By Jim Smith
BARNSTABLE, Mass. — The trial of a Dublin man accused of murdering his Cape Cod girlfriend is scheduled to begin next month in Barnstable Superior Court.
Peter Groome, 30, is charged with the December 1997 killing of Elsie Korpela, 31, whose body was discovered under a car at her Hyannis home, her face slashed and her head crushed by a cement block.
Police say that Groome killed Korpela in a fit of rage during an argument at her home following a weekend together in New York and some drinks at a Hyannis bar.
Prosecutors will portray Groome as a vicious killer who failed in his calculated attempt to portray Korpela’s death as accidental. A cinder block was discovered next to her under the car, in what police presume was a ploy to make it seem that the car had rolled off the block and onto her.
A confession that Groome gave to police on the afternoon of the killing was challenged by Groome’s original lawyer, Drew Segadelli, on the grounds that Groome was deprived of his right to counsel during interrogation.
Never miss an issue of The Irish Echo
Subscribe to one of our great value packages.
Judge Elizabeth Dolan denied that motion to suppress, ruling last Nov. 30 that Groome had waived his Miranda rights and had freely offered statements implicating himself.
Segadelli was replaced as Groome’s lawyer earlier in November by the Committee for Public Counsel, which determined that Segadelli’s 1992 representation of Korpela was a defendant in a misdemeanor case constituted a conflict of interest.
Groome’s new court-appointed lawyer, Peter Muse of Quincy, has appealed the denial of the motion to suppress to the Massachusetts Appeals Court. He is expected to proceed now with a "diminished capacity" defense strategy, based upon Groome’s reported history of depression and alcoholism.
That strategy is typically aimed at convincing juries to convict on lesser changes of second-degree murder or manslaughter.
Segadelli told the Echo that Groome has a long history of binge drinking and suicidal behavior, both here and in Ireland.
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 around Boston and Quincy.
He moved to the Cape in the summer of 1997 and began striking up friendships with Irish students, some of whom soon began distancing themselves from him because of his unpredictable behavior and moody disposition.
Several female Irish students moved out of their Hyannis apartment in August after two fires of suspicious origin. Although Groome was never charged, some of the students suspected he was responsible.
At the time of his arrest in December 1997, he was working as a teacher’s aide at the Chamberlain School in Middleboro, a residential program for children 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 residence in Hyannis for mentally retarded adults.