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48 Hours The Informer 09.30.06

Run Dates


09.30.06 48 Hours The Informer

The Informer
Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)


(CBS) What do you do if you find out your best friends got away with murder? That's the question a young man faced in 2002, when a friend confided in him that the death of an elderly woman, ruled an accident, was actually a case of murder.

As correspondent Susan Spencer reports, he had to make a tough choice: keep his silence or betray his friends by contacting the police.


Twenty-two-year-old Jim Morel admits that what he used to consider good music certainly isnít everyoneís cup of tea. A few years ago, his compositions were designed to shock, as was his band.

"The name of my band was Electronic Kill Machine," Morel explains. "The music was disturbing. It was a little on the aggressive side. But at the same time it was all in good fun; nobody was really ever got hurt from it."

He says it simply reflected the attitude of his crowd. "At the time we thought we were untouchable, (could) do whatever we wanted and there was not going to be any sort of consequences for any of our actions," Morel says.

He and his friends grew up in Norton, Mass., a working class town near Boston. His best friend was Jason Weir, who played drums in his band. Morel remembers Jason as being a little "rebellious" and "a little bit more wild."

Another close friend, Anthony Calabro, was ó informally ó the manager. And Tom Lally, who was a little older, just liked to hang out, eager to fit in.

"Tom is a funny guy. Heís a really, really funny guy," Morel says. "Which made it hard to fear Tom. But he wanted to be feared ó kind of a tough-guy thing. But he was Ė it's more of a goofy, just all-around-looking to go out and have a good time."

Their backgrounds made the four a perfect fit. "Whether it was a broken home or a troubled childhood, we were all just a little different, and thatís why we really kind of just came together in this group of social misfits in some way or another and we became kind of our own family," Morel explains.

In the summer of 2001, Anthony Calabro ó then at odds with both parents ó left Norton and moved into the Quincy, Mass., home of his 84-year-old great aunt, Marina.

His aunt Donna Strassell was happy to hear the news. "The truth is, I thought it was the best thing for him. To be with aunt Marina. Because aunt Marina had morals, rules," she says.

Marina only had recently retired as a hairdresser. She had never married or had children of her own, and she doted on Calabro like a favored son, dipping into her savings to support him. She says he got whatever he wanted.

Whenever they pleased, Marina even let Anthonyís friends crash at her house ó which, at 84, she still maintained herself.

But just days before Christmas 2001, Marina Calabroís independent life came to tragic end. At about 11 p.m. Anthony called the police to report that he and Lally had come home and found her dead, lying at the bottom of the stairs.

The police took photos but more or less as routine, they believed Marina Calabro had taken a terrible fall while carrying a bag of trash. The medical examiner soon confirmed that the death was an accident.

"Anthony was upset. He became more quiet, I think more to himself," Morel remembers.

Even in death, Marina Calabro took care of her beloved great nephew: Her will left Anthony half of her estate, which consisted of her $500,000 house and another half-million dollars or so that she had squirreled away over the years.

Once Anthony got the money, Morel says, he was very generous. "We could buy, do whatever we wanted," he recalls. "If we wanted to go nuts with anything, we could."

So they did. They went nuts with new equipment for the band and even made a CD.

"We were on the verge of some pretty promising opportunities coming our way," Morel remembers. "We had a pretty good following."

But that all ended abruptly on Oct. 13, 2002, nearly 10 months after Anthonyís aunt died.

Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

Morel and his best friend, Jason Weir, were at a restaurant, chatting about Anthonyís spending, when Jason offhandedly dropped a bombshell.

"He said, Marina Calabro didnít exactly die on her own," Morel says.

Jim was still reeling from the shock of that news when 48 Hours first spoke with him three months later. "I just kinda sat there. Iím like, 'Well, what do you mean?' Like ó oh. Heís like ĎTom beat her to death.í I was just like that was pretty shocking," he says.

"He said, Tom Lally beat her with a frying pan. And in my mind, Iím picturing my grandmother. Iím like, someone is doing this to your grandmother Ė I donít know," Morel says.

