Subscribe for 33¢ / day

WHITE CREEK -- The local man accused of killing his mother, stepfather and stepbrother was charged Thursday with three counts of murder and two counts of arson after being returned to Washington County to make his first court appearance in New York in the case.

A felony arson charge against Matthew A. Slocum was filed early Thursday in White Creek Town Court, and White Creek Town Justice Phil Sica issued an arrest warrant for Slocum that led to him being charged as a fugitive from justice in New Hampshire, where he was arrested late Wednesday.

Police believe the three victims were shot to death before the fire was set, but a source familiar with the case said Slocum's girlfriend, Loretta Colegrove, told police she did not witness any shootings.

Slocum was arraigned before Sica late Thursday on three charges of second-degree murder, one charge of first-degree arson and one charge of second-degree arson, and was sent to Washington County Jail without bail. A not guilty plea was entered on his behalf.

Though Slocum stared blankly at the floor for most the arraignment Thursday evening, he shook his head when Judge Sica read the murder charges that accused Slocum of shooting the victims with a firearm.

A pre-trial hearing in the case will be held Tuesday at 10 a.m.

Colegrove, with whom Slocum fled the area early Wednesday, was not charged. Authorities said she cooperated with investigators after she and Slocum surrendered to police Wednesday night.

A source familiar with the case said Colegrove told investigators she saw Slocum start the fire that killed Dan A. Harrington, 41, Lisa C. Harrington, 44, and Joshua P. O'Brien, 24, all of Turnpike Road, Eagle Bridge. Lisa Harrington was Slocum's mother.

Police have not confirmed the victims' names, but The Post-Star received obituaries Thursday for all three victims.

Phyllis Taylor, who said she was Dan Harrington's aunt, was among the victims' family members who attended the arraignment hearing on Thursday night.

"I hope he rots in hell. I hope they make him suffer like they did. ... he's a cruel person," Taylor said.

Washington County Sheriff Roger Leclaire said Thursday that Slocum cooperated with investigators when interviewed late Wednesday. He would not elaborate on what that cooperation entailed.

The Sheriff's Office and State Police held a press conference Thursday afternoon, but offered few details.

"You've got to look at all of the facts, look at all the information and leads that come forward to build a case," Leclaire said.

Leclaire would not say what police believe the motive was for the fire, how or where it was set or whether further charges were expected.

State Police Capt. Steven James said forensic evidence collection was ongoing Thursday, and autopsy results are needed before police can confer with the district attorney's office about additional charges.

"There are a lot of steps still to be taken," he said.

The first-degree arson complaint filed in court lists as evidence the "police investigation" and offers no specifics of the proof.

Slocum, 23, could face 25 years to life in state prison if convicted of the arson count, making it as weighty a charge as second-degree murder. It alleges he set a fire that caused serious physical injury or death to another person.

Slocum was arraigned in a Keene, N.H., court on Thursday morning as a fugitive from justice and waived formal extradition proceedings. When a defendant waives extradition proceedings, he allows himself to be returned to the state where the charges are pending without a protracted legal process.

Slocum is being represented in New York by the Washington County Public Defender's Office. Public Defender Michael Mercure said his office was already representing Slocum on a pending noncriminal harassment charge in Greenwich Town Court, related to a threat made to another person.

It was unknown at press time to whom the threat was made or whether it was related to the fire case.

Mercure said he asked police Wednesday not to question Slocum without a lawyer from his office present. He would not comment further on the case.

Meanwhile, the bodies of the three victims were removed late Wednesday and autopsies were expected to be performed Thursday, Kortright said. Results of those autopsies were not available late Thursday.

Authorities hope to formally identify the victims and determine cause of death during the autopsy, he said.

"There's still a lot of work to be done," Kortright said. "The state (Bureau of) Fire guys say it will take all day (Thursday) to go over the fire scene."

Four vehicles from the state Bureau of Fire were at the remnants of the 118 Turnpike Road home through much of the day, with investigators using dogs to go over the charred shell of the home.

The three victims were found dead in the home after neighbors reported a fire at 4:09 a.m. Wednesday. Slocum shared the home with the family.

Slocum, Colegrove and her 4-month-old son were arrested Wednesday night at a house in Gilsum, N.H., where an uncle of Slocum lives, police said. They fled there in a Ford Mustang sedan that belonged to one of the fire victims, going to the home of Colegrove's mother in western Massachusetts before trying to hide in southwestern New Hampshire.

Leclaire praised the interstate police cooperation, which included "Amber Alerts" pertaining to the baby in four states.

"In my 38 years in law enforcement, it as one of the better cases I've seen as far as cooperation," he said.

Colegrove was released after questioning and was with relatives in Massachusetts on Thursday, Leclaire said.

A memorial of candles and flowers appeared at the top of the driveway of the rural home in the hamlet of Eagle Bridge.

Among the flowers was a bouquet from the staff of the Cumberland Farms store in Cambridge, where Lisa Harrington was a frequent shopper.

The store's manager, Carolyn Cody, said she was well-liked by the store staff, and the deaths had a big impact on residents of the area.

"Everybody's in shock," she said. "We just can't believe this happened."

Funeral services for the victims have been set for Monday at Cambridge United Presbyterian Church. Calling hours will be held Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. at Ackley & Ross Funeral Home in Cambridge.

Reporter Jon Alexander contributed to this report.



Load comments