The husband of a second-grade teacher who was brutally stabbed and strangled in her Massachusetts home in September pleaded not guilty to her murder on Tuesday as her family reportedly rebuked him in court.
“Don’t even look at us!” a male relative yelled at the end of the Suffolk County, Massachusetts, Superior Court arraignment for 29-year-old Andrew MacCormack, according to the Boston Globe.
MacCormack, of Revere, Massachusetts, is charged with first-degree murder in the Sept. 23 death of his wife, Vanessa MacCormack.
Called “the world’s best mother” by her sister, Vanessa, 30, was found dead with deep cuts to her neck and a trash bag over her head, prosecutors previously said during Andrew’s arraignment in district court on Sept. 26, when he also pleaded not guilty.
Authorities suspect Vanessa’s killing was preceded by escalating marital tensions over Andrew’s alleged and costly drug use and that she had threatened to look into a possible divorce before she died, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE.
Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Ian Polumbaum, who is the chief of the district attorney’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, told the court on Tuesday that the killing took place “following some conflict in the marriage” that included financial problems and “suspected drug use … confirmed by the investigation,” the statement reads.
The couple was married for a little over two years, according to their Facebook pages. Andrew’s social media shows he worked as a dry-waller and studied criminal justice at the University of Massachusetts at Boston.
Following an earlier arraignment in district court, a grand jury indicted Andrew on Oct. 31.
On Tuesday, when he appeared for his superior court arraignment, he was ordered held without bail, the district attorney says in the statement.
Andrew has been in custody since he was arrested on Sept. 26, three days after his wife’s body was found in the ranch-style home they shared with their 1-year-old daughter.
When the clerk magistrate denied a request for $50,000 bail on Tuesday, one of Vanessa’s female relatives shouted “yes!” as she pumped her fist in the air, the Globe reports.
Andrew’s attorney, John Hayes, could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday but he has reportedly said his client “adamantly” denies murdering Vanessa.
Hayes said that despite some issues, the couple had a “strong relationship” and the prosecution’s case rests too heavily on circumstantial evidence — “taking innocent facts and twisting them a certain way.”
According to the Globe, Andrew seemed calm in court this week, though he had cried openly in court in September.
New details emerged at his Tuesday arraignment when Polumbaum reportedly said one of the stab wounds that Vanessa suffered might have been delivered after she died.
The killer used “pretty extreme force” in strangling her, Polumbaum said as her family wept, according to the Globe.
The medical examiner ruled that “a combination of all these different types of violence killed Vanessa,” Polumbaum said.
He detailed a timeline in which Andrew allegedly killed Vanessa in the morning, left their home and returned hours later to purportedly discover her body while he was on the phone with his mother-in-law.
‘I Want Answers,’ Wife Tells Husband Before Her Death
Authorities found Vanessa “face down in the bedroom with significant trauma to her head and neck,” according to the district attorney’s statement.
Pathologists determined that Vanessa had suffered “multiple stab wounds to the back and sides of her neck, multiple slash wounds to the front of her neck, and broken bones and cartilage inside her neck,” Polumbaum told the court, according to the prosecutor statement.
There were no signs of forced entry at the scene.
Andrew allegedly used bleach to clean up the crime scene before calling 911 to report Vanessa’s death, the statement notes. Traces of blood were found in Andrew’s car, it adds.
Prosecutors said his alleged drug problem had caused a rift in his marriage, according to court records previously obtained by PEOPLE.
His drug use was costing the couple hundreds of dollars a week, which led his wife to threaten to leave him and sell their house, prosecutors reportedly charged in court. He allegedly paid for his drugs by taking money from their bank accounts or selling jewelry and saying it had been stolen from their house, prosecutors said.
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Vanessa demanded that Andrew stop using and buying drugs. She also sent him texts saying she was concerned about their finances.
“I want answers,” she texted her husband on Sept. 3, according to court records. “It’s the least I deserve.”
She also told him she would look into a divorce if he didn’t “shape up,” to which he allegedly responded, “Ur crazy, I will never sign anything.”
After Vanessa’s slaying, sister Angela Masucci remembered her as a devoted mother, according to CBS News. “She did everything for her daughter and had so many plans for her,” she said.
Vanessa was also a talented and beloved teacher, said Dr. Mary Dill, principal of William P. Connery Elementary School where Vanessa worked.
Dr. Dill said in a statement, “Our school community is heartbroken.”