By Jim Smith
BARNSTABLE, Mass. — The Dublin man accused of murdering his Cape Cod girlfriend was convicted of first-degree murder last Thursday by a Barnstable Superior Court jury.
Peter Groome, who’s 30, was immediately sentenced to life in prison without parole for killing Elsie Korpela in December 1997 in a crime prosecutors describe as one of the most brutal murders on Cape Cod in recent memory.
During the four days of testimony, investigators presented chilling and gory details of how Groome, who came to the U.S. in September 1992, slashed Korpela repeatedly with a sharp object and then crushed her skull with a heavy cement block after the couple had argued at her Hyannis home.
Groome’s lawyer, Peter Muse, had argued unsuccessfully for conviction on a lesser offense, claiming that Groome’s mental capacity was diminished by years of depression and alcohol abuse.
The only defense witness was a psychologist, Dr. Allen Brown, who testified that Groome suffers from "intermittent explosive disorder," a rare psychiatric condition in which one is unable to resist aggressive impulses.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
Brown also said that at interviews at Bridgewater State Hospital, Groome talked about his unhappy childhood experiences in Ireland, including beatings by fellow students and a sexual assault by a teacher.
In 1993, Groome had threatened to leap to his death from Boston’s Tobin Bridge before police transported him to a local hospital for 10 days of psychiatric treatment. Over the next several years he received additional treatment for depression and alcoholism.
According to police, Groome also has a history of belligerence toward women who spurned his advances. One woman had filed a restraining order against him, while another claimed that Groome had smashed her windshield in a fit of rage after stalking her.
In the summer of 1997, just months prior to Korpela’s death, several female Irish students reportedly moved out of the Hyannis area because of Groome’s moody and frightening behavior.
Assistant D.A. Brian Glenny described Groome as a malicious, calculating killer who had positioned Korpela’s body under a car in a ploy to make the murder look like an accident. Groome eventually confessed to the crime, telling police he "went nuts" as he began striking her.
At the time of her death, Korpela was a program director at a group home for mentally disabled adults. Groome, who had a green card, was working as a teacher’s aide at a residential school for students with learning disabilities and emotional problems. They had been dating for several months before her murder.
After the jury rendered its verdict last Thursday, Groome was ordered to sit alone in a front row of the courtroom, where he was surrounded by court officers.
There, pensive and staring ahead, he heard heart-wrenching impact statements from Korpela’s family. "Elsie loved her life," said her sister Katri. "She was full of life and laughter."
"It has been 507 days since Elsie died," said her mother, Toni Korpela. "My heart aches every single day."
After sentencing, Groome was transported to the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Concord, where a determination will be made in the coming weeks about which state prison facility will house him for the rest of his life.