I Saw Neil Entwistle

~ Part V, Conclusion~ Return of the non-native

A small town reporter's personal experience with a media frenzy

by Robert Falcione

(Read  Part I)

(Read Part II)

(Read Part III)

(Read Part IV)

(Read Part V)

Part V

      People responded to his arrest in a person-on-the-street HopNews video, and the media started camping out in the driveway of Hopkinton Police Headquarters, awaiting his return.

      “Looks like they're getting some ideas from you,” joked one police officer, referring to the scoop we got of the detective’s car.

      People with cameras and microphones went up and down hills, from store to store downtown, looking for peoples' reactions.

      How do you feel now that he's arrested? Did you ever meet him ? Rachel? Ever see them?

      "Closure" was a word repeated by more than one person. No, I never met them, and never saw them, people would repeat to the world-wide media, who tried in vain to find one person in Hopkinton who had anything personal at all to say about the Entwistle's. There would be nothing.

      But all of the major players would continue to send reporters, and the town continued its pace; a blizzard — a massive search for a 911 caller involving all available personnel, a helicopter, and a thermal imaging camera — and three resignations of officials, would occur in the short interim between Entwistle’s arrest and his return to Hopkinton.

      The 911 caller was a child who had been given a deactivated phone, and so had been playing with it. What she and the parents did not know is that the emergency feature of a deactivated phone remains active. And the old technology of that phone complicated things because it gave the helicopter unreliable GPS information.

      Reports said that Neil Entwistle refused extradition, the legal process of  turning a person over to another country to face charges. If he continues to refuse, the talking heads said, it could take a year to get him back. But by the next day, February 10, it was clear that he had actually waived extradition and would be returning to the United States soon.

      Life in Hopkinton went on with the Girl's Basketball team winning the TVL Championship on February 10, 2006,  the day after Entwistle's arrest in England.

      The media started pouring in.

      During the wait for Entwistle's return to Hopkinton, Hopkinton saw reporters from many outlets, including The Boston Globe's  Lisa Kocian, who had done a story featuring HopNews on December 15, 2005. For a couple of days, The Boston Globe's  Lisa Wangsness who did a story on the return of Neil Entwistle and mentioned HopNews the evening he returned, took notes for her story. The live link in that story would generate 1 of every 5 visits to HopNews that day. HopNews had a fast and short video of the day at the Police Headquarters, and some scenes from around Hopkinton to provide outsiders a glimpse of the town.

     Christina Hager form Channel 4 was there. Ed Thompson, News Director of WMRC Radio was there, as were scores of other media personalities, some accompanied by gigantic satellite trucks.

     Standard procedure is to book a person in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed, and this Police Department, and the Middlesex District Attorney's Office, would do everything by the book, as if Neil Entwistle were any other prisoner.

     A perp walk was once a big part of an arrest, a police officer explained recently, where a prisoner would be paraded into the Police Station in full view of the community — but there would be no perp walk for Neil Entwistle. It would be too out of the ordinary. And besides, the Hopkinton Police Headquarters had a sally port, a secure area to discharge prisoners.

     A sally port is an enclosed space with an inside door and an outside door. The outside door opens to accept the cruiser and then after it enters, shuts behind it; and the rest of the garage area is separated from it. The concept originates, Sgt. Michael Sutton said, from the days of walled villages or castles where the defenders would enter an enclosed room, and the door shut behind them, sealing off the residents. Then the door to the outside would be opened and the defenders would "sally forth."

      "I read it on the internet, so it must be true," joked Sgt. Sutton.

      The authorities refused to disclose the day or time of his return to the United States for booking, so the media as a whole left Hopkinton the weekend following the arrest, with the exception of one station that camped out overnight, working in shifts. But as the day neared, the excitement built, like before a public festivity, and the media returned en masse.  

 

    The day before Entwistle's arrival, HopNews said this:

Media Mecca

February 14, 2006 — Media from around New England, and perhaps the world, converged on Hopkinton today, camping out to catch a glimpse of Neil Entwistle's expected arrival at the Hopkinton Police Headquarters.

     The latest report from Channel 4 claims that Entwistle will arrive tomorrow. A Police source explained that if Entwistle arrives after the Framingham Judge leaves the Framingham Court, then Entwistle will spend the night in a Hopkinton holding cell, like any other prisoner.

 

     Media people were talking to other media people, who quoted and interviewed each other, and eavesdropped on each other.

    Well, the eavesdropping wasn't anything deceitful, but it is simply that media people do not think other media people are going to quote them, even as a print reporter writes down every word they speak. It is an axiom among media people that "we are not the story."

      Some Hopkinton people tugged at TV reporters' sleeves, "Hi, I'm from Hopkinton," they said, knowing the reporters were hungry for the hometown garnish.

