SALEM — A Peabody man learned Wednesday that he will spend up to seven years in state prison for his role in the grisly double murder of a man and a woman in that city in February.
Essex Superior Court Judge Timothy Feeley sentenced Michael Hebb, 46, following his guilty plea to being an accessory after the fact of the murder of 39-year-old Jennifer O’Connor on Feb. 18. She was killed inside a Farm Avenue home that Hebb shared with his uncle.
Hebb also pleaded guilty to attempted arson.
The second murder victim, O’Connor’s fiance, 37-year-old Mark Greenlaw, was fatally shot inside the residence.
Prosecutor Kate MacDougall described Hebb’s crime as “the most egregious form of accessory after the fact that one can imagine.”
She said that after Hebb’s codefendant, Wes Doughty, 40, shot Greenlaw over perceived wrongs that Greenlaw committed against Hebb’s uncle, Hebb went downstairs to find Doughty inflicting unspeakable horror on O’Connor.
MacDougall said Hebb watched as Doughty raped and stabbed O’Connor and slit her throat. Hebb later helped Doughty hide O’Connor’s body in the basement and took steps to try to light the house on fire, though the men ultimately aborted that plan, MacDougall said.
In addition, Hebb helped Doughty initially evade capture, according to prosecutors.
Doughty faces several charges, including rape and two counts of murder and will stand trial at a later date. Prosecutors said Wednesday that Hebb could still be charged with Greenlaw’s murder.
Even without pulling the trigger, defendants can be charged with murder in Massachusetts if they participated in a meaningful way in a slaying.
O’Connor’s father, Ed O’Connor, said outside court that he thought Hebb’s sentence for accessory was too light.
“I can’t think of a more heinous crime for a woman to be raped and stabbed to death,” Ed O’Connor told reporters. “And for a man to watch that and not try to stop it . . . it was awful.”
His wife, Carole, added, “She didn’t deserve any of this.”
MacDougall said in court that Hebb sold crack cocaine out of the home for his uncle and that O’Connor and Greenlaw were planning to move in at the time of the murders.
Hebb’s lawyer, Raymond Buso, said his client moved to the home more than a year earlier to care for his uncle, who has since died.
He said Hebb earned money fixing cars behind the house and, on the night of the murders, he thought Doughty would kill him, his uncle, and his girlfriend if he didn’t help clean up the crime scene.
In the months before the slayings, Buso said, Hebb was not the “primary person” selling drugs out of the residence, but others including Doughty did so.
Greenlaw had recently been released from jail and allegedly planned to “take over the drug dealing” in the residence, Buso said.
He said Hebb didn’t encourage Doughty to commit the murders and, while fearing Doughty would harm him and his uncle in the immediate aftermath, “he did what he felt was the best option at that time.”
“I know the government does not believe” that account, Buso added.
As he spoke, MacDougall shook her head at the prosecution table.
Hebb’s explanation also didn’t pass muster with O’Connor’s parents.
“He was worried about his uncle more than my daughter,” Carole O’Connor said.
Hebb was arrested a couple of days after the murders in Peabody.
Soon after the killings, Doughty allegedly abducted Ken Metz, 64, at knifepoint in Middleton and tied him up with a seat belt in Metz’s 2006 Honda Accord and drove him to a liquor store in Boston, where Metz escaped.
Doughty was later apprehended in South Carolina and faces additional charges of armed carjacking, kidnapping, and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon on a person 60 or older for the alleged attack on Metz.
Ed O’Connor said outside court that Greenlaw was his daughter’s fiance and that he had “a bad reputation.”
He said his daughter “was not a bad person. She was never evil. She never did anything bad.”
His daughter, he said, battled a number of serious health problems during her life.
“Jennifer just wanted a family,” he said. “She just wanted to be normal, and it just didn’t work for her.”
The O’Connors stared solemnly during the hearing at Hebb, who was handcuffed and shackled at the ankles. He wore his graying hair pulled back in a pony tail and gave quiet, short answers when Feeley asked if he understood his rights.
At one point, Feeley asked Hebb if MacDougall’s summary of the facts of the case was “substantially correct.”
“Substantially,” he said.
Feeley also asked Hebb if he wanted to address the court before sentencing.
“No,” Hebb said.
Feeley then sentenced him to no less than six years in state prison and no more than seven, followed by five years of probation.Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.