Murder or suicide? That's what a Massachusetts jury is being asked to consider today as they deliberate the fate of accused double-murderer Neil Entwistle, who is on trial for the shooting deaths of his young wife and baby daughter.
In his closing arguments, defense attorney Elliot Weinstein reiterated the defense team's stunning theory about what happened on the morning of Jan. 20, 2006, at the house on a quiet cul-de-sac in Hopkinton, Mass.
Weinstein told the jury that 27-year-old Rachel Entwistle may have been suffering from postpartum depression and decided to shoot her baby daughter through the chest and then turn the gun on herself, killing herself with a single gunshot to the head.
"Suicide is often a taboo, it tarnishes the memory of a loved one," Weinstein said to the jury. "Your work will be very difficult. It will be difficult to evaluate Rachel as a suicide."
But, he said, suicide explains Entwistle's odd behavior after finding the two dead bodies.
He did not call 911, nor did he get in touch with his wife's family. Instead, he fled to England to be with his own family.
"Neil didn't attend Rachel and Lillian's funeral, as if he should have," Weinstein said. "He needed to be away so he could best protect Rachel and Lillian's memory."
Weinstein described the Entwistles as a loving couple, and he brandished a photo of Lillian that Neil used as a screen saver on his computer.
"You know, no one could look at this picture for any length of time if he had just killed his whole family," Weinstein said.
Was he thinking clearly when he got on a flight to England without telling anyone about the bodies? Of course not, said Weinstein, but that doesn't make him guilty of murder.
Although it surprised no one that Neil Entwistle didn't take the stand, most courtroom observers were a bit taken aback that Entwistle's attorney didn't put on any case at all. The defense rested its case, without calling a single witness.
Legal analyst William Fallon, who has been closely following the case, said it is all about reasonable doubt.
"The defense thinks they got all their points across without putting him on the stand or anyone else," Fallon said.
In Fallon's opinion, Weinstein did an excellent job "in a low-key way" of raising an alternative theory that would explain two dead bodies in a bed.
"I don't think it's one bit real, but he [Weinstein] was able to use the gun and make it a part of this suicide idea," he said. "Was it enough to convince a couple of jurors? I don't know."
In his closing arguments, Weinstein repeatedly referred to the gunshot residue found on Rachel Entwistle's hands as evidence that she could have fired the gun.
"Why is there no motive in these killings? You know the answer to these questions. Neil did not do it," Weinstein said.
But when Assistant District Attorney Michael Fabbri took his turn in front of the jury he painted a very different picture of Neil Entwistle.
Far from being a grieving husband, Entwistle was trolling for escorts just days after the murders, Fabbri told the jury. And a notebook found on Entwistle when he was arrested contained a plan to "sell his story to the highest bidder."
Fabbri asked the jurors to consider what that plan said about the relationship Entwistle had with his wife, Rache,l and daughter, Lillian.
The prosecutor advised the jury that they would have to use their common sense and determine that this was a murder not a suicide.
"Committing suicide while shooting through another person makes no sense," Fabbri said.
Fabbri then described the murders.
"He shoots Rachel. He shoots Lillian. He couldn't take the crying and the screaming coming out of Lillian and that's why he puts the pillow over her. That's why he put the comforter over them," the prosecutor said. "He closed them off when he covered them."
If the jury finds Neil Entwistle guilty of murder, he could be behind bars for at least 15 years and possibly life. If the jury believes the defense, that Rachel Entwistle killed herself and her 9-month-old daughter, Neil Entwistle will go free.