EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 8, 2012

A year later, murders unsolved

Police seek public's help in double homicides

By Jill Harmacinski
jharmacinski@eagletribune.com

---- — ANDOVER — Police have reached a dead end in their investigation into the shocking, execution-style murders of John and Geraldine Magee in their home one year ago and are now appealing to the public for help.

“We are asking anyone who has any information no matter how seemingly insignificant to please contact us,” District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said in a joint statement with Andover Police Chief Brian Pattullo.

“Often in a homicide investigation there are people who have information, but may not realize its relevance or importance in the investigation. At this point, any and all investigation is important,” Blodgett said in the statement.

On the morning of Dec. 14, 2011, John “Jack” Magee, 69, and Geraldine “Jeri” Magee, 67, were found dead in their home at 7 Orchard Crossing off Route 28. The couple’s daughter, Holly Magee Senykoff, discovered the bodies when she arrived at the home early that cold morning to drop off her children for her parents to babysit.

But to date, no arrests have been made and no persons of interest or suspects have been publicly identified. Some leads in the case have been exhausted while other theories, none of which police will reveal publicly, are being actively investigated.

About one-third of murders — whether committed by an acquaintance or a stranger — are never solved, according to a local crime expert.

If a suspect isn’t identified within a day of the crime, the chances of closing the case drastically diminish, said Larry Siegel, a criminology author and criminal justice professor at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.

“After 24 hours, the odds of catching somebody are pretty low but it’s not impossible,” Siegel said.

Without warning, police can receive a random call or tip that blows the case wide open. The thinnest thread can unravel the entire puzzle, he said.

“It’s also possible that somebody will get arrested for something else and they say, ‘I have information.’ Loyalties become strained,” Siegel said, speaking generally about murder investigations.

Neighbors, friends and even complete strangers may see something they believe is nothing. But a detective may think otherwise of the information. Fear can hold people back too, he said.

“I am sure there might be people that saw something and decided not to get in the middle of it,” Siegel said.

Adding to the Magee murder mystery, the couple’s Lexus SUV was found torched in Boston’s North End the night before — a crime which may have been a diversion to the murders in Andover.

John Magee’s death certificate reveals he was killed by gunshot wounds to the head, neck and chest. His wife died from a single gun shot to the head, according to her death certificate. The certificates say the Magees died on Dec. 13, the day before they were found.

John Magee was a developer and owned Magee Construction Co., which was founded by his father in 1951. The company is now run by the couple’s son, John Magee III. Geraldine Magee worked as a Realtor.

The couple also had a second home in Juniper, Fla. Local detectives visited there a few days after the murders.

In an interview, District Attorney Blodgett said specific details about the investigation cannot be revealed publicly now because they may jeopardize the case and prosecution of a suspect. “This investigation is active and remains a priority. We will to continue to pursue every lead until we find the person or persons responsible for this senseless and tragic murder and seek justice for the Magee family in court.”

Pattullo, in the statement, added, “We are asking people to search their consciences and come forward with any information they may have.”

Attempts to reach Magee family members for this story were unsuccessful.

With a year gone by and no arrest made, detectives probably have not located eye witnesses and cannot solve the case with DNA or fingerprint evidence, Siegel said.

“Despite all the stuff you see on TV, the CSI effect as we call it, the percentage of murder cases cleared today is not much higher than it was 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.

The motive for the double murder could be anything from a mistake, to an attempted burglary gone bad to revenge. “Something could have occurred 15 years ago and somebody is still holding a grudge ... The killers could have gone to the wrong house,” Siegel explained. “It may just be a burglary gone awry.”

Social media sites, such as Facebook and Linked In, easily give criminals glimpses into our lives, making them easier to locate and prey on a person, he added.

He said revisiting and re-publicizing the case is helpful too. “It keeps things on the front burner. People might remember something or hear something,” Siegel said.

Anyone with information about the murders is encouraged to contact the Massachusetts State Police detectives assigned to Blodgett’s office at (978) 745-8908 or the Andover police anonymous tip line at (978) 470-3864.

Follow staff reporter Jill Harmacinski on Twitter under the screenname EagleTribJill.