Did Morel ask Weir what he was doing at the time?

"Thatís what I asked. Iím like, 'What were you doing? What involvement did you have?' And he said, 'I was just freaked out,'" he says.

Morel says Anthony was downstairs waiting in the car. "He was kinda keeping a lookout," he says. He knew his friends werenít angels ó but would they, and could they, really murder an 84-year-old woman?

"Itís like a friend you grew up with and itís like such a horrific thing," he says,

Asked why he thinks Weir suddenly decided to tell him, Morel says, "Because he had a lot of trust in me." That trust left Morel panicked over what to do: betray his friends or protect their terrible secret?

"Holding on to a secret like that would completely change who you are," Morel says. "It eats at you. It is someone that did not deserve to die."

That same night, Morel told his father ó and together they went to the police to report to the murder.

He had no idea what he was in for.

"I was thinking I was going to do this all anonymously, no one would ever know anything about me ó walk in, walk out, and I did my part and I wouldnít have to do anything," Morel explains.

To his surprise, the police seemed to suspect him. Indignant, he volunteered to wear a wire, convinced he could get Weir to confide again.

To his even greater surprise, the police liked the idea. Three days later, Morel was wired and braced to betray his friend.

In October 2002, the two were doing what they had done a thousand times before: just driving around Norton and hanging out. But this time Jim was wearing a wire, secretly pumping his friend for details of Marina Calabroís murder ó and he was feeling very guilty about it.

"Hereís a guy that feels so close and so confident telling you and youíre just gonna go right around and stab him in the back," Morel says.

Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

Detectives followed in an unmarked car, recording every word of what turned out to be a chilling tale of murder.

On the tape, Weir claimed he was paralyzed with shock when he saw Lally suddenly attack the 84-year-old woman with a frying pan and could only stand there and watch as she fought for her life.

On the wire recording Weir told Morel that Lally bashed Marina in the face with a tea kettle and that the killing took 10 to 15 minutes. Repeatedly, Weir told Morel that although Lally did it, once the deed was done, he had no choice but to help cover it up.

"He's like, 'You got to help me.' I'm like, 'I can't believe you [expletive] did that.' He said, 'It needed to be done. We all want a better life. We all want this house. We all need this. So we're in it together,'" Morel recalls.

And he matter-of-factly boasted that their extensive knowledge of forensics really had paid off.

"They were really into the forensic stuff," Morel explains. "They would watch three-hour blocks of forensic files. There would be hours and hours on the computer studying case files."

Morel says Weir and Lally carried Marina Calabro down the steps and positioned her body so it would look like she had taken a fall.

Throughout the whole thing, Weir said, Anthony was keeping watch outside.

Morel kept Weir talking. When asked if Anthony was upset by the murder, Weir told Morel, "No."

The longer Weir talked, the more disgusted Morel became, especially when he described Marina Calabroís final momentsÖ

"She was screaming for Anthonyís name ó she said, 'Anthony. Anthony. Help me. Help me.' And Iím like, 'What did Tom do?' And heís like he just got real close to her and squeezed her and he just whispered in her ear Marina," Morel recalls.

"Just go, just go. Anthony wants it this way, just go," Weir could be heard saying on the wire recording.

After that admission, Morel says he no longer felt guilt about snitching on his friends. "Instead of feeling bad, instead of feeling guilty, I wanted nothing more than just to lash out and say, 'How could you just stand there and watch this?'" he says. "So I just said to myself, Iím gonna screw you so unbelievably. And I said, 'So where are the murder weapons?'"

Weir suddenly swerved off the road into a dark wooded area by Meadowbrook Pond and showed him.

It had been several hours, but Morel's ordeal finally was over.

Nine days after that harrowing ride, police took 19-year-old Anthony Calabro, 17-year-old Jason Weir, and 21-year-old Thomas Lally, into custody. All were charged with first-degree murder. A conviction would mean a life sentence.

Jason father, Rick Weir, heard about his sonís arrest on the news. "Iím just starting to cry all over the place. Every time I saw it, I get the same feeling. You know, thereís nothing I could do for him ," he recalls. "At that point. I couldnít get near him, I couldnít touch him, I couldnít help him."

