Software engineer convicted of killing seven co-workers in Massachusetts rampage

Wednesday, April 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) _ A man who gunned down seven co-workers at a software company was convicted of murder Wednesday after failing to convince a jury he was so delusional he thought he was killing Adolf Hitler and his henchmen to prevent the Holocaust.

Michael McDermott, a hulking 43-year-old with long, shaggy hair and a bushy black beard, stood impassively as he listened to the verdict that automatically sends him to prison for life without parole. Massachusetts does not have the death penalty.

Prosecutors said McDermott went on his rampage because he was angry about the company's plan to withhold part of his salary to pay $5,600 in back taxes to the IRS. They said he concocted the story of being on a divinely ordered, time-travel mission to prevent the Holocaust after reading up on how to fake mental illness.

During sentencing, McDermott sat at the defense table with his burly arms in front of him and read a Bible without looking up as relatives of the dead took the stand and sorrowfully recalled their loved ones. Some stole glances across the courtroom at McDermott, but he didn't meet their eyes.

Daniel Hagerty said that his wife, Janice, was buried in the same cemetery where they taught their daughter to ride a bike.

``Right now I'm glad you're going to die in prison,'' he said to McDermott. ``I hope you're about to enter a life of hell, of constant cruelty and degradation.''

The jury deliberated for nearly 16 hours over three days before rejecting the insanity defense and convicting the software engineer on seven counts of first-degree murder.

Prosecutor Thomas O'Reilly said McDermott deserves to die for his crimes. ``Michael McDermott is owed no mercy by the court, by the families, by anyone,'' O'Reilly said. ``He deserves the ultimate punishment.''

As McDermott was being led from of the courtroom in shackles, about 50 relatives and friends of the victims stood for long, sustained applause and yelled, ``Die in there!'' and ``Goodbye!'' Others swore at him.

McDermott's parents left without comment.

The defense claimed McDermott suffered from depression and schizophrenia and was hallucinating during the shootings at Edgewater Technology in suburban Wakefield on Dec. 26, 2000.

The trial featured chilling testimony from workers who hid under their desks or ran out of the building after McDermott began shooting. Some said they heard co-workers begging for their lives before McDermott blasted them with an AK-47 rifle and a pump-action shotgun.

McDermott matter-of-factly testified that he had been given a mission by St. Michael the Archangel, who told him he could earn a soul and prevent the Holocaust if he killed Hitler and six German generals.

In vivid detail, McDermott described being transported back in time to 1940 and entering a bunker where he saw Hitler and men and women wearing swastika armbands. He described killing Nazis, one by one, as horrified family members of the real victims wept and left the courtroom.

``Hitler was there. I shot and killed him,'' he said. ``My mission was complete. I knew at this point I had a soul.''

Experts for the defense said he had a long history of mental illness. McDermott testified that he was raped repeatedly by a neighbor as a child, that he tried at least three times to commit suicide, and that he heard voices in his head telling him ``what a bad person I am, what a waste of space and skin and air I am.''

Under cross-examination, McDermott acknowledged buying ``Clinical Assessment of Malingering and Deception,'' a textbook for psychiatrists trying to detect whether defendants are lying or faking mental illness.

Prosecutors also pointed out McDermott's genius-level IQ and steps he took to plan the killings, including bringing the guns to work on Christmas, the day before the killings, when no one was in the office.