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Massachusetts Man Convicted of Office Massacre

April 25, 2002|ELIZABETH MEHREN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Rejecting defense arguments that a software engineer believed he was traveling back in time to kill Nazis when he fatally shot seven co-workers, a jury on Wednesday found Michael McDermott guilty of seven counts of first-degree murder.

After 16 hours of deliberations, the 43-year-old McDermott--an imposing figure called "Mucko"--also was convicted on five felony weapons-related charges.

The only sentence in Massachusetts for first-degree murder is life in prison without parole.

McDermott opened fire just after 11 a.m. on Dec. 26, 2000, at his office at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, north of Boston. As employees screamed and scattered, McDermott gunned down seven colleagues in one of the worst workplace massacres in U.S. history.

Police found the 300-pound McDermott sitting in the office reception area, armed with a 12-gauge pump action shotgun, an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle with an attached 60-round large capacity feeding device and a .32-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Prosecutors said McDermott was angry because his employer was planning to garnish his wages to settle a tax dispute with the Internal Revenue Service. Five of his victims worked in the accounting department, which was to oversee the IRS procedure.

But McDermott claimed he was insane. He testified that he had used a time portal in the lobby of his company's headquarters to travel to 1940 Berlin to kill Adolf Hitler and six of his generals in order to stop the Holocaust.

In two days on the witness stand, McDermott calmly told the court that he had a mission from St. Michael the Archangel to prevent the Holocaust. He said he heard Hitler's thoughts, and he sent family members of the victims fleeing from the courtroom in tears when he methodically described killing the "Nazis" one by one.

"The last Nazi was there. I shot and killed him. And Hitler was there. I shot and killed him," McDermott testified. "My mission was complete. I knew at this point I had a soul."

He also explained that he grew his hair long to silence a chorus of voices that talked incessantly to him.

When he was not testifying, the huge man with unkempt hair and a bushy beard spent his time in court reading the Bible.

Prosecutors revealed that McDermott bought a book on how to fake mental illness and researched the subject on the Internet. They said he carefully plotted his killings, taking target practice two days before his rampage. The story about Nazis, according to prosecutors, was a clever ruse dreamed up by McDermott to avoid prison.

"He's absolutely faking," declared Michael Annunziata, a psychiatrist and prosecution witness.

McDermott's attorney, Kevin Reddington, countered in closing arguments that "this is, up close and personal, a very sick man."

While not ignoring McDermott's long history of mental illness--including treatment for depression and several suicide attempts--prosecutors maintained that he understood the consequences of his actions when he opened fire at his workplace.

"The lives of seven innocent people were taken in a cruel and atrocious act," Middlesex County Dist. Atty. Martha Coakley said Wednesday. "Our goal from the outset has been to hold Michael McDermott responsible for his actions."

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