And despite the evidence, the father is standing by his son, convinced that he didnít actually do anything to harm Marina Calabro.

Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

But Tom Lally, Tom's uncle, doesnít buy Weir's story at all, especially not the part about Jason being the bystander and his nephew the murderer.

Lally always has been close to his sisterís oldest son, who was named after him.

"I would describe Tom as a follower. And in this particular situation ó he was the follower. And he believed in his friends and wanted to be with his friends," Lally explains.

He may have run with the wrong crowd, Lally says, but Tom couldnít possibly murder anyone. And he makes sure his nephew knows he at least believes him.

"Heís allowed two visits a week, and I always try to take one of those visits," Lally says.

Tom has insisted that it was Jason Weir who committed this crime.

"Do you believe that Jason Weirís story is right, but that the roles were switched?" Spencer asks Tom Lally.

"Yes," Lally replies. "I believe that Tom got caught up in something that became too big and he didnít know how to get out."

But Assistant District Attorney Susan Corcoran says when the state got the case, it believed the three friends carefully plotted the murder together. The only problem was proving it.

"Tom Lally and Anthony knew that he was going to inherit a substantial amount of money," Corcoran says. "They knew he was going to inherit this house from her. I think they were cold-blooded killers, and they did not want to wait for her to die."

It has been more than two years since Morel went to the police, two years since his information led to murder charges against his three closest pals.

"It felt like I just ó I just killed my best friends," he admits.

While people will say he did the right thing, Morel says not feeling bad about this is "easier said than done."

Weir, Anthony Calabro and Lally sit behind bars, waiting to be tried for the death of 84-year-old Marina Calabro. Their arrests put an abrupt end to those carefree days of hanging out and playing in the band.

Marina Calabroís niece Donna is glad Morel came forward, but she thinks the cops shouldnít have needed to be told this was no accident.

"I know it was murder. I had no doubt in my mind. None," Donna says.

She had visited her aunt in the weeks before she died and says it was obvious Marinaís world was in disarray.

"The house was not like Aunt Marina keeps it," Donna explains. "It wasnít normal, it was wrong. It was just wrong."

Anthony, the nephew she doted on had become surly and resentful.

"I saw the way Anthony was treating Aunt Marina," Donna says, maintaining he was being disrespectful, swearing and yelling at her.

Marina was so frightened, Donna says, that she began to hide her money. "She would put it in a nylon stocking and wrap it around her waist when sheíd go to bed at night," she says.

"I told Aunt Marina that she was in great danger," Donna recalls. "And she said that if anything happened to her sheíd call 911. I told her, 'Youíll never get the chance.' I just knew."

As soon as she heard about Marinaís death, Donna says she was suspicious and went to the police with her concerns.

But she says they showed little interest. "I think the police should be held accountable for doing such a terrible non-caring investigation. Thatís the way I feel. They took it as an old woman who fell down the stairs. And let it go," she says.


Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

Corcoran concedes investigatorsí mistakes early on made it much harder to build a case.

She knew she had to overcome a lot of issues when she received the case ó the biggest one being the police reports. "The state police had declared it an accident. The Quincy police had declared it an accident, and the medical examiner had declared this an accident," she explains.

So even though detectives on the scene noticed scratches on Lallyís face, they didnít bother taking pictures, instead simply accepting the boysí explanation.

"They said that the night before they had an argument because Anthony had been drinking or something to that effect. And Tom tried to grab the bottle from him and Anthony scratched tomís face," Corcoran says.

Ten months later, by the time police knew they were investigating a murder, not only had the scratches healed, Marina Calabroís house had been sold and the kitchen remodeled. Corcoran says it was too late for the crime scene folks to go back and do any type of testing.

Thus, although Corcoran had Jim Morelís secretly recorded tapes, she initially had little else. "They were very good at covering their tracks. They tried to conceal the crime when she was found at the foot of the stairs," she explains. "They covered everything up, they cleaned everything up at the crime scene that night."