     Other people gathered that day just to watch, as the unseasonably warm day turned cold and then colder, and they fended off the chill with raised shoulders; looking a bit like they needed pitchforks and torches, I thought. But it was just a passing thought. They were no more than curiosity or celebrity seekers, some from town, some from the region. But the police were not taking any chances.

      While scores of people waited all day, reports came via the TV monitors that were set up for the reporters, that Entwistle left England via a U.S. Government plane with U.S. Marshals aboard and would be making a stop in Maine to return a prisoner there. A source would later reveal that The U. S. Marshals refused to allow the Hopkinton or State Police accompany them, despite protests from the Hopkinton Police, Martha Coakley's Office, and the State Police, protests that went all the way to Washington.

        Where would they land?

        I got a phone call.

      "A friend of mine works at Hanscom (Air Force Base)," said the voice. "He'll be arriving there," he said. It would soon be confirmed by all the media outlets.

       Sgt. Joseph Bennett gathered the media in a circle and set the rules.

       When the appropriate time came, he said, the  police would put  up a line with tape, which could not be breached.

       The police officers would stand at intervals on that perimeter. Was it a lesson from the past?

       Was it because they did not want a repeat of Lee Harvey Oswald's murder? Oswald was the accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy, who was killed on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. Oswald was arrested the same day.

      Oswald got fatally shot point-blank by Jack Ruby in the Dallas Police Station two days later on November 24, 1963 while being paraded through the Dallas Police Station to be transferred to the Dallas City Jail — and the event was broadcast live by NBC Television. It was the nation's first televised murder. And although most, if not all of the police at the Hopkinton Police Station, were too young to have witnessed that event, it undoubtedly shapes police procedure throughout the nation to this day.

      Neil Entwistle would be brought in a motorcade of three or four cars, Sgt. Bennett told the reporters circled around him.

      In answer to a reporter's question, Sgt. Bennett refused to say which vehicle Entwistle would be in; in fact, he said he didn't even know.

       Which of the three garage doors would he be brought through to enter the Police Headquarters?

       Sgt. Bennett would not say. I knew it would be the sally port, because that is what it is for. I would be proven wrong.

       Where is the booking area?

       Sgt. Bennett said he couldn't give out the floor plan. Too bad the reporters hadn't visited the Open House for Police Headquarters in 2004. And as I looked around me, I saw other Hopkinton residents who I knew had taken the tour.

       The police tape went up. The excitement was building.

       It was starting to get dark, and some spectators who I did not recognize started lining up. What was on Channel 7's Sean Hennessey's TV monitor?

       The transfer on the tarmac of Hanscom Air Force Base, from the government plane into a Massachusetts State Police cruiser, was taking place and being broadcast live from a camera in a TV helicopter to Mr. Hennessy's monitor behind the Police Station, as well as to thousands around the area.

       They marched the prisoner to Massachusetts State Police Cruiser 670, according to the large numbers on its roof. Unless they switch vehicles inside of a tunnel or other enclosure, that would be the vehicle in which he rides into the driveway of Hopkinton Police Headquarters.

       It was getting darker and colder as people started approaching the back of the line from the rear. Were there any crazy people there? Were there enough police in the rear of the  crowd to protect Entwistle? To protect the rest of us if a crazy person had mixed in? I couldn't see past the TV lights. The excitement grew.

       Supposedly, someone in the rear had a sign that said "Baby killer."

       My phone rang.

       "They left Hanscom,"  said the voice on the other end of the phone. Police were chatting with bystanders as the motorcade of three cruisers drove in the travel lane of the Massachusetts Turnpike to Framingham, and two lanes of traffic passed them the entire trip. They got off at the former State Police barracks in Southborough,  and wound its way to Route 85.

        The darkness would hide the surroundings as the cruisers traveled down Route 85 North, within about two miles of he crime scene. Under the railroad bridge in Southborough they went, and over the Sudbury River where, in 1992, Ken Seguin of Holliston had dumped his wife's bludgeoned body. He had murdered his children the day before her body was found. The police cars continued up the hill and into Hopkinton.

       The helicopters watched from above as the motorcade traveled the windy, tree-lined road past picturesque Hopkinton Reservoir on one side, and a hilly forest, demarked by farmers' stone walls throughout, on the other.

       Past the Hopkinton State Park and down "the flats" on Cedar Street, a road built through a swamp, the vehicles drove.

       As the cars drove up the hill into Hopkinton, the chugging crack of the blades of three helicopters permeated the cold, and they came into view of the people waiting all around the Hopkinton Police Headquarters. There they are! It was apparent that the choppers even took the turn at Cedar and Main Streets with the vehicles beneath them.

       Flashbulbs fired as the vehicles approached. Where was car 670?

       "Sally port door," the voice said over the scanner.

       Three doors opened, a fraction of a second after one another as additive TV lights blasted the area with blinding light. It was feeling a bit surreal, movie-like.

       The first car, a Hopkinton Detective car, turned the corner, then the next one — car 670 — then another. Their lights were all flashing, adding to the excitement.

