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Cohasset man cleared in death of brother-in-law in birthday party fight

A Cohasset man accused of killing his brother-in-law at a birthday party in May has been cleared of all criminal charges, Norfolk County prosecutors announced today.

John McDonough, 46, was charged with manslaughter and assault and battery after getting into a physical altercation with his brother-in-law, David Hoelzer. Police said Hoelzer, whose birthday it was, had become unruly after consuming too many alcoholic beverages and McDonough put him in a head lock.

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Both men fell to the floor. Hoelzer did not get back up. Emergency personnel found Hoelzer had no pulse and was not breathing.

The case was dropped after a grand jury declined to issue an indictment after reviewing the evidence presented to them, including an autopsy report and other information pertinent to McDonough’s arrest, prosecutors said.

“This was an extensive and thorough process, and we thank the grand jurors for their diligence here,” Norfolk District Attorney Michael W. Morrissey said in a statement. “They had much more information available to them as they weighed these charges than was at the disposal of authorities proximate to the incident. Having reviewed the evidence personally, I understand and accept their refusal to indict.”

McDonough pleaded not guilty at his original arraignment in Quincy District Court.

Sarah N. Mattero can be reached at
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