When police drained the pond where Weir had taken Morel, they did find the frying pan Ė believed to be the murder weapon Ė and it was right there where Weir said it would be. Also found were remnants of newspapers from the week of the crime and Marinaís tea kettle.

"This was a very, very heinous crime. It was committed with a frying pan and with a tea kettle," Corcoran says.

But Weir's attorney, Ed McCormick, says not so fast. "Iím sure we can go to any pond, in any area, weíre going to find some debris," he says.

He thinks that after 10 months in the pond, frying pans and tea kettles arenít evidence.

"Thereís no fingerprints to tie anyone to this," McCormick argues.

The state, McCormick charges, has been all too eager to jump to wild conclusions to make up for evidence it doesnít have. He points to a bizarre discovery at the crime lab, which at one point said it actually had found DNA on Marina Calabroís body: in seminal fluid.

"The question, obviously, is whoís is it? How did it get there?" McCormick asks.

The lab took DNA samples from the three suspects, even from Morel.
It didnít match him ó and to make matters worse for the state, it didnít match the three suspects either.

"It calls into question the entire version of the death of Marina Calabro as alleged by the Commonwealth," McCormick says.

McCormick suggests Weirís damning admissions on tape as just typical adolescent swagger.

"Is this just two 16-, 17-year-old boys are talking big? Who caught the biggest fish? Who has the prettiest girlfriend? Who has the fastest car? Let me tell you something thatíll shock you. And make myself feel tough. I donít know," he says.


(Page 6 of 9)Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

Lallyís lawyer, Robert Griffin, says that in his clientís case, the alleged motive ó greed ó makes no sense.

"Thomas Lally had an annuity that was going to pay him money every five years. He received his first payment in June of 2001," Griffin says,

Anthony Calabroís lawyer, Bob Launie, says that when Anthony wanted money, all he had to do was ask. "He was getting anything he wanted from her," he explains.

Launie says they maintain that Marina Calabro's death just an accident and not part of any criminal activity.

Donna would so like to believe that. "I wish to God it wasnít Anthony," she says crying. "More than anything I wished it wasnít Anthony, but it is."

As the state prepares to go to trial, its star witness is ready to face his former friends in court.

Tom Lallyís lawyer says his client, the first up, is terrified. "He goes home or he goes to prison for the rest of his life with no possibility of parole," Griffin explains.

By March 3, 2006, Tom Lally has changed dramatically in the more than four years since Marina Calabro died. He was the first of the three defendants to stand trial for her murder.

"Heís nervous, heís gotta get up there and tell his story, this is the fight of his life," says his uncle, who has been by his side throughout. "For the last four years Iíve been doing everything I could to keep Tom going and just really try to be positive,"

But in Prosecutor Corcoranís eyes, Lally is a cold blooded murderer.

"This defendant strikes her on the head with a frying pan," she tells jurors. "Whacking her as she was screaming for her life."

Corcoran makes sure the jury knows that this slight young man before them bears little resemblance to the swaggering tough he once was.

"He weighed 220 pounds. He was bald," she tells jurors.

"He may have looked tough. But Tomís never been a tough kid. You know, I would say the exact opposite," says Lally's uncle. He describes his nephew as a caring boy, close to his mother, saddled with learning disabilities, and struggling with a mild case of Tourette's Syndrome.

He thinks that in the end, the state canít prove its case ó and for sure, the state has problems.

As defense attorney Griffin points out, not only is there the medical examinerís initial ruling but the DNA supposedly found on Marinaís body turned out to be one big embarrassment for the state. Further testing showed it wasnít from seminal fluid after all. And, worse, it came from the lab worker who did the testing.

Still, as much as the defense discredits the early investigation, this is a story of loyalty and betrayal and the prosecutionís case relies less on forensic evidence than on the testimony of Lallyís friends, or former friends.

They canít seem to bare their souls fast enough, offering chilling testimony about how Anthony and Tom used to talk about Marina Calabro.

"Tom was saying that he could have her neck broken without leaving any bruises," one female witness testifies.

