Convicted murderer sentenced to life

By Michael Kunzelman

Associated Press

SALEM, Mass. – A confessed murderer said Thursday that he killed and beheaded a Boston man and an unidentified prostitute because he became a “ticking time bomb” when his brother’s alleged murderer was acquitted.

Eugene McCollom, 40, was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to second-degree murder in the death of the prostitute, whose headless body was discovered in November 2000 behind a home for disabled veterans. Her head and hands were found more than three years later on a nearby beach.

The life sentence will follow the 10- to 12-year sentence McCollom is already serving after pleading guilty on Feb. 9 to manslaughter in the 2001 decapitation killing of John “Jackie” Leyden.

McCollom will be eligible for parole in about 22 years.

At his sentencing in Essex Superior Court, McCollom told Judge Howard J. Whitehead that his homicidal urges grew from the outrage he felt toward the criminal justice system after his younger brother’s alleged killer was acquitted. Patrick McCollom, 27, was stabbed to death at a Revere night club in 1996.

“They let a guilty man walk free,” McCollom said, “and I became a ticking time bomb. I was engulfed in bitterness, hatred of our judicial system … I killed two people out of all that anger and bitterness.”

Later, as he was being led out of court, he shouted, “No justice, no peace for Patrick McCollom.”

“Mr. McCollom’s life took a severe turn for the worse when his brother was murdered,” said his lawyer, Lawrence McGuire. “He is regretful and remorseful for what he has done.”

More than four years after her grisly slaying, the identity of the prostitute he killed remains a mystery. McCollom referred to her in court Thursday as “Lisa from Philadelphia.”

He told investigators that he picked her up in Boston’s Combat Zone area and drove her to his room at the YMCA in Lynn, where they argued over money. According to court records, he described strangling her and beheading the corpse.

When police asked how he could stand to cut up a body, he replied that “he had just become ‘like a robot or a machine,'” according to an affidavit.

Two days later, the woman’s headless remains were found wrapped in a blanket on the grounds of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea. A surveillance camera captured footage of McCollom dumping the body.

Police linked him to the murder by lifting his DNA from a soda bottle he touched in front of a police officer and matching it to semen found on the victim, according to court records.

“After lengthy questioning he did admit to killing the victim,” prosecutor Kathe Tuttman said. “He also admitted to dismembering and disposing of her body.”

In an affidavit, McCollom said police told him he’d get a short prison sentence “because it was a crime of passion, that in jail I would get the help I needed, including medications.”

Authorities cobbled together a sketchy description of the victim: She was a light-skinned African-American or Hispanic woman between the ages of 16 and 25, with reddish hair and purple toenails. Her height ranged from 5 feet to 5-foot-6, and she weighed between 100 and 130 pounds.

McCollom initially told investigators he’d left her head and hands in a trash bin behind the YMCA. But he later changed his story, saying he’d buried the head and hands on a beach in the North Shore town of Nahant, where police found them inside a container in January 2004.

They checked out numerous missing persons reports and circulated a drawing of what they believed she looked like, but never discovered the woman’s identity.

Tuttman said Essex County prosecutors opted not to seek a first-degree murder conviction against McCollom because he had cooperated with investigators.

While he was awaiting trial for the woman’s murder, McCollom surfaced as a suspect in the murder of Leyden, whose decomposed, decapitated corpse was discovered in 2001 in his apartment in the East Boston neighborhood.

Leyden’s brother, who found the body, was initially charged with the murder, but the charges were dropped after McCollom confessed to bludgeoning Leyden with a pipe and cutting off his head. He took the head to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and buried it in a park, where it was recovered by police.

McCollom has surfaced as a possible suspect in other gruesome killings, including those of Kelly Ford, whose decapitated remains were found on a Cape Cod beach in 2001, and Darlene Toler, a prostitute who was beheaded in Florida in 1995.

Ford’s parents were in court Thursday. Debbie Ford brushed away tears as the judge sentenced McCollom. Mark Ford declined to discuss his daughter’s case, but said, “I just hope he gets what he deserves. That’s all, and then some.”