Justice at last for murdered writer who tried to find peace

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The Independent US

The fashion writer Christa Worthington had moved to the small Cape Cod village of Truro for peace and calm, to escape a frantic life in New York that had left her jaded. It was a place with family ties and where she had spent the summers when she was a child. She hoped the move would be a fresh start, but instead it brought tragedy.

In 2002, several years after moving into the house in which her grandmother had once lived, Ms Worthington was discovered stabbed to death, her body lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor. Her two-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Ava, was clinging to her body. "Mommy fell down," she later said. Ava is thought to have sat with her mother's body for up to 36 hours.

This week, more than four-and-a-half years after she was killed, a rubbish collector who visited Ms Worthington's home every week was found guilty of raping and murdering the writer, a contributor to The Independent along with other publications.

Christopher McCowen, 34, who claimed he had consensual sex with Ms Worthington but denied killing her, was automatically sentenced to life in prison. "All through this whole trial I sat here thinking to myself 'Why me'," said McCowen, as he addressed the court in Boston before the sentence was read. "Your honour I'd like to say I'm an innocent man in this case." He added: "I know there's nothing I can do. I am an innocent man in this case. And that's all I have to say."

Questions have been asked about the performance of the police in conducting their investigation and why it took so long to identify McCowen as a suspect, initial inquiries having focused on Ms Worthington's former lovers and the father of her daughter, a married local man with whom she had an affair.

McCowen was interviewed by police soon after the killing and agreed to give a DNA sample. However, it was a further two years before he actually provided the sample and then an additional 12 months beforeit was tested. It was then found to match a sample collected from Ms Worthington's body.

Police said McCowen had provided them with more than half-a-dozen different versions of events, having initially claimed he had no physical contact with Ms Worthington.

When he was informed of the DNA match he said they had consensual sex on the night she died. He also said he had beaten her after they got into a fight but insisted that she had actually been killed by a friend of his. That person had an alibi.

McCowen's lawyer, Robert George, intends to appeal, claiming that the police interrogation of their client was not recorded and that he had been on drugs when it was carried out. Mr George also claimed that because McCowen was black the court was less inclined to believe that Ms Worthington had consensual sex with him.

"Do you expect me to say the jury's right," he said at a press conference. "Anyone who heard what happened in this trial should have reasonable doubt."

Before sentence was passed, Ms Worthington's cousin Mary read two " impact" statements. One said: "There will never be closure, because Christa is never coming back to us." The other was from a family friend, Amyra Chase, who is bringing up Ms Worthington's daughter, now aged seven. It said: "Ava endured a day and a half that was so terrible that to say she was not brutally victimised would be an understatement ... Ava has emerged as a very bright, confident young woman. The first day of school I stood there with such pride along with a sadness that Christa wasn't there. Christa was robbed of the privilege and delight of raising her daughter."