"'Wouldnít it be funny if we pushed her down the stairs and got her money,'Ē another witness testifies she heard.

The one friend not called to testify was Morel, whose undercover taping unraveled the entire plot.

Instead the state produces a new key witness, someone who was actually there: Weir.


Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

Betrayed by Morel back in 2002 ó he is, now, in turn, betraying his friends: In exchange for his testimony, he agreed to plead to manslaughter and take a 10-year sentence.

Weir tells the jurors that he heard Tom and Anthony plot the crime. "Anthony would say something along the lines of, 'I should take a contract out on her.' And Tom Lally would say, 'Well, it could be arranged,' or, you know ó 'What if something was to happen to her, and you just didnít know about it?'" Weir testifies.

He claims he never took it seriously ó until that moment he and Marina stood in the kitchen and Tom walked in with a frying pan.

He recalls for the jury what he witnessed in the kitchen. "She says, 'What are you doing with my pan?'" Weir testifies. "He was just like, 'Iím doing this.' And as I looked up to see the ó this frying pan came literally right across my face. I could feel the breeze off of it."

Asked what he remembers happened next, Jason tells the jurors, "He hit her in the ó in the head with a pan."

Marina kept struggling, Weir says, and then Lally grabbed a tea kettle.

"She was terrified. She was screaming. She was yelling, calling for Anthony, calling for anything," Weir testifies.

Asked if he helped Marina Calabro, Weir says he did not, saying he couldn't react and was "too afraid."

When it was over, Weir says, and Anthony had come inside, Lally kept his cool.

"He had said, 'I put her head at the bottom of the stairs so that way itíll look like itís all legitimate,'" Jason testifies.

But Defense Attorney Griffin says Weir would say anything to save himself and he reminds jurors how cocky he was when he confided to Morel.

However, whatever the jury may think of Jasonís callous words on the wire recording, the state finally has some forensic evidence to bolster his story. In 2005, prosecutor Corcoran had Marinaís fingernail clippings tested by another lab. It found DNA, which, while not conclusive, is a partial match to Tom Lally.

Corcoran says the DNA underneath the fingernails could be from Lally and that it excluded the other two defendants.

"So it's very consistent, we had the fingernail scrapings and fingernail clippings from Marina Calabro and the scratch marks on Thomas Lallyís face," Corcoran says.

Lallyís uncle believes the DNA got under Marinaís nails when his nephew tried to help her ó but he knows things look bad. "You just gotta keep him thinking strong and thinking positive and get him back in the game," he says.

Seemingly backed into a corner, Lally takes the stand in his own defense.

On the stand, he says, "I had nothing to do with Marinaís death. Jason Weir killed her."

Just switch the roles, Lally says: Jason was the killer and it was Jason who took him by surprise that horrible day.

Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

"Jason Weir came out of the dining room with a sock on his right hand. He was holding a frying pan. And he struck Marina Calabro in the head with it," Lally testifies.

Next, Lally testified that he tried to help her by getting in between them, but she had fallen to the floor unconscious.

Lally also tells the jurors the scratches on his face were inflicted by Weir.

It was Weir, Lally says, who staged the scene. "He dragged her body to the stairs and placed her at the bottom of the landing," he testifies.

And then, he says, Weir bullied both him and Anthony into lying to the police.

"What was the reason you were afraid of him, Mr. Lally?" defense attorney Griffin asks Lally.

"I saw him kill Marina Calabro, and he was threatening me and my family," he replies.

Corcoran doesnít hide her disgust at this story.

"Iím asking you when Jason Weir came into that kitchen, which is a small kitchen, from that living room, you couldnít see that frying pan in his hand? You want the jurors to believe that?" Corcoran asks Lally.

"Yes, maíam. When he raised his hand is when I saw it. That was when I took notice of it," he replies.

He testifies that he did not hear Marina Calabro yell during the attack.

"She was struck three times with a cast iron frying pan and you did not hear Marina Calabro yelling, Mr. Lally?" Corcoran asks.

"It was in very rapid succession and it was notÖ," he replies.

