Reliability of key witness in slayings of 2 homeless men questioned

Maureen Boyle

Only days before a witness in a grisly murder case testified before a grand jury, his own attorney was in a different court questioning his competency in another case, according to court papers and an attorney for one of accused killers.

The witness once was found incompetent in juvenile court in yet another case and, according to a motion filed last year, “has also been reported to have a brain injury.”

That motion was filed on July 25, 2007 – only nine days before the man testified before a grand jury in the case against two men now accused of killing two homeless men, one of the suspect’s attorneys said.

Eric J. Snow of Bridgewater and James S. Winquist of Weymouth are accused of beating two homeless men to death in May 2005 in a wooded area of Hingham and showing off one of the victim’s hands at a party that summer.

A person walking in the park discovered the decomposing bodies of William P. Chrapan, 44, and David P. Lyons, 46, both formerly of Weymouth, in an abandoned military ammunition bunker on state property adjacent to Bare Cove State Park in Hingham.

Snow’s attorney, Gerald FitzGerald, said this background raises questions about the witness’ testimony before the grand jury in the murder case.

“The grand jury testimony is bracketed by this motion by his own attorney. ...Don’t you think the grand jury should have known about his history? You have to be competent to testify before a grand jury,” FitzGerald said.”

The competency issue had been raised in a shoplifting case against the witness in Hingham District Court.

FitzGerald said the witness now alleges that his client confessed to the homeless men’s killing – a claim the attorney said is untrue – had has claimed to have been the killer himself. Those statements discredit the witness’ reliability, FitzGerald said.

FitzGerald will now be reviewing the witness’ records, including those from the Department of Youth Services. A box containing those records was brought to Brockton Superior Court on Wednesday. FitzGerald had submitted a formal request for the records.

Maureen Boyle can be reached at