Teen accused of beating a cheerleader to death Victim had refused a date, friends say

November 20, 1992|By Boston Globe

GROVELAND, Mass. -- A 16-year-old youth beat a high school cheerleader to death with a baseball bat here because the girl, with whom he was obsessed, refused to date him, say authorities and friends of the victim.

Richard Baldwin of Peabody, Mass., was scheduled to be arraigned today in Haverhill District Court on a murder charge in the beating death of Beth Brodie, 15, said Essex County District Attorney Kevin Burke. Mr. Burke said prosecutors will file motions to have the Baldwin youth tried as an adult.

Mr. Burke said the killing -- coming less than a month after the conviction of Jamie Fuller, a Beverly teen-ager, for the 1991 murder of his girlfriend -- underscores the need to deal with the violent way some teen-agers respond to other teen-agers.

"Many people feel these things can only happen in the city," said Mr. Burke. "This is clearly not the city. This is another tragic reminder that we have a problem with violence in society, and it is everywhere."

Beth Brodie, described as intelligent and outgoing, was bludgeoned to death Wednesday in the second-floor bedroom of a friend's house. The house is less than 100 yards from the home in which she grew up in this semi-rural town of 5,800, 28 miles north of Boston.

Young Baldwin, who moved from Groveland with his family a few months ago, was at Hale Hospital in Haverhill yesterday recovering from an overdose of a prescription antidepressant he took after the killing, Mr. Burke said.

Friends of Beth Brodie reported that the two teen-agers had dated a few times this summer. But Wednesday, when the two met at the Marjorie Street home of Sky Hall, the girl made it clear that she no longer wanted to date young Baldwin.

Just before the killing, the Baldwin youth asked Sky Hall to leave the room so he and the girl could talk privately, the friends said.

The district attorney would not say where the Baldwin youth took the overdose of pills. But friends of the Brodie family said yesterday that a family member told them that investigators believe the Baldwin youth took the pills at Pentucket Regional High School.

The family friends said they have learned that Richard Baldwin is believed to have gone to the school after the killing and taken the pills after he told Principal Michael McLaughlin of the crime. TTC A parent-teacher night was going on outside the principal's office. Mr. McLaughlin has refused to discuss the matter.

The killing -- the first here in 19 years -- has shaken this quiet town. Schoolmates of Beth Brodie at her high school in West Newbury, where she was a sophomore, were especially stunned.

"I think this is going to change my life forever," said Michael McComisky, a Pentucket junior. "It's like losing a next-door neighbor."

Julie Magulas, another friend of Beth Brodie's, said, "This is someone we saw in school every day, and now we aren't going to see her anymore."

Clergy and extra counselors were called in to assist stricken students, some of whom spent the day in quiet grief, others of whom cried and hugged one another, Mr. McLaughlin said. The flag stood at half-staff in the late autumn chill.

Beth Brodie, the daughter of a machinist and a school bus driver, was described by people who knew her as a well-behaved, friendly teen-ager who did well in school, was a member of the school band and was ecstatic that she had made the varsity cheerleading squad as a sophomore.

The Baldwin youth, a junior at Peabody High School, had attended junior high school with Beth Brodie, Pentucket school officials said.

The McComisky youth said the suspect was voted the quietest male student in his 1991 freshman class and was not a troublemaker. But he added that the Baldwin youth appeared to be drinking alcohol in recent months, and threw a New Year's Eve party last year that wrecked his parents' home.

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