       This is the moment. Start the video rolling.

       Just in case, I'll shoot a few frames of the first car too, as it passes. Oops better turn the video camera. What! Oh no, the camera has to process information before it will fire again. I shot too many.

       Okay, fire again. Pan video camera.

       Fire again.

       Pan video camera.

       Fire again.

       Detective  cruiser in Door  One, State Police 670 in Door Two and Sate Police Detective's bureau car in the sally port.

      There's Detective John Porter who was in the Detective's cruiser walking across the garages.

     Detective Scott Van Raalten, who was one of the police officers who discovered the bodies of Rachel and Lillian Entwistle, got out of his front seat in the State Police cruiser and moved to the rear door where Neil Entwistle was sitting. Would they actually bring him out while the doors are up? No. They waited until the garage doors hit the ground to remove him from the cruiser.

       The Hopkinton Police came out with a statement about 40 minutes later. Do not go into the lobby, the press was told. I returned to the office and processed some information I had gathered.

       In the interim, an attorney spoke before the cameras for Neil Entwistle, but he was gone when I got back.

       In keeping with standard practice, I went and got the arrest report, something I do when there is a high profile arrest, and then went to continue my news preparations at the office.

       Neil Entwistle would spend the night in Hopkinton. The usual code for "food for the prisoner" was not heard over the scanner that evening. Neil Entwistle did not eat that evening.

       I would have a couple more hours of work ahead.

       It was more or less over for HopNews. Neil Entwistle would be brought to Framingham District Court the next day to be arraigned on the charges specified in the Arrest Log, and HopNews would do what it did without the story; concentrate on local news and features.

This is what the Police News teaser looked like that week:

 

Police News up-to-date

Kids throwing snowballs

Erratic operator

Double murder

10:13 pm Police received a report of some type of flashing blue light on Walcott Street...

3:23 pm Officer Gregg DeBoer spoke to two youths he witnessed throwing snowballs at a school bus...

7:58 pm Neil Entwistle aged 27, of 6 Cubs Path Hopkinton was arrested upon his return to the United States at Hanscom Air Force Base By Detective Scott Van Raalten and charged with Two Counts of Murder...

 

      The next day, as the media gathered at the Police Headquarters, I stayed at the office while a workman installed a faster internet connection. I heard the code for Entwistle's departure from the station and crossed the street with my camera.

      Officer Philip Powers had the main intersection at a stop in all directions. The motorcade left the station. Which car, I wondered? It would be the middle one again? The cruisers went around the stopped cars at the intersection and continued east on Main Street.

      Would I get a decent picture of the man with the boyish good looks, who appeared to have had an extremely happy family?

      The man who had been working in the office had followed me out, so I had him block for me.

      As the cruisers passed, I stepped from behind and got a shot or two off of each one, aiming my camera and flash into the rear seat of each, behind the front passenger.

      As I pulled my camera away from my face to see if he was in the second cruiser, he turned and looked at me, right in the eyes, and I saw into his eyes for a split second and I experienced something new: a flash of black blinded me momentarily, in some sort of primordial sense.

 

 

     Neil Entwistle left Hopkinton that day to appear in Framingham District Court. There was no sally port there, not even a garage. He would be paraded before the media and into a holding cell. The court does not have overnight accommodations.

     His appearance in front of the judge was brief and he was mute, his attorney speaking for him.

     His head remained fairly immobile as his eyes moved about, although sparingly.

     Did he look at his in-laws, the people who made no mention of him in his family's obituary? The sole camera did not have the angle to show it.

     The judge set a date of March 15, 2006 for a show-cause hearing.

     The most recent communication to HopNews from the District Attorney's Office has stated this:

    "As far as the next court date, it will more likely be in Cambridge Superior Court as the case must be indicted soon."

      The show cause hearing will likely never occur, as that would lengthen the process with both sides presenting arguments.

      A Grand Jury has been hearing evidence, and is expected to indict Neil Entwistle before the March 15 date, making the show cause hearing needless.

      The trial will then be scheduled for Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge, in the same building that houses the jail where Entwistle is held.

      The Hopkinton angle of the story has likely been played out in the media.

      We didn't know the victims, period. But that doesn't mean we don't care.

     The case has been a media spectacle, a murder mystery, and an international cat-and-mouse game.

     And lost in the details is the sickening and repulsive fact that a young mother with her future ahead of her, and her 9 month-old baby, were shot to death in Hopkinton. It is a very difficult event to internalize being in he middle of the frenzy.

      But I am now reminded of a verse from the Biblical Book of Ecclesiastes made popular in song:

            To everything  There is a season and a time for every purpose, under heaven
            A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap
            A time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep

     And now that the media has left, and the cat-and-mouse game is over, it is time for something else.

     It is time to think deeply about the pain of the victims and their families.

     And, it is a time to weep.

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