On 20 June 2017, 29-year-old Matthew Slocum from Washington County in New York was found guilty for the second time in his retrial for the murders of his mother, 44-year-old Lisa Coon Harrington; his stepfather, 41-year-old Dan Harrington; and his step-brother, 24-year old Joshua O’Brien at their White Creek home in July 2011. The verdict comes after the families of the victims were forced to sit through a repeat of Slocum’s first trial in 2012, once again hearing the harrowing details of their loved one’s deaths and reliving the fear that the man responsible would get away with murder.
“I hope he rots in hell. I hope they make him suffer like they did. … he’s a cruel person,”
On 13 July 2011, the bodies of the family were discovered only after firefighters attended a fire at the property and quickly realised it was a fire deliberately set in order to cover up a triple murder. Missing from the home was a then 24-year-old Matthew Slocum, his girlfriend Loretta Colegrove, and their 3-month-old son, Raymond. The victims had been shot and killed with a 12-gauge shotgun in the early hours of the morning with the Harrington’s being killed in their bed and Joshua O’Brien killed in the living room of the home.
The house was then set on fire in an attempt to destroy any evidence before Matthew Slocum fled the scene with his girlfriend and son. In the family’s Ford Mustang, the pair first visited Colegrove’s mother in the town of Adams, Massachusetts and then a series of pawn shops to sell items of jewellery for cash before carrying on towards where Slocum’s uncle lived in New Hampshire. It was there, almost 270 miles away from the crime scene and after a nationwide search and an Amber Alert for the missing child, that they gave themselves up to police.
Once in police custody, the pair quickly turned on each other, which each blaming the other for the shootings. Loretta Colegrove told of her fear of Matthew Slocum while Slocum says he awoke at 3 am to the sound of gunshots and Colegrove behind the barrel of the gun.
Police concluded that it was Matthew Slocum who had pulled the trigger and charged him with triple murder. Loretta Colegrove was not charged with any crime in relation to the incident and received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony against Slocum, a man she said she was terrified of.
At his first trial in 2012 which lasted two weeks, Matthew Slocum was found guilty on three counts of second-degree murder on 8 March and sentenced to 88 years to life with prosecuting attorney Kevin Kortight describing the murders as “one of the most heinous crimes ever committed in Washington County”.
This verdict, however, was thrown out on a technicality in 2015, when his lawyers successfully argued that Slocum made statements to police without an attorney present although he had requested one, statements which were made known to the jury in his trial. As Slocum had asked for an attorney before he was interrogated, his statements were inadmissible the appeal argued, which included a confession to carrying out the crimes. The judge agreed and a new trial was ordered where this evidence would not be told to the jury.
At the time of the murders, Slocum was living with his mother and step-father at the White Creek home along with his girlfriend and son. No motive for why he would kill his family has been found, however, suggestions that the Harrington’s wanted him to move out of the home and were becoming distressed at his repeated requests for money from them have been put forward.
In his retrial in June 2017, his defence attorney, Washington County Public Defender Michael Mercure, told the court police had ‘gender bias’ which is why they focused their attention on Slocum being the killer and not his girlfriend Loretta. “You will hear and you will see that investigators had a bias, a gender bias. They overlooked the possibility that Loretta could have been the murderer,” he said. He also told the court Loretta had motive to carry out the killings after the Harrington’s had reportedly threatened to obtain custody of their grandson due to her drug use and lifestyle. In response, Albany County prosecutors, Assistant District Attorneys Eric Galarneau and Linda Griggs told the court, “There’s some nightmares from which you can’t awake. This was a nightmare of (Slocum’s) making.”
Half way through the trial the court heard from Lorretta Colegrove who said, “He was very physically and emotionally abusive toward me.” This, she said, was why after Slocum had shot and killed his family she didn’t run away or try to summon help. The same witnesses from the first trial in 2012 were called, including the jailhouse inmate who said Slocum confessed to the shootings to him, the corrections officer who heard him tell another inmate “I am a murderer,” and his brother who had received letters from him which apologised for what had happened.
After nine days, Matthew Slocum was once again found guilty of triple murder, along with arson, tampering with evidence, larceny and weapons possession to cries of “Thank God! Thank God!” from the victim’s family members. On 14 July 2017, he was sentenced to 82 years to life in prison, meaning he is unlikely to ever be released and will die behind bars. “It’s been 2,192 days waiting for this.” Diana Harrington said, “Dan, Lisa, Josh!. We got you justice!”