Couple celebrating 50th anniversary killed just before vow renewal in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts couple killed just before celebrating 50th wedding anniversary
WATCH: Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said at a Monday press conference that it appears to have been a random attack – Jun 27, 2023

A Boston-area husband and wife celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and the woman’s 97-year-old mother were killed Sunday in a triple homicide that is sending shockwaves through the quiet suburb of Newton, Mass.

Christopher Ferguson 41, was taken into custody Monday and charged with killing 73-year-old Gilda “Jill” D’Amore. An autopsy of her body found she suffered more than 30 stab wounds and injuries from blunt force trauma, Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said in a Monday news conference.

Ferguson is also expected to face charges for the deaths of Jill’s husband, 74-year-old Bruno D’Amore, and her mother Lucia Arpino, once their autopsies have been completed, Ryan said.

The bodies were found in the D’Amore’s home after the couple failed to appear at Sunday Mass. They had planned to renew their wedding vows that day to mark their 50th anniversary, but when they didn’t show up, a friend left the service to check what was delaying them.

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A preliminary investigation has so far turned up no connection between the suspect and the victims, leading authorities to believe the fatal attack was “a random event,” Ryan said.

It only took authorities about 24 hours to arrest Ferguson for the attack after investigators found video footage of the suspect stumbling around the D’Amore family home without shoes or a shirt the morning of the killings. Officers with the Newton Police Department are familiar with Ferguson, who lived in the neighbourhood, and identified him from the video, Ryan said.

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Inside the home, investigators found a bloody bare footprint which forensic specialists were able to match to an impression of Ferguson’s foot.

Ryan noted that there was evidence of forced entry into the basement of the home and she described a chaotic scene inside, where there were “obvious signs of a struggle.”

A crystal paperweight was found covered in blood, furniture was broken and a “knife with red brown stains” was recovered in the kitchen.

In addition to the murder charge, Ferguson was booked on two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon causing serious bodily injury and burglary.

On the evening after the killings, extra police patrols were deployed in Newton and authorities urged residents to lock their doors and windows.

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Ryan noted that the deaths have especially rattled the community because “two of the individuals were celebrating a golden wedding anniversary” that weekend.

“As you can imagine, this would be tragic on any day,” she said Sunday evening in a news conference. “To have family gathered for this kind of a celebration makes it particularly tragic.”

A family statement was posted online through the victims’ church, Our Lady Help of Christians, identifying the three and stating they “lost their lives in a senseless act of violence.”

“Many in our faith community are grieving this great loss. We ask for your prayers for them, most especially for their three children and their five grandchildren,” wrote Paul and Ginny Arpino, who said the victims were their cousin and aunt.

“Bruno was known for his big voice and his exuberant personality and as ‘head chef,’ he proudly flipped the burgers at the parish picnic,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile, Jill was involved with beautifying the church’s environment, “caring for the flowers and decorating for the liturgical seasons. She spent endless hours in the care of our church.”

Until the pandemic hit, Lucia Arpino never missed a morning mass, Paul and Ginny Arpino wrote.

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“For over 60 years she and her husband Alberto sat in the ‘North End’ section of our church.”

Beyond their church community, the deaths have also rattled neighbours, among them Jack Porter.

“This is a safe neighbourhood. You don’t have murders in Newton or Nonantum,” the heavily Italian-American neighbourhood where they lived, Porter said.

There was an attempted break-in about a half-mile (800 metres) from the victims’ home early Sunday, but it’s unclear if the two crimes were related, Ryan said.

— With files from The Associated Press

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