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According to neighbors, John was the boy next door. On the night of Sept. 26, 1969, he went to dance and never came home.
Watch: The Pact
Credit: Evelyn McCabe
This is the last photo taken of John McCabe and his family in the summer of 1969.
Clockwise from top left: John's father, Bill, sister Debbie, mother Evelyn, sister Roberta and John.
On the morning of Sept. 27, 1969, John's body was discovered by children playing in a vacant lot.
Credit: 48 Hours
A policeman talks with one of the boys who found John's body.
John McCabe was found lying on his belly with his feet and hands tied behind him, a rope around his neck and tape on his mouth and eyes.
Credit: Lowell Sun
The rope that was found tied around John's neck.
Credit: Middlesex County D.A.'s Office
Scrapings of a foreign material were found on John McCabe's clothing, but without the sophisticated tests that exist today, police could not identify it.
There were no usable fingerprints found with John McCabe's body. Without the benefit of DNA testing -- police couldn't connect any particular suspect to the scene.
Teenagers Mike Ferreira and Nancy Williams were questioned the day John McCabe's body was found because they had given John a ride to the dance.
Credit: Michael Ferreira/Tewksbury Yearbook
Walter Shelley was questioned because he drove a car similar to one that was spotted at the crime scene on the night John McCabe died.
Mike Ferreira and Walter Shelley said they were together the night of the murder.
Ferreira says they took a ride in Shelley's car to buy beer.
John McCabe's funeral was held on Oct. 1, 1969. Hundreds turned out to mourn him. His sister Debbie, supports John's grieving mother.
John McCabe is remembered as a boy who loved to ride his bike and rebuild engines -- a budding engineer, like his father.
John McCabe is also remembered as a boy who loved animals and once brought home an injured goose.
While police investigated his son's case, Bill McCabe kept a record of John's life -- and the investigation.
Despite a father's persistent pleas to police to find his son's killers, the murder investigation went cold for 40 years--and John would never see his sister's children graduate college.
Pictured here are Bill and Evelyn McCabe with their granddaughter, Carolanne.
Sometime in the late 1990s, this photo was taken of Mike Ferreira at a party in Tewksbury. That day would change everyone's life.
Jack Ward, once a close friend of John McCabe's, was also at the party. He would later tell Bill McCabe that a drunken Mike Ferreira accused Walter Shelley of killing John.
Mike Ferreira denies all of Ward's charges and claims it was Ward who said that Walter Shelley killed John McCabe.
In 2003, police questioned Mike Ferreira about Ward's claim. This time Ferreira mentions a new name. He says Edward Alan Brown was with him and Walter Shelley the night John McCabe was killed.
Credit: Edward A. Brown
Edward Alan Brown was 17 the night of murder. He is now retired from the Air Force.
In 2011, when Detective Linda Coughlin was assigned to the case, she zeroed in on Brown, and got him to confess his involvement in the murder of John McCabe.
Credit: Evan McGlinn
Edward Alan Brown told police that he was there when Walter Shelley and Mike Ferreira killed John McCabe.
In April 2011 Brown, left, Ferreira, center, and Shelley are arrested for the murder of John McCabe.
Credit: Lowell Police Dept.
Following the arrests, Middlesex County District Attorney Gerry Leone announces the indictments of Mike Ferreira and Walter Shelley for first-degree murder, and Edward Alan Brown for manslaughter.
Edward Brown testified that John McCabe was killed for flirting with Walter Shelley's girlfriend, Marla Shiner, who was 13 years old at the time.
Credit: Tewksbury Library
Marla Shiner testified for the defense that she was not dating Walter Shelley at the time of John McCabe's death, and that John never flirted with her.
Brown testified that John McCabe was picked up hitchhiking after the dance at the Knights of Columbus Hall, taken to the vacant lot, hogtied with a rope around his neck and left for some time.
Defense Attorney Eric Wilson got Edward Alan Brown to admit he couldn't keep his facts straight.
The jury deliberated just five hours before finding Mike Ferreira not guilty of the murder of John McCabe. Many of the jurors questioned Brown's credibility.
Just days after the not guilty verdict, Bill McCabe passed away and was buried next to his son -- but not before Evelyn promised him to see that someone was held accountable.
Despite the not guilty verdict in the Ferreira trial, two months later, the D.A.'s office presented the same evidence in the murder trial of Walter Shelley.
This time, jurors believed Edward Alan Brown and Walter Shelley was found guilty of murder.
Five months later, Walter Shelley was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole in 15 years.
Evelyn McCabe visited Bill's grave to tell him that someone was finally held accountable for their son's murder.
A young John McCabe and his father, Bill.
A father's search for answers in son's cold case murder