If a state prison sentence of 14 to 15 years sounds lenient for a crime that even a Superior Court judge described Tuesday as a “hideous murder,” (see news story, Page 1), there’s a good reason for that:
Yet the 14- to 15-year term handed to one-time Gloucester teenager Norman Pike firmed up Tuesday as part of a plea agreement — while frankly shortchanging Wadsworth family members who were seeking justice and talked Tuesday of the devastating effect the killing had on their extended family — should not, in any way, diminish the work of the Gloucester Police Department on this extraordinary case.
And that especially includes the efforts of then-Chief of Detectives and now-former interim chief Mike Lane and longtime detective Steve Mizzoni, who worked the case after revisiting and reopening it three years ago, and who remained committed to finding answers, at last, to a three-decades-old Gloucester murder mystery that clearly shocked the community at the time — and, in some ways, had hovered as a cloud over it for too many years going forward.
Lawrence Superior Court Judge Richard E. Welch sentenced Pike to his 14-15 years in a state prison Tuesday, a day after Pike ultimately agreed to a manslaughter plea just minutes before the court was about to begin his trial in first-degree murder charges.
By virtually all counts, no, Pike was not the shooter who fired three bullets into the 65-year-old woman who had long worked as manager for the Pike Funeral Home, then solely owned by Norman Pike’s grandfather, Harold.
Reportedly, the one who pulled the trigger was a man named Richard Kennedy, who died in 2003 in Florida. The other man charged in the case, Gloucester resident Keith Ireland, walked in 2012 after pleading guilty to a lesser charge of breaking and entering, agreeing to cooperate with police against Pike, and drawing a prison term of six to seven years in prison, but with just two years to serve — and that credited for time already served.
Yet it was clear from the 2010 investigation — and many residents clearly suspected at the time — that the 19-year-old punk who bolted for California had a significant role in the crime.
It was Norman, after all, who knew the location of the safe, which the thieves were trying to rifle when Wadsworth reportedly walked in on the trio. It was Norman, of course, who knew that the time was ripe because his grandfather and employees other than Elee were out conducting a funeral. And it was Norman who thus played perhaps as big a role in Wadsworth’s death. That, indeed, was the premise of the murder charge — that poor Elee was brutally gunned down in the commission of a break-in and robbery.
But the fact that Norman Pike was ever identified, tracked down, charged and, yes, convicted and sentenced at all is due to the dedicated police work of Lane, Mizzoni and Massachusetts State Police Detective Joshua Ