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.

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.

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“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