As Massachusetts authorities continue a probe into what may have led a software tester on a vicious rampage through his office building on Tuesday, more details are emerging about the days and minutes leading up to the deadly shootings.
Thirty-six hours before the shooting spree that killed seven, police were looking for 42-year old Michael McDermott for allegedly test-firing a shotgun on a street, a gun that may have been used in the office slayings at Edgewater Technology in Wakefield, Mass., according to published reports.
Authorities in the Haverhill area where McDermott lived were investigating reports from a resident who said he heard “five to seven” shotgun blasts late Christmas Eve.
McDermott’s car, with its distinctive “Mucko” vanity license plate, was spotted on a street where two spent shotgun shells were found, but police were unable to locate him until he was arrested on Tuesday.
McDermott often went by the nickname “Mucko,” which originated when his nieces and nephews could not pronounce his first name.
Haverhill police ran a check on the plate and went by McDermott’s address several times on Christmas Day but never saw the car there, according to Sgt. Stephen Brighi.
Surrounding departments were also on the lookout for McDermott. “With a little bit of luck, we could have changed history,” Brighi told the Boston Herald.
Possible ‘Prozac’ Defense
In another report that could provide insight into a motive for the slayings, The Boston Globe said today that just minutes before the mass killing, McDermott received a brief telephone call from a financial company informing him that his car would be repossessed. The Internal Revenue Service was also considering garnishment of the suspect’s wages, officials said.
The Globe, citing “a source familiar with the call,” said a Chrysler Financial supervisor told McDermott his 1994 Plymouth Acclaim, with a book value of $5,390, would be seized for nonpayment of a 1997 loan.
The call came at 11:07 a.m. Three minutes later, the deadly shooting rampage began and lasted several minutes.
McDermott has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of murder and is being held without bond. His attorneys are considering an insanity defense, the Globe reported, in which blame would be placed anti-depressants — including Prozac — the suspect had been taking for more than a year.
The so-called Prozac defense, tried numerous times, is believed to have been successful only once. Last February, a Connecticut judge acquitted an insurance agent who robbed a bank on the grounds his judgment was impaired by Prozac and another prescription drug, Xanax.
Officials Investigating Arsenal
Police said McDermott, a software engineer and ex-Navy submariner, walked into the Internet consulting company’s headquarters late Tuesday morning armed with a shotgun, a semiautomatic assault rifle and a semiautomatic pistol.
Authorities searching McDermott’s apartment also seized bomb-making chemicals, blasting caps and magazines on explosives, but found no indication of plans to use the materials.
How the suspect collected such an arsenal even though he lacked a gun permit and despite strict gun laws in Massachusetts remains a mystery to officials, although they have made some progress on tracing the guns found on the suspect.
Three days after the killings, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has completed its inquiry into the traces of three of the four weapons found at the site of this week’s deadly shootings, according to spokesman John D’Angelo.
One of the weapons, however, could not be traced because of its age, he told Reuters. D’Angelo declined to name the weapon that went untraced, but police said a handgun found in McDermott’s pants pocket may be an old Spanish weapon.
After the shooting spree, police said they found McDermott, sitting in the building’s reception area with a 12-gauge Winchester pump shotgun on one side and military-style assault rifle on the other.
In McDermott’s right front pants pocket, police said they found a “fully loaded handgun with a full magazine.” A black tote bag at his side also held several hundred rounds of ammunition.
Later, police found a .460-caliber Weatherby Magnum in an upright locker near McDermott’s desk. The rifle is considered the world’s most powerful shoulder-fired cartridge, and is often used by professional hunters to kill big game in Africa.
Remembering the Victims
Hundreds of mourners gathered Thursday night to say goodbye to the seven victims.
St. Joseph’s Church in Wakefield, which served as a refuge for many terrified office workers on Tuesday after the slayings, was place of remembrance as the victims were honored during a one-hour memorial prayer service. Approximately 1,000 people attended.
Candles were lighted for each of the victims, who included a widower, a new mother just back from maternity leave, and a woman who would have celebrated her 49th birthday on Wednesday. They have been identified as: Jennifer Bragg-Capobianco, Janice Hagerty, Louis Javelle, Rose Manfredy, Paul Marceau, Cheryl Troy and Craig Wood.
Father Michael Steele of St. Joseph’s said the service intended to bring the Wakefield community together and celebrate the victims’ lives.
Financial Troubles Possible Motive
Prosecutors say McDermott was angry over the possible garnishment of his wages by the IRS and are looking at his financial problems as a possible motive.
McDermott’s wages were to be garnished by the IRS after the holidays because he was delinquent in tax payments, officials said.
A person familiar with the IRS order who did not want to be identified said the amount owed was “a couple thousand” dollars.
Edgewater had agreed not to begin taking money from his paycheck until after the holidays, but McDermott had an angry outburst in the company’s accounting department last week over the prospect of losing some of his wages, according to an employee who spoke only on condition of anonymity. He apparently felt the company was not doing enough to take his side against the IRS, the employee said.
ABCNEWS.com’s Geraldine Sealey, The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.