Couple celebrating 50th wedding anniversary are stabbed to death
Jun 26, 2023, 10:04 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm
(Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via AP)
BOSTON (AP) — Authorities announced late Monday that they had arrested a 41-year-old man in the weekend killing of a Massachusetts couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, along with another family member, in the small city outside Boston.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said police took Christopher Ferguson, of Newton, into custody Monday evening and charged him with the killing of 73-year-old Gilda “Jill” D’Amore after an autopsy revealed she had died from a homicide. Ferguson was also charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury, and burglary.
Additional charges were expected in the death of 74-year-old Bruno D’Amore and Jill’s mother, 97-year-old Lucia Arpino, Tuesday after those autopsies have been completed. Ferguson was expected to appear in court Tuesday or Wednesday.
Ryan said it appeared there was no connection between the three and Ferguson and that police had found signs of forced entry into the basement. She described a chaotic scene in which there were “obvious signs of struggle” in the house where the killings took place. A crystal paper weight was covered in blood, and furniture was broken.
The big break in the case came when authorities were able to match a bloody footprint to that of Ferguson, who lived in the neighborhood, she said. They also collected blood stains near the footprints and bloody fingerprints on the screens and windows from the house, Ryan said.
“This kind of work, this kind of really dogged gathering of evidence and processing in this short period of time in an attempt to both to determine what happened to these families members and also to restore a sense of safety to this community … has led to the charges this afternoon,” she said.
The killings have rattled the small community of Newton and the Our Lady Help of Christians Church, where some of family members were parishioners.
“It is with a heavy heart that we share that the terrible tragedy that happened yesterday in Newton hit very close to home … impacting our faith community and our own family,” Paul and Ginny Arpino, who said the victims were their cousins and their aunt, wrote in a message to parishioners.
They said the three “lost their lives in a senseless act of violence.”
The bodies were found in a home in Newton when the couple failed to arrive at church Sunday morning, police said. “As we mourn the victims of this senseless, and violent tragedy we ask all members of our community to remain alert and vigilant,” the Newton Police Department tweeted on Monday.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the victims died from stab wounds and blunt force trauma, Ryan said.
“Two of the individuals were celebrating a golden wedding anniversary this weekend. As you can imagine, this would be tragic on any day. To have family gathered for this kind of a celebration makes it particularly tragic,” she said.
There was an attempted break-in about a half-mile from the victims’ home early Sunday, but it’s unclear if the two crimes were related, Ryan said.
“That’s why we are concerned particularly about the safety issue,” she told reporters. “That’s why we are asking people if you hear something, you see something, don’t investigate yourself. Call the police department.”
Residents were also asked to check their doorbell cameras or home security systems for any video that could help with the investigation.
In their letter to the church community, Paul and Ginny Arpino said “Bruno was known for his big voice and his exuberant personality and as ‘head chef’, he proudly flipped the burgers at the parish picnic.”
They said Jill had taken on the ministry of beautifying the church’s environment.
“Without a single day of liturgical training she simply followed her heart, caring for the flowers and decorating for the liturgical seasons,” they wrote.
They said Lucia Arpino, until Covid, never missed morning mass.
“Lucia will be especially missed on the upcoming Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Festa weekend as she faithfully walked in that procession through the streets of Nonantum well into her 90’s,” they wrote.
The news has rattled neighbors like Jack Porter.
“This is a safe neighborhood. You don’t have murders in Newton or Nonantum,” the heavily Italian-American neighborhood where they lived, he said.
The Rev. Dan Riley of Our Lady Help of Christians declined to identify the victims by name, but said they were “wonderful people, church-going, kind, hospitable, salt of the earth.”
Riley said members of the parish and neighborhood are shocked and saddened.
“We’re going to miss them terribly,” he said. “The people of the parish and the staff have been wonderfully loving, helping us get through this time.”