Financial Motive Suspected in Bloody Spree

The deadly gunfire that shattered the holiday cheer and claimed seven lives at a Wakefield, Mass., Internet consulting company was carefully planned and executed by an employee angered over the possible garnishment of his wages, prosecutors said today.

Michael McDermott, a 42-year-old employee of Edgewater Technology, was arraigned today on seven counts of first-degree murder, a bloody spree that may have been prompted by a dispute over money.

“This was a methodical undertaking with deliberate premeditation,” Assistant District Attorney Tom O’Reilly said.

The huge, bearded man, clad in a bulletproof vest, was ushered into a Malden, Mass., courtroom by police and stood quietly through the 10-minute procedure, occasionally bending his head down to talk to his attorney. He pleaded not guilty and will be held without bail until lawyers meet again on Jan. 31.

McDermott’s parents were seated in the courtroom as their son was arraigned. They did not speak to reporters, but McDermott’s lawyer, Kevin Reddington, said they were “devastated.”

Methodical Killings

Police said McDermott, an ex-Navy submariner, walked into the company’s headquarters late Tuesday morning armed with a shotgun, a semiautomatic assault rifle, and a semiautomatic pistol.

He shot a vice president of human resources as she was standing at the reception desk, O’Reilly said, and then killed the receptionist as she tried to escape.

Authorities said McDermott then headed to one office and killed three people: a woman who was found slumped over her computer, shot in the back; a woman found underneath her desk; and a man found slumped next to a copy machine, shot in the face and leg.

After several workers barricaded themselves in another office, O’Reilly said, McDermott shot the door handle off and killed two people. A witness, hiding under a desk, saw the carnage. All in all, 37 rounds were fired during the rampage, which lasted between five and eight minutes, the assistant district attorney said.

When it was over, police found McDermott sitting quietly in the lobby. Although his weapons were within reach, he was taken into custody without incident, police said.

Defense lawyer Reddington said McDermott was undergoing psychiatric treatment.

It is believed that the victims were not random because “he walked by individuals who were working and specifically targeted the individuals” he shot, O’Reilly said.

Most of the victims worked in the accounting department.

And he appeared to work with cold precision: There were no injuries, only deaths.

A Virtual Arsenal

McDermott had three loaded guns with him when he was found, and a black bag full of ammunition, authorities said.

Police said they found shotgun shells in McDermott’s trash can at work, ammunition in a cubbyhole above his desk, and a rifle with a sniper sight in a locker in his office.

Searching his home, police found fuses, blasting caps, bomb-making magazines, ammunition and three gallons of liquid nitric acid, an ingredient in nitroglycerine, officials said.

McDermott had no permits for the guns applicable in Middlesex County, District Attorney Martha Coakley said at a press conference today. Massachusetts has very strict gun laws, but regulations in neighboring New Hampshire and Rhode Island are much looser. Wakefield is a half-hour drive from the New Hampshire state line, and about an hour from Rhode Island.

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