basis of genetic fingerprinting from a sample he provided in March of 2004.

At the age of 34, on November 16, 2006, he was convicted of first-degree murder, aggravated rape, and aggravated armed burglary; and he was sentenced to life without parole.

McCowen's trial lasted five weeks, and issues of class, race, rush to judgment, bungled forensics and the existence of other suspects were raised by Boston defense lawyer Robert A. George. The trial was covered nationally by the news media and was carried on a daily basis by Court TV. The jury deliberated eight days before coming to a verdict.

In January 2008, after a motion alleging juror misconduct during the trial and deliberations, a hearing was held due to three jurors' allegations that some racial bias was displayed during deliberations.

 
 

Christa Worthington Trial Verdict: Guilty

By Hilary Russ - CapecodOnline.com

November 17, 2006

BARNSTABLE - His shackles clanking, Christopher McCowen walked slowly, anxiously, into the packed courtroom yesterday with tears already in his eyes.

His attorney straightened his suit collar and wiped his tear-stained cheeks. His girlfriend dabbed her eyes.

The clock ticked. Everyone waited.

''Is the defendant, Christopher M. McCowen, guilty or not guilty of any offense,'' the clerk-magistrate asked the jury foreman.

''We, the jurors, unanimously return the following verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree,'' the foreman replied.

McCowen slowly shook his head, crying, as an inaudible gasp spread through the courtroom.

His girlfriend collapsed onto the shoulder of a friend.

Across the room, cousin Pamela Worthington Franklin, shoulders shaking, cried and dropped her head. The stoic jury stood still.

On the 24th day of trial and the eighth day of deliberation, the verdict came back yesterday to end the longest, most high-profile trial Barnstable Superior Court has seen in decades. McCowen was convicted of robbing, raping and killing Christa Worthington, who was found dead on her living room floor, half-naked, a fatal knife wound through her lung, her daughter Ava trying to nurse.

''This is a case about the brutal rape and murder of Christa Worthington, and nothing else,'' said Christa's cousin Mary in a victim impact statement she read before sentencing yesterday. ''This is about a little girl losing her mother in the most heinous way imaginable.''

''It is about the loss of a loving, vibrant woman,'' she said. ''There will never be closure, because Christa is never coming back to us.''

Then McCowen wanted to speak. Throughout the trial, he sat quietly, a hulking figure calm and still, looking at papers in front of him or whispering to his attorney.

McCowen thanked the judge, court officers and others in the courthouse. ''Y'all showed me respect just like I showed y'all,'' he said.

''I feel sorry for the victim's family,'' he said. ''I never meant for this to ever take place.''

But he also said he did not kill Worthington. ''I sat here, thinking to myself, why me,'' McCowen said softly. ''I'm an innocent man in this case. ... All this time I've been innocent.''

The January 2002 murder shocked Truro, a small town of loners, artists, working people and wealthy part-timers, desolate in winter. State police spent three years hunting for a killer. Finally, police matched McCowen's DNA to a semen sample taken from Worthington's body.

A cast of damaged characters, their lives forever altered by the murder, piled into the courtroom over the past five weeks of trial.

Judge Gary Nickerson sentenced McCowen to life in prison without the possibility of parole. McCowen was also found guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated burglary.

An appeal for a first-degree murder conviction is automatic. Defense attorney Robert George also said he is appealing because experts Eric Brown and Richard Ofshe were not allowed to testify about some aspects of the case.

''He was devastated by the verdict,'' George said of McCowen at a press conference on courthouse steps. George was taken aback because he believed enough reasonable doubt had existed for the jury to acquit McCowen.

Prosecutors were pleased and relieved. ''I just thank God that it's over and that justice was done,'' said assistant district attorney Robert Welsh III, who tried the case with his trademark deliberate, methodical style.

''It's a very good verdict and consistent with the evidence,'' said his boss, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe, who praised investigators, the state police crime lab and even defense attorney George.

George hinted that jurors may have convicted McCowen only after Rachel Huffman was removed from the apparently hung jury after her boyfriend, Kyle Hicks, was arrested in a shooting in Falmouth over the weekend.

''She gave us six weeks of her time, and now she's public enemy number one, and that bothers me most,'' George said of Huffman.

George filed a motion yesterday, before the verdict was in, that demands Hicks' phone and visitor records from jail. George implied investigators tampered with the jury, a charge O'Keefe called ''ridiculous.''

Jurors held a press conference outside the courthouse, but only the foreman spoke. He asked that the press and public respect their request to be left alone. Nickerson impounded jurors' names ''for good and just cause,'' he said in court.

