Image: Neil Entwistle
Wendy Maeda  /  AP
Neil Entwistle arrives for a hearing at Middlesex Superior Court in Cambridge, Mass. in December 2006.
By Clint Van Zandt
updated 6/4/2008 4:27:42 PM ET 2008-06-04T20:27:42

The trial has began in Boston concerning what most will recall as the January 2006 brutal murder of a young mother and her infant daughter as they lay in their bed in their rural Boston home. Neil and Rachel Entwistle, age 27, and their 9-month daughter Lillian Rose, had recently moved into a rental house with with every prospect of a happy life, until mother and daughter were both shot to death, Rachel in the head, Lillian Rose in the stomach, with a .22 handgun that came from Rachel’s parents residence.

No one reported seeing the young mother and her daughter since earlier in the month. As for Neil, he had flown to his parent’s home in England shortly after the double murder. When eventually interviewed by police, Neil indicated he had found his family dead and considered killing himself because of his sense of loss. But when he decided against that course of action, he simply fled the country without telling anyone about his two murdered family members. Investigation has revealed circumstantial and physical evidence/information linking Neil to the murders of his wife and daughter. Now the prosecution has to answer the three main investigative questions: Who had the means, the motive and the opportunity to commit such a heinous crime?

The means
Neil had access to the murder weapon when he lived with Rachel’s parents. It was covered with his DNA on the handgun’s grips, as well as “blow back” blood on the muzzle that matched that of his deceased wife. Police believe he took the handgun from his father-in-law’s Carver, Mass., residence, used it to murder his family, and then snuck it back into his the house and gun collection so not to alert Rachel’s father to his believed murderous actions. 

The motive
The Entwistles met in college, married in 2003 and moved to America into Rachel’s parent’s home in 2005, just six months before the two murders. Neil worked as a computer programmer but never found employment that would afford him the lifestyle he wanted. Instead of confiding in his wife concerning their financial problems, he instead is believed to have built up substantial credit card debt and engaged in various types of internet frauds, including questionable software sales, the development and sale of pornographic Web sites and other simple get-rich-quick schemes. 

Neil allegedly covered up his nefarious activities by telling Rachel he had some kind of secret government job that provided him a salary and accounted for his time on the Internet, etc.  Apparently the circle of creditors was tightening around Neil and the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood were simply not in his interests providing, perhaps, with the motive to permanently leave his current life, his family and his debts behind him and fly to his childhood home where he could seek the comfort of his parents.

The opportunity
Neil was the last person known to have seen his wife and child alive and he can be linked to the believed murder weapon. Neil’s alibi, one that suggests that he had left home to run a few errands and returned to find his family murdered, then contemplated suicide, but instead fled back to merry old England on a one-way ticket he apparently bought before the deaths just doesn’t hold water for most investigators. Look for the simple answer and you’ve probably solved your mystery, and in this case a double homicide.

Massachusetts does not have the death penalty on the books as a means to punish the worst of offenders, so Neil Entwistle, surrounding himself with many unbelievable lies, really has nothing to lose from demanding a jury trial. The community emotions run so high in such crimes that it is hard to believe that any plea bargain could be offered to Entwistle. 

And because of the potential of contamination of the crime/murder scene, noting that Rachel’s family, friends and police were in and out of the Entwistle home on at least three occasions after the believed time of the murders, but before the bodies were found under a pile of covers on the bed in the master bedroom, Entwistle’s attorneys may have a chance at attacking the known physical evidence in this case, as well as the circumstances surrounding the believed motive for murder and Entwistle’s subsequent flight to England.

Although we know that statistics do not convict — only juries/or judges convict — fully one third of all women experience assault at the hands of a partner or intimate, and four women are murdered every day by such current or former intimates. Most women murdered in America are more likely to be killed in their homes by their husband, boyfriend or some other intimate, half of which are shot to death and 20 percent of which are stabbed to death.

Somehow the Scott Petersons and perhaps the Neil Entwistles of this world have been able to move from promising to love, honor and obey to out and out murder as a means of erasing what they have apparently come to believe was a mistake on their part, one that can be corrected and allow them to move on in life without the responsibilities they once willingly accepted. Simple, isn’t it? Take a life, or two, and move o to the next chapter in your life. The trial of Neil Entwistle may provide some sense of closure for all involved, or it may simple leave a larger hole in the heart of those who loved and miss Rachel and baby Lillian.

Clint Van Zandt is a former FBI agent, behavioral profiler and hostage negotiator as well as an MSNBC analyst. His Web site,, provides readers with security-related information.

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