The night before he allegedly stabbed his ex-girlfriend Elizabeth Lochtefeld 23 times in a little cottage on Nantucket Island, Thomas Toolan was drinking heavily and "very depressed," according to testimony of one of Toolan's friends.
Toolan called an old friend from rehab, Patrick Keegan, that night, apparently from a bar, and allegedly asked him to call Lochtefeld and try to "straighten things out" between the two of them, Keegan said.
"I asked how it was going with Beth,'' Keegan testified in a Nantucket courtroom fraught with tension yesterday. "And he said, 'Not very well.'"
Toolan is accused of killing Lochtefeld, a New York entrepreneur, in October 2005 after she broke up their six-week affair. He was arrested for drunken driving in Rhode Island later on the same day of the alleged murder, and Massachusetts authorities were soon notified.
He is charged with first degree murder "with extreme atrocity and cruelty,'' said Brian Glenny, first assistant district attorney for Cape Cod and Nantucket Island.
Toolan has pleaded not guilty to the murder charges, and his lawyer Kevin Reddington is pursuing a defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Keegan's testimony was the first direct testimony about Toolan's movements around the time of the alleged murder. The two men met in 1999 at Hazelden, a world-renowned addiction recovery center, and they stayed in touch after leaving the facility.
Keegan said Toolan "has a tremendous ability to talk, and ability to consume tremendous amounts of alcohol,'' but he was "slurring his words" when they spoke on the phone on Oct. 24, the night before the alleged murder.
In another moment that drew rapt silence from the packed courtroom yesterday, a crime scene supervisor held aloft a red sweater punched with knife slits and covered in dried blood.
Both Toolan's and Lochtefeld's parents remained stoically calm as Massachusetts state medical examiner Dr. Richard Evans described in excruciating detail the nearly two dozen stab wounds that were punched through the blood-stained red sweater Lochtefeld died in.
Lochtefeld sustained deep knife wounds to her back and chest, and defensive cuts were found on her hands, indicating a struggle, Evans said. One of her nostrils was slit as well, he said.
A rape kit indicated that Lochtefeld was not sexually assaulted during the attack, Evans said. She died from blood loss and difficulty breathing after the knife wounds punctured both lungs, according to testimony. The murder weapon has never been found.
"Usually when the medical examiner testifies and shows bloody evidence, the families leave the courtroom," a family friend said outside court.
The night of the murder, Keegan testified, he got another series of calls from Toolan. This time, Toolan said he was in trouble.
"He told me he had been arrested for DUI and asked me for some advice. Should he waive his right to an attorney? And he asked me to call Beth's home in Nantucket to see if she was OK," Keegan said.
"I received another call around 8 to see if I had … called Beth's home. I couldn't for two reasons,'' Keegan explained. "I was at a function and couldn't call easily. And I didn't get the spelling of her last name. I was driving."
Toolan told him, "Don't worry about it," Keegan testified.