Beyond shock and relief at the outcome, beyond the made-for-tabloid case of a white fashion writer from a wealthy family killed by her black garbage man, one person was on the minds of many close to the case: Ava, Christa's daughter, who is now 7. ''I choose not to portray Ava as a victim,'' her legal guardian, Amyra Chase, wrote in her victim impact statement, despite the ''day and a half that was so traumatic and so horrific'' before the child was discovered next to her mother's corpse.

''Ava Maria Worthington has emerged from that night as a very bright, confident and engaging child,'' Chase wrote. ''Christa was robbed of the privilege and delight of raising her daughter.''

 
 

Timeline of Christa Worthington murder mystery

Cape Cod Times archives, compiled by Robin Smith-Johnson

October 14, 2006

*Jan. 6, 2002: The body of Christa Worthington, 46, is discovered in her Truro home by a former boyfriend, Tim Arnold. She may have been dead as long as 36 hours before she was found. There is at least one stab wound to her chest. Her 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Ava, is found with her, unharmed and trying to care for her mother's body.

*Jan. 7: An autopsy is performed on Worthington's body to determine more conclusively the time of death. Results are not released. Police dogs comb the neighborhood and nearby woods in search of a possible weapon or items that might have been taken from the house. Christopher Worthington, Christa's father, begins proceedings in Barnstable to probate her will. Ava, who appears to be the sole beneficiary of her mother's estate, is in the custody of family friends, Amyra and Cliff Chase of Cohasset. The Chases file for formal custody of Ava on this date.

*Jan. 8: Police interview both Tim Arnold, former boyfriend, and Tony Jackett, a married father of six who also fathered Worthington's daughter, Ava. Both men say they have nothing to do with the death.

*Jan. 9: Investigators say they have not made any major breaks in the case.

*Jan. 10: Judge Robert Scandurra orders Tony Jackett to undergo a paternity test in order to establish whether he might seek custody of Ava. There is speculation that Christa may have been suspicious of her father's girlfriend, Elizabeth Porter, a 28-year-old ex-convict. Porter and Edward Hall, who lives with Porter in a Quincy apartment paid for by Christa Worthington's father, are given polygraph tests.

*Jan. 26: Author Maria Flook signs with Random House to tell the story of Christa Worthington.

*Feb. 6: DNA confirms Tony Jackett's claim that he fathered Ava during an affair with Christa Worthington.

*Feb. 8: A judge rejects Jackett's bid for custody because he had not been ruled out as a suspect in Christa's death. Amyra Chase and her husband will retain custody of Ava for another 90 days.

Also in February: Police question Tony Jackett and his son Kyle and request samples of their saliva. Also interviewed is Jackett's son-in-law, Keith Amato and a sample of his blood is also taken.

*April: Christa Worthington's former lovers say they're off suspect list.

*April 11 Truro murder is focus of ''48 Hours'' television newsmagazine.

*June 20: Jackett and Chase sign a joint custody agreement before Barnstable County Probate and Family Judge Robert Scandurra. Ava will live primarily with Chase, but both families will decide such issues as health care, education and the like.

*Aug. 8: Police travel to New York City to take DNA samples from Worthington's former boyfriend, Thomas Churchill.

*Dec. 3: Worthington family will post reward in search for killer. The estimated amount is expected to be $25,000.

*Dec. 19: Police are looking for man who had sex with Christa shortly before her murder. Untraced DNA is sought in the case.

*Jan. 9, 2003: Family and friends offer a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the killer.

*May 2: Controversy erupts when advance copies of ''Invisible Eden: A Story of Love and Murder on Cape Cod,'' by Emerson College professor and author Maria Flook, are released for review. Some of the concerns by Worthington's family and friends center around an agreement between Flook and investigators to share information, and unflattering, sometimes demeaning, statements about Worthington made by then-First Assistant District Attorney Michael O'Keefe.

*May 3: O'Keefe defends his tactics, but apologizes to the Worthington family for his comments, which he says he thought were off the record.

*June 18: Worthington's family and friends claim they were misquoted by Flook, sparking more controversy.

*June 20: Under pressure from Worthington's family, O'Keefe, now the district attorney, appoints a special investigator from Plymouth County to provide the case with ''an abundance of caution in deference to the (Worthington) family.''

*June 24: ''Invisible Eden'' is published by Broadway Books. Flook defends her book and reporting techniques in an interview. ''I did not invent anything,'' Flook says about criticism she mixed fiction with fact. ''I re-create scenes from an incredible accretion of details I got from her friends, editors, colleagues.''

