In arguments ending two men’s fourth trial for allegedly murdering a woman and shooting her friend in the face, a Suffolk County prosecutor described the horrific scene that unfolded in the slain victim’s apartment more than five years ago.
“It is often said that a picture tells a story,” Chief Trial Counsel Patrick M. Haggan told jurors, directing their attention to a crime scene photo of the homicide. “You now know the horrible, vicious story that this picture tells. This is a photo of murder – a photo of cold-blooded murder.”
QUINCY BUTLER (D.O.B. 3/14/74) of Dorchester and WILLIAM WOOD (D.O.B. 4/17/74) of Roxbury are charged with first-degree murder for fatally slicing the throat of 49-year-old Betsy Tripp with a kitchen knife and attempted murder for the near-fatal shooting of her live-in boyfriend, then 47, during the early morning hours of Feb. 13, 2004. Butler and Wood are also charged with a litany of robbery, kidnapping, and gun-related offenses stemming from their alleged actions before, during, and after the deadly home invasion on Monsignor Lydon Way.
Haggan’s closing arguments marked the end of the fourth time the case went before a jury. The first proceedings ended in an 11 to one impasse, with jurors favoring conviction; the second trial ended abruptly when the presiding judge took ill; and the third ended in another hung jury, this one favoring conviction 10 to two.
Haggan today described the female victim’s horrific death, telling the jury to consider “the last terrible moments that Betsy Tripp’s life,” including the horror of having “her feet bound and her throat slit as her life literally drained out of her body.”
Haggan described how the defendants entered Tripp’s home “with a purpose and a plan” that involved a robbery and subsequently led to her brutal murder.
“Did she know she was going to die?” Haggan asked, as he described the measures that Butler and Wood allegedly took to muffle the sounds of her screams – from running water faucets to turning on her television and raising the volume.
During a three-week trial, Haggan introduced evidence and testimony to show that the male victim – who worked as a handyman doing odd jobs in the neighborhood and survived on a monthly disability check – was robbed at gunpoint by Butler and Wood while visiting the home of a mutual friend. Allegedly seeking more money, the duo demanded that he take them to the home he shared with his girlfriend.
Once inside the residence, the defendants dragged Tripp out of her bed, hogtied her and her boyfriend with a phone cord, and demanded her ATM card and access code, Haggan said. “They tied her up and threatened her in her own home,” he said.
“If the money’s not in there, we’ll kill you,” Wood allegedly told her.
Butler allegedly stayed at the home with the victims while Wood took the bank card to a cash machine and emptied Tripp’s account of all it contained – a total of just $40.
When Wood returned to the apartment, Haggan said, he was so angry at the small amount of cash in the account that he grabbed a knife and sliced her throat, just under her chin.
“Blood was pouring out of her neck,” Haggan said. “She was awake, she could feel that. She felt the pain. Consider the terror she felt … She was awake for over two minutes; three minutes later, there were still signs of life. I tell you this because it’s important to know how Betsy Tripp died and how much she suffered. It screams what this crime is – first-degree murder and nothing less. It screams atrocity and it screams cruelty.”
After Wood allegedly slashed Tripp’s throat, her boyfriend managed to loose his bonds enough to allow him to dive toward her, prompting Butler to shoot him in the face. The bullet entered his eye, permanently maiming him.
Believing both victims were dead, Haggan said, Butler and Wood left the scene in the same car that they had forced Tripp’s boyfriend to use to drive them to her home. The two men then allegedly drove the car to a nearby school, where they set the vehicle on fire. They then allegedly walked to a nearby Fuller Street home where Butler’s girlfriend lived.
Unbeknownst to them, however, the shooting victim survived. He gathered his strength and stumbled to a neighbor’s door with his left eye hanging from its socket. Neighbors called police. When they arrived, he told them who had attacked him and Tripp, using the nickname by which he knew one of the assailants.
“Q shot me,” he said. “Will slit her throat.”
Emergency medical technicians who arrived on the scene found Tripp still alive, gasping to breathe as the blood drained out of her neck.
In the days that followed, Wood allegedly continued his efforts to withdraw money from Tripp’s bank account, enlisting female acquaintances to use cash machines while he stood in the background. Video surveillance revealed his presence during each of these efforts.
Butler’s girlfriend, testimony indicated, was threatened with death if she revealed to police that she had seen Butler and Wood destroying the blood-soaked clothes, gloves, and sneakers they wore to her residence after the murder. When that was not enough to guarantee her silence, Butler allegedly threatened to kill her children.
Despite those threats, the woman eventually came forward and gave statements to Boston Police that corroborated the surviving victim’s statements and the surveillance footage captured by cameras at multiple cash machines after the murder.
“The two men who are responsible for these horrific crimes are the defendants whom sit before you – Quincy Butler and William Wood,” Haggan said, gesturing to the defendants.”
“It doesn’t make sense that a 49-year-old woman was butchered in the way she was,” Haggan told jurors. “It doesn’t make sense that a man was shot in the eye. You now know how she lived her life and how she died at the hands of two men who were ruthless and cold-blooded. It has been five years since Betsey Tripp was brutally murdered and [the surviving victim] was shot in the head and left for dead.”
“The time for accountability is now,” Haggan said, pointing at the defendants. “Their time is now.”
Butler is represented by attorney Larry Tipton and Wood by attorney Michael Bourbeau. Judge Patrick Brady will instruct jurors on the relevant law tomorrow morning in courtroom 815 of Suffolk Superior Court; jurors will begin their deliberations thereafter.