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.

“We will proceed to determine the license status, and where and how those weapons were obtained,” Coakley said.

Trouble With the IRS

McDermott’s wages were to be garnished by the IRS after the holidays because he was delinquent in tax payments, said Coakley. The garnishment could have been a motive for the shootings, Coakley said.

A person familiar with the IRS order who did not want to be identified said the amount owed was “a couple thousand” dollars.

Coakley said Edgewater had agreed not to begin taking money from his paycheck until after the holidays. However, 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.

But co-workers told The Boston Herald that McDermott appeared to have a good attitude about the garnishment.

“There was no yelling or anything like that,” one employee was quoted as saying. Another said, “His attitude was, ‘No problem, I’ll deal with it. Do what you have to do.’ That’s what’s so amazing.”

In a statement, the company said McDermott’s actions “apparently stem from occurrences in his personal life.”

“There was no way to anticipate his actions or any apparent reasons to restrict his access to the building,” it said.

Company Moving to Wakefield

The victims were identified as Jennifer Bragg-Capobianco, Janice Hagerty, Louis Javelle, Rose Manfredy, Paul Marceau, Cheryl Troy and Craig Wood.

McDermott had worked at Edgewater since March, said Middlesex County prosecutor John McEvoy.

During an earlier briefing, McEvoy refused to comment on whether a rumor that 25 percent of the company’s staff was about to be laid off may have prompted the shooting. Company officials said there have not been any layoffs at Edgewater and none was planned any time soon.

A spokesman for Edgewater said the software consulting company is in the process of moving its headquarters from Fayetteville, Ark., to Wakefield, located about 10 miles north of Boston.

The company is undergoing a streamlining process, selling off its Commercial Services and Intellimark divisions to focus on Internet services. Last Thursday it announced it was offering $8 a share for some 57 percent of the company’s outstanding common stock, a total offering of $130 million.

The company will remain closed until at least New Year’s, Coakley said.’s Dean Schabner, Andrew Colton and The Associated Press contributed to this report.