*July: ''Invisible Eden'' climbs to number 6 on the New York Times Bestseller List.

*December: Worthington's former lover, Tony Jackett, who fathered her daughter, Ava, agrees to sell depiction rights to a Pasadena, Calif., film company for a movie that could be released nationwide in theaters.

*December: A knife is found about a half-mile from Worthington's North Truro home. Police send it to a state lab for DNA testing. Some investigators are skeptical it might be the murder weapon.

*March 20, 2004: An Emmy-winning production company plans to make a documentary on the Christa Worthington murder for HBO.

*April 21: $1.1 million offer is made on the four-bedroom, two bath house where Christa Worthington was stabbed.

*June 29: The Worthington house sells for $962,500 to a Weston-based trust. The buyer is listed as Jonathan White, c/o White, Freeman and Winter, LLP, acting under the auspices of Pamet Realty Trust.

*Jan. 4, 2005: State police detective investigating the death says the crime is solvable because of DNA left at the scene.

*Jan. 5, 2005: State and Truro police begin asking adult men in Truro if they will donate saliva for DNA testing in an effort to find the killer. On the first day, 75 men volunteer their saliva.

*April 14, 2005: State police arrest Christopher McCowen, 33, at 7:15 p.m. at his home on La France Avenue in Hyannis. He is charged in connection with Worthington's death. Worthington's former trash collector, McCowen stands accused of her rape and murder. Police say a DNA sample, voluntarily provided by McCowen more than a year before, led to his arrest. Analysis of the sample is delayed by a backlog of work in state crime labs.

*May: The man accused of killing Christa Worthington is being sued for $10 million by the executors of her estate. Also named in the wrongful death suit filed in Barnstable Superior Court is Cape Cod Disposal Co., the Lower Cape business that employed Christopher M. McCowen in January 2002, when the Truro fashion writer was killed.

*May 17: McCowen tells investigators that he participated in the beating of Worthington and was present when she was killed.

*May 26: McCowen hires Robert George, 50, to be his attorney. George is a Boston-based lawyer and a familiar face on Court TV. He has been involved with several high profile trials. On the prosecution side is Robert Welsh, 40, a third-generation Cape lawyer whose grandfather served as a judge on the Lower Cape and whose father is presiding judge in the Orleans District Court.

*June 22: Christopher McCowen pleads innocent in Barnstable Superior Court to first-degree murder, aggravated rape and armed burglary. He is ordered held without bail pending a hearing July 6. Also in June, Tim Arnold, the man who found the body of murdered Truro resident Christa Worthington, files a libel suit against publishing giant Random House and Truro author Maria Flook, who penned ''Invisible Eden.''

*July 7: Bail for the man accused of killing fashion writer Christa Worthington is set at $750,000 cash and $7.5 million in surety following a hearing in Barnstable Superior Court.

*July 14: The prosecution is set to protest bail setting for McCowen. Motions to be decided during this week's hearings include a request for a change of venue in the trial and a request to suppress statements McCowen gave police on the night of his arrest.

*Oct. 4: Judge Gary Nickerson will preside over the Christopher McCowen murder trial if the proceedings are held in Barnstable Superior Court. Nickerson has replaced Superior Court Judge Richard Connon, who is recovering from surgery for a broken leg suffered when he was run over by a golf cart.

*Oct. 16, 2006: McCowen's murder trial begin.

*Nov. 13, 2006: Jurors are sequestered after they inform the judge that they are deadlocked.

*Nov. 14, 2006: A juror is dismissed after making a phone call to a jailed boyfriend.

*Nov. 16, 2006: McCowen is found guilty of murder with extreme atrocity and cruelty and murder while committing felonies, aggravated rape and burglary. The judge sentenced him to three concurrent life sentences without parole.

Christa Worthington' s early history:

*1973: Christa Worthington graduates from Hingham High School.

*1977: She graduates with honors from Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

*1978 and beyond: Worthington's career as an editor, journalist and freelance writer takes her to Paris, London and New York City. She is a Paris editor of Women's Wear Daily and later works for Cosmopolitan, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. She also co-authors three books on fashion accessories.

*Mid-'90s: Christa returns from a high-powered job as a fashion writer to settle in a small cottage near Pamet Harbor in Truro.

*1998: She has a summer affair with shellfish constable Tony Jackett.

*1999: In May, Christa gives birth to her daughter, Ava.

*2001: Christa Worthington hires an investigator after she does not receive proceeds from the sale of her mother's property.

 

 

 
 
 
 
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