March 06, 2006 12:00 PM


Clad in gray sweatpants and a black fleece top, Neil Entwistle stood silently as the two charges of first-degree murder were read. For the first time since taking off for his native England on Jan. 21, a day before the bodies of his wife, Rachel, 27, and his 9-month-old daughter, Lillian, were discovered in the family’s Hopkinton, Mass., home, Neil, 27, was in a room with his in-laws. Yet as he glanced around the Framingham District Court, not once did he make eye contact with Rachel’s mother, Priscilla, her stepfather, Joseph Matterazzo, or any of the other 12 relatives and friends seated in front rows, clutching bouquets. After Entwistle’s court-appointed attorney Elliot Weinstein entered not-guilty pleas but made no request for bail, the two-minute hearing on Feb. 16 ended.

Thirty minutes later Entwistle was taken to the Middlesex County Jail in Cambridge. “I don’t know if Mr. Entwistle can get a fair trial on these charges,” Weinstein said on the courthouse steps. People watching the televised proceeding, he asserted, had already formed an opinion “based on absolutely no facts and absolutely no evidence.” But Rachel’s loved ones also had a message. “To think that someone we loved, trusted and opened our home to could do this to our daughter and granddaughter is beyond belief,” said family spokesman Joe Flaherty, reading from a statement on the courthouse steps. “We are astonished and devastated to learn of the hidden life of Neil Entwistle.” Then the clutch of mourners drove to a cemetery in Kingston, where they placed the bouquets of orange tiger lilies and pink roses—for baby Lillian Rose—on the still-fresh grave shared by the two.

While police are convinced they have the right man, and say they have the DNA evidence and murder weapon to prove it, investigators are still trying to piece together his possible motive. Connected to at least eight Web-based ventures, most of them promoting questionable get-rich-quick schemes or pornography, Entwistle appears to have talked big and delivered small. Visitors to his sex chat site, for example, were greeted with a message it would be up and running soon. That message was displayed for three years, until the site was taken down recently. At his online stores, he never followed through on pitches offering sex toys, Viagra and software. “I don’t think he ever made a dime,” says Chris Reynolds of the Internet Marketing Center, where Entwistle had signed up as an independent salesman to hawk the company’s bulk-emailing product.

Plainly, his ventures were foundering. Shortly before her murder, Rachel tried to use one of Neil’s British credit cards, and it was rejected. When he waved off her money questions, “this caused some conflict between Neil and Rachel,” state police trooper Michael Banks wrote in an affidavit. Neil told police that he had had a job interview scheduled for Jan. 20 (the day Rachel and Lillian are believed to have been killed) but that it had fallen through.

His marriage may have been shaky too. Neil told police that Rachel’s desire to live closer to her mother had prompted the couple’s move from England last summer, though he preferred to maintain a life in both countries. Priscilla offered police another reason for the relocation: “Neil Entwistle would never amount to anything in England because of his accent: he was obviously a coal miner’s son from a working-class background.”

To all appearances, however, the pair had not given up on each other. Indeed, despite the array of unpacked boxes in their newly rented home, someone had taken pains to set out family photos.

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