By Jim Smith
BARNSTABLE, Mass. – Accused killer Peter Groome appeared in Barnstable Superior Court Monday for a pre-trial conference. The 29-year-old Dublin man is charged with the murder of a Cape Cod woman, Elsie Korpela, whose body was discovered last Dec. 8 under a car at her Hyannis home, her head crushed by a heavy object and her face slashed.
According to Groome’s court-appointed lawyer, Drew Segadelli, the first-degree murder trial is expected to begin early this summer. In the meantime, Groome remains under observation at Bridgewater State hospital, where is being treated with anti-depressant medication.
Segadelli told the Echo after Monday’s hearing that Groome suffered from “diminished capacity” at the time of the crime because of mental illness and alcohol abuse. He said that Groome has a long history of depression and had attempted to kill himself on several occasions before his alleged involvement in the murder.
Segadelli said that one of Groome’s suicide attempts occurred in Ireland, while another involved an aborted plan to leap off of Boston’s Tobin Bridge. “His binge drinking and his history of depression will be significant factors in this case,” Segadelli said.
Segadelli also intends to suppress evidence obtained during Groome’s reported confession to the state police. “He was interrogated for many hours without counsel present.” he said. “There might have been some coercion there, and his rights may have been violated.”
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Groome, who was employed as a teaching assistant at a residential school for disturbed adolescents at the time of the murder, had moved to the U.S. about five years ago. He moved to Cape Cod from the Boston are last June and began striking up friendships with Irish students working there for the summer.
As the summer wore on, some of those students began distancing themselves from Groome, who reportedly became alternately morose and boisterous when drinking. After two fires at their Hyannis apartment in August, several of the girls flew home to Ireland earlier than they had planned, suspecting that the volatile Groome was responsible for the blaze.
Groome had been dating the 31-year-old Korpela for several months prior to her murder. At the time of her death, she was program director of a group residence for developmentally disabled elderly people in Hyannis. Four days after she was murdered, Korpela was scheduled to receive an award in Boston at a ceremony honoring her for outstanding performance in her work with the mentally disabled.
Prosecutors will attempt to portray Groome as a vicious killer who failed in his calculated attempt to portray Korpela’s murder as accidental. A cinder block was discovered next to her under the car, in what the police presume was a ploy to make it seem that the car had rolled off of the block and onto Korpela.
Describing the murder as “a heinous crime and a terrible tragedy for the Korpela family,” first Assistant District Attorney Michael O”Keefe said that his office intends “to prosecute this case very vigorously.”
Groome is due back in court June 4 for another pre-trial hearing.