HomeTop StoriesClues and Evidence in the John McCabe Case

Clues and Evidence in the John McCabe Case

Evelyn McCabe

The murder of a teenager in Lowell, Massachusetts, has remained unsolved for more than four decades. Were the clues always there?

According to neighbors, John McCabe was the boy next door. On the night of September 26, 1969, he went dancing and never came home.

The McCabe family


Evelyn McCabe

This is the last photo taken of John McCabe and his family in the summer of 1969.

Clockwise from top left: John’s father, Bill, sister Debbie, mother Evelyn, sister Roberta and John.

Finding John’s body


48 hours

On the morning of September 27, 1969, John’s body was discovered by children playing in a vacant lot.

Finding John McCabe


48 hours

A police officer talks to one of the boys who found John’s body.

The research


Lowell Sun

John McCabe was found lying on his stomach with his feet and hands tied behind him, a rope around his neck and tape over his mouth and eyes.



The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office

The rope found was tied around John’s neck.



The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office

Scrapes of foreign material were found on John McCabe’s clothing, but without the advanced testing that exists today, police were unable to identify it.

Partial fingerprint found


The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office

No usable fingerprints were found on John McCabe’s body. Without the benefit of DNA testing, police were unable to link a specific suspect to the crime scene.

Mike Ferreira and Nancy Williams


Michael Ferreira/Tewksbury Yearbook

Teenagers Mike Ferreira and Nancy Williams were questioned the day John McCabe’s body was found for giving John a ride to the dance.

Walter Shelley


The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office

Walter Shelley was questioned because he was driving a car similar to the one seen at the crime scene the night John McCabe died.

Mike Ferreira and Walter Shelley said they were together the night of the murder.

Ferreira says they took a ride in Shelley’s car to buy beer.

Mourning a son


Lowell Sun

John McCabe’s funeral took place on October 1, 1969. Hundreds showed up to mourn him. His sister Debbie supports John’s grieving mother

John McCabe


Evelyn McCabe

John McCabe is remembered as a boy who enjoyed riding bicycles and repairing engines – a budding engineer, like his father.

John McCabe


Evelyn McCabe

John McCabe is also remembered as a boy who loved animals and once brought home an injured goose.

The story of John


48 hours

While police investigated his son’s case, Bill McCabe kept track of John’s life and the investigation.

Life goes on


Evelyn McCabe

Despite a father’s persistent pleas to police to find his son’s killers, the murder investigation remained dormant for 40 years – and John would never see his sister’s children graduate.

Pictured here are Bill and Evelyn McCabe with their granddaughter Carolanne.

Mike Ferreira


48 hours

Sometime in the late 1990s, this photo was taken of Mike Ferreira at a party in Tewksbury. That day would change everyone’s lives.

New information


48 hours

Jack Ward, once a close friend of John McCabe, was also at the party. He would later tell Bill McCabe that a drunken Mike Ferreira accused Walter Shelley of killing John.

Mike Ferreira


48 hours

Mike Ferreira denies all of Ward’s accusations and claims it was Ward who said Walter Shelley killed John McCabe.

Edward Alan Brown


Edward A. Brown

In 2003, police questioned Mike Ferreira about Ward’s claim. This time Ferreira mentions a new name. He says Edward Alan Brown was with him and Walter Shelley the night John McCabe was murdered.

Edward Alan Brown


Edward A. Brown

Edward Alan Brown was 17 the night of the murder. He is now retired from the Air Force.

Detective zeroes in


Evan McGlinn

In 2011, when Detective Linda Coughlin was assigned to the case, she targeted Brown and got him to confess to his involvement in the murder of John McCabe.

Arrests made


Lowell Police

Edward Alan Brown told police he was there when Walter Shelley and Mike Ferreira killed John McCabe.

In April 2011, Brown (left), Ferreira (center) and Shelley are arrested for the murder of John McCabe.

Charges announced



Following the arrests, Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone announces charges against Mike Ferreira and Walter Shelley for first-degree murder, and Edward Alan Brown for manslaughter.

Was jealousy the motive?


Tewksbury Library

Edward Brown testified that John McCabe was killed because he flirted with Walter Shelley’s girlfriend, Marla Shiner, who was 13 years old at the time.

Marla Shiner testifies


48 hours

Marla Shiner testified in her defense that she was not in a relationship with Walter Shelley at the time of John McCabe’s death, and that John had never flirted with her.

Edward Alan Brown testifies


48 hours

Brown testified that John McCabe was picked up hitchhiking after the dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall, taken to the vacant lot, tied with a rope around his neck and left for a while.

Grilling the witness


48 hours

Attorney Eric Wilson got Edward Alan Brown to admit he couldn’t keep his facts straight.

Ferreira found not guilty


48 hours

The jury deliberated for just five hours before finding Mike Ferreira innocent of the murder of John McCabe. Many jurors questioned Brown’s credibility.

Bill McCabe dies


48 hours

Just days after the not guilty verdict, Bill McCabe died and was buried next to his son – but not before Evelyn promised to make sure someone was held accountable.

Brown testifies at the Shelley trial


48 hours

Despite the not guilty verdict in the Ferreira trial, the district attorney’s office presented the same evidence two months later in the murder case against Walter Shelley.

Shelley responds to verdict


48 hours

This time, the jurors believed that Edward Alan Brown and Walter Shelley had been found guilty of murder.

Five months later, Walter Shelley was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in fifteen years.

Justice for John


48 hours

Evelyn McCabe visited Bill’s grave to tell him that someone was finally being held accountable for their son’s murder.

Rest in peace


Evelyn McCabe

A young John McCabe and his father, Bill.

Case updates:

– Michael Ferreira pleaded guilty to perjury and was sentenced to five years’ probation starting June 7, 2021.

– Because Walter Shelley was a minor at the time of the murder, his conviction was downgraded to second-degree murder and he will be eligible for parole after serving 15 years in prison.

– Evelyn McCabe died in August 2016. Her wrongful death lawsuit against Ferreira, Shelley and Brown is being pursued by John’s sisters. It is still pending

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