Prior to the killing of the Magees, it had been 20 years since someone with Andover ties has been killed in town.
Over the span of 40 years, only five murders conclusively took place in Andover. A sixth murder was reported after a body was found along Route 125 in 2002, but it was never concluded whether the victim was killed in Andover or outside of town.
NOV. 1991: POSTAL WORKER SHOT
On Nov. 7, 1991, Andover police were called to the shooting of Andover postal worker David Bradner at an apartment building on Andover Street. Within days, the alleged shooter was found dead in his car in Maine, where it is believed he committed suicide.
In that week's Townsman, dated Nov. 14, 1991, one story covering the murder started with this quote: "Everybody here is relieved."
That was the feeling at the Andover Post Office, wrote reporter Don Staruk, now editor of two publications put out by Tree Care Industry Association.
"I used to be pretty heavy on the (police radio) scanner," said Staruk, when reached by phone this week. "We were right behind the ambulance responding to the scene. When we pulled up, we were ducking behind the ambulance because (retired Andover Police Officer Bob) Cronin was still in the door."
When they arrived, Cronin was one of just a couple police officers who were still searching for a shooter. Staruk recalled that Cronin's gun was drawn as they searched.
"They were staked out for a while because they didn't know where the shooter was," said Staruk. "They finally figured out the guy was long gone."
According to Staruk's stories published in 1991, earlier that day James Nelson, 31 and a tenant of the building, had hid in the building's foyer with a shotgun, waiting for Bradner. Bradner, who was delivering mail at the time, owed Nelson between $200 and $500 for a bathroom remodeling job that Nelson performed but had not yet been paid for.
Nelson had been arrested close to three weeks before the shooting after showing up at Bradner's home in Lawrence, attacking him and pulling a revolver on him. His gun had been confiscated because Nelson wasn't licensed to carry it, and he had been arrested and charged with a number of offenses. He was released the next day on $500 bail.
After Bradner walked into the Andover Street apartment building, Nelson shot him twice with the shotgun. Police received the first call just before 1:30 p.m. that day from "a hysterical woman" who "was in the shower in her third floor apartment when she heard the gunshots," Staruk wrote.
When police first arrived, they found Bradner lying face down in a pool of blood. They called a second ambulance in anticipation of a shoot-out, but Nelson was already gone. One witness saw him leaving the scene in a yellow 1984 Subaru hatchback with the shotgun in his hands.
Five days later, Nelson was found in his car in Maine by a hunter. He was dead, apparently from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head.
"It was obvious what happened," said Staruk. "He owed him some money, and everybody was dead. There wasn't a whole lot to pursue."
MAY 2002: BURNED BODY FOUND ON 125
Another possible murder was reported on May 12, 2002 after two Andover firefighters were called to Route 125 to respond to a reported brush fire. After putting out the fire, they found the body of 19-year-old Melissa Doherty, of Revere, according to a story published in 2007 in the Eagle-Tribune. Doherty's throat had been slit, her hands and feet were bound and her body was rolled up in a rug before being set on fire.
No suspects were ever identified in the murder, and it is still under investigation nine years later, according to Andover Police Chief Brian Pattullo. It was also never concluded whether Doherty was killed in Andover, or if she had been killed outside of town and her body dumped on Route 125. The evidence at the scene suggested that the latter may have been the case, said Pattullo Monday night.
An Internet search reveals that the death of Doherty is a popular topic on websites dedicated to unidentified, unsolved murders, which include a nearly identical incident that took place in Wilmington in 2007, also along Route 125.
1971-1980: FOUR MURDERS HIT HOME
According to Staruk's 1991 story, there were four murders in town between 1971 and 1980. In 1980, a man had been shot at a barn at the old location of Shattuck Farm along River Road, essentially where the Chateau restaurant now is.
A couple years prior to that, a murder had been reported on Aspen Circle.
Before that, a man had been killed after he was dragged under a car following a dispute over a card game played in the Park at Bartlet and Chestnut streets. In 1971, the owner of a Texaco station on Route 125 had been killed.
• • •
For feedback on this story, or related inquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.