Category: Archive

Cape Cod murder trial of Dublin man begins

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jim Smith

BARNSTABLE, Mass. — The trial of the Dublin man accused of bludgeoning his Cape Cod girlfriend to death in December 1997 began Monday in Barnstable Superior Court.

Peter Groome, who is now 30, is charged with the first-degree murder of Elsie Korpela, 31, whose body was discovered under a car at her Hyannis home, her body slashed by a sharp object and her head crushed by a cement block.

In his opening argument to the jury, Assistant D.A. Brian Glenny said that Groome confessed to the murder soon after his arrest, telling officers, "I can’t lie to you fellows anymore. I did it. I killed her."

Glenny said that Groome told police that an angry Korpela had been yelling at him during a heated argument about their relationship just before he allegedly attacked her in her driveway.

Groome’s court-appointed lawyer, Peter Muse, told the jury that most of the prosecution’s claims are not in dispute. Conceding that Groome had likely killed Korpela in a fit of rage, Muse asked the jury to focus upon the why rather than the how of Groome’s brutal assault.

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Signaling that he plans to use a "diminished-capacity" defense strategy, Muse implied that Groome’s actions were unpremeditated and were attributable in large part to a lengthy history of alcoholism and depression.

"He snapped . . . his actions were devoid of any intent or thought process," Muse told the jury.

He said that Groome began drinking in Ireland at age 13 or 14 and failed to achieve sobriety despite numerous attempts in residential treatment. Muse added that Groome’s recurring bouts with depression had resulted in two suicide attempts.

Muse said that one of his key witnesses will be a forensic psychologist, who will testify that Groome was suffering from a "mental impairment" at the time of the murder.

The "diminished-capacity" defense strategy is typically aimed at convincing juries to convict on the lesser charges of second-degree murder or manslaughter. While first-degree murder convictions result in mandatory life sentences, second-degree convictions allow for parole after 15 years.

Groome, who has been held at Bridgewater State Hospital since his arraignment, dropped out of school in Ireland at age 15. He came to the U.S. in 1992 and worked at various jobs with a green card around Quincy and Cape Cod.

He moved to Cape Cod in the summer of 1997 and began striking up casual friendships with Irish students, some of whom quickly grew wary of his moody and volatile disposition.

At the time of his arrest in December 1997, he was working as an aide at a residential program for students with learning disabilities and emotional problems.

Korpela, who had been dating Groome for several months before her death, was a program director at a group home in Hyannis for mentally disabled adults.

On Monday, her family and friends jammed the front rows in the courtroom. The trial is expected to last about one week.

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