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Cape Cod Murder Mystery Solved

Three years of intense murder-mystery investigation, including analysis of hundreds of men's DNA, culminated Friday with the arrest of a local garbage collecter.

The Cape Cod trash hauler was charged Friday with murder in the 2002 stabbing death of a fashion writer, a case that turned a national spotlight on the isolated outer Cape and inspired a best-selling book.

Christopher M. McCowen pleaded innocent and was ordered held without bail. He has been arraigned on charges of first-degree murder and aggravated rape.

Christa Worthington, 46, was found dead on Jan. 6, 2002, in her secluded Truro home, clothed only from her waist up and lying in a bloody pool on her kitchen floor. Her then 2-year-old daughter, Ava, was unhurt but smeared in her mother's blood as she clutched the lifeless body.

As McCowen was charged with, his court-appointed lawyer, Francis O'Boy, described McCowen's mood as "somber."

As CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi reports, investigators took a DNA sample from McCowen's more than a year ago -- well before the sweep of genetic evidence from hundreds of other area men. McCowen was suspect because he collected garbage from Worthington's home and had a lengthy criminal record.

But the state crime lab was apparently so backed it just got around to testing the sample, Alfonsi reports.

The forensic lab blames the testing lag on its workload.

"It took a year to have the result come out," Cape Cod area District Attorney Michael O'Keefe told CBS' Scott Rapoport. "That is the resource issue that we are talking about."

The victim's family breathed a sigh of relief at the news of the DNA match.

"We're happy there's been an arrest," her cousin, Jan Worthington, said Friday outside court. "It's a sad day as well."

Worthington had moved to the Cape in 1998, to the tiny town where she'd spent summers as a child. She became a single mother and left behind the fashion runways of Paris and New York, where she'd carved out a successful career as a fashion writer.

There were no witnesses to her slaying, nothing appeared to be missing from the house and authorities struggled to find a motive.

Police had a DNA profile of a man who had sex with Worthington shortly before her death, but they were unable to immediately identify her partner. Her body was found clad only from the waist up with a single stab wound to her chest.

Several ex-boyfriends came under scrutiny during the investigation, including Tim Arnold, who found her body, and Tony Jackett, Provincetown's shellfish constable who fathered her child.


A 48 Hours report in 2003 detailed a list of possible suspects worthy of an Agatha Christie book. Also on the list was a 29-year-old heroin addict and former prostitute, who was allegedly having an affair with Christa's 73-year-old father, a former Massachusetts assistant district attorney.

Worthington's family and friends offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

In January, as the three-year anniversary of the murder passed, investigators began randomly collecting DNA evidence from men in Truro, a town on the outer Cape with a year-round population of less than 2,000. Civil liberties groups were outraged, calling the practice "a serious intrusion on personal privacy" a demanding that it stop.

O'Boy declined to say whether McCowen had given his DNA.

A year after the murder, author and fellow Truro resident Maria Flook published "Invisible Eden: A Story of Love and Murder on Cape Cod," which became a New York Times and Amazon.com best seller. The book outraged those close to Worthington for its portrayal of her as sexually promiscuous and her family as aloof and remote.

In the book, Cape and Islands District Attorney Michael O'Keefe makes disparaging remarks about Worthington, prompting her family and friends to demand that he excuse himself from the case. He refused, but apologized to the family and appointed an assistant district attorney from neighboring Plymouth County to play a leading role in the investigation.

The Cape Cod Times reported that McCowen has a lengthy criminal history in Florida involving burglary, trafficking stolen property, grand theft and motor vehicle theft.

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