Lally maintains he did not hear Calabro scream.

Corcoran was very tough on Lally. "I think I had to be. I think I had to be tough on him. I firmly believe that he was the one who committed this crime," she says.

Lally's uncle, meanwhile, says he was proud of his nephew. "Heís been waiting four years to tell his story, his side of the story. It was important for him to be heard. But it was also difficult."

With the case in the juryís hands, Tomís mother and uncle can only wait.

And after only four hours, Lally is found guilty of first-degree murder. The sentence: life without parole.

"I ó truly ó prayed every night and every day for the last four years for something else," Lally's uncle says. "The raw emotion just came out."

The fate of Anthony Calabro, the plot's alleged mastermind, has yet to be decided.

"Iíve got a case where Iíve got a client whoís not in the room," defense attorney Launie says.

And that means, his lawyer says, despite the Lally verdict, he could still win his case. "Thereís a lot of different ways it could have went down that my client didnít necessarily have to know about."


(Page 9 of 9)Sept. 30, 2006
Jim Morel (CBS)

As hard as Donna Strassell finds it to accept the loss of her Aunt Marina, itís even harder to accept that her own nephew, Anthony, was behind the murder.

"I love him, heís my nephew," she says. "But he needs to be held accountable. And he needs to take responsibility for this."

"Marina Calabro adored her great nephew, Anthony Calabro," Corcoran says in court.

But Anthony betrayed his great auntís love, Corcoran adds, and with appalling callousness. "She put up a fight. She fought for her life. It took a while for this woman to die. And she was screaming for great nephew to come in and help her," she tells jurors.

By the time Anthony Calabro finally has his day in court, four years have passed since his aunt's death.

Unlike his friends, Anthony never gave a statement to police and tearfully breaks his 3Ĺ-year silence.

"Iím disgusted with myself. Iím disgusted with my actions," Anthony says. "I donít even think there are any words in the English language that can explain how sorry I am for everything that Iíve done."

Having seen Lally convicted, and hit with life without parole, Anthony is now no longer proclaiming his innocence.

"It's my sincerest wish that I could go back in time and undo the events of that day. I only hope that some day I might be able to be forgiven for all that Iíve done," Anthony says.

His confession comes only after the stateís decision to offer him a deal: plead guilty to a lesser charge of second-degree murder.

Corcoran reminds the court one last time what he did, in every horrific detail.

"When the defendant entered the apartment, he saw that the victim was dead, shrugged and left," she tells the jurors.

Anthony no longer denies any of it and as he is led away, his aunt Donna almost seems relieved.

"When he spoke today his actions, his words, he was my nephew. With sincerity and caring," Donna says, adding that he accepted responsibility.

The agreed-on sentence, life in prison with the possibility of parole in 12 years, is a vastly different fate than that of his former friends.

Weir could be out of prison in fewer than seven years but Lally will spend the rest of his life there with no possibility of parole.

"Three people who all equally shared responsibility in the crime, all get different punishments," says Lally's uncle. "That just doesnít seem fair to me."

But all Lally's distraught uncle can do is to promise to be there for his nephew. "It may not be the life that we would want anybody to have, but thereís a life. And thereís a relationship. And thereís love. And you keep that going," he says.

"I believe they all had involvement. They never would have done a job like this unless everybody knew about, everybody was willing to take part in it," says Morel, the fourth friend, who at 19, put truth over loyalty and went to the police.

"This case would be nowhere without Jim Morel," says Morel. "These three kids could have gone on the rest of their lives and gotten away with this murder."

And yet, even today, his choice makes Morel uneasy. "Their lives are kind of ruined now. You know, they destroyed one life, you know, and I still feel Ė even now, after everything, I kinda feel like I kinda destroyed three," he says.

Morel is still writing music, now a little less dark and has a job and a hopeful future.

And if he were to find himself today in that same impossible situation?

"Itís not the easiest thing to do in the world, but I had no choice," he says.

Morel says he would do it again.


Weirís plea negotiations recently have been reopened. His final sentence is not yet decided. Lally may file a motion for a new trial.









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