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State’s highest court rejects appeal by Neil Entwistle

Neil Entwistle appeared in court during his murder trial in 2008 in Woburn.

Lisa Hornak-Pool/Getty Images/File 2008

Neil Entwistle appeared in court during his murder trial in 2008 in Woburn.

The state’s highest court has upheld the murder convictions of Neil Entwistle, the Hopkinton man who killed his wife and 9-month-old daughter in their home in 2006.

“None of the defendant’s claims on appeal warrants reversal of the convictions. We have reviewed the entire trial record ... and conclude that the defendant received a fair trial that was ably tried and judged,” the Supreme Judicial Court said in an opinion released today.

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“The interests of justice do not require the entry of a verdict of a lesser degree of guilt on the murder convictions or a new trial,” said the unanimous opinion, which was written by Justice Ralph Gants.

Entwistle’s wife, Rachel, and daughter, Lillian, were found shot in the master bedroom of the family home in Hopkinton on Jan. 22, 2006. Entwistle was charged and extradited from Britain, where he had fled on Jan. 21. He was convicted in Middlesex Superior Court on two counts of first-degree murder.

Entwistle had, among other things, challenged two warrantless searches of the home made by police, seeking to suppress the evidence that arose from them. Police entered the home after Rachel Entwistle’s mother and two of her friends raised concerns. The bodies of the mother and daughter were found on the second search.

The court said warrantless government searches are “presumptively unreasonable” under the US and state constitutions.

But it said there is an exception for “emergency aid,” which allows police to go into a home when they have reason to believe someone inside may be injured or in imminent danger.

Entwistle had also argued that police had overstepped their bounds during one search when an officer found the VIN number of the family car and another officer looked into a digital camera to see when the last photographs were taken.

The court said the VIN number was in plain sight on a bill lying on the kitchen table. It said the officer’s peek into the digital camera may have been unconsitutional, but “it proved harmless” because all it showed was that Rachel Entwistle was still alive on Jan. 19, the last day pictures had been taken, and that simply added to other evidence that she was alive that day.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Judicial Court has affirmed the conviction of Neil Entwistle for the horrific and cowardly murders of his wife and infant daughter,” Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone said in a statement.

“With today’s decision, the SJC has ruled the grounds of the defendant’s appeal as baseless and Neil Entwistle will continue to spend the rest of his life behind bars for the unimaginable, unforgiveable acts he committed against Rachel and Baby Lillian,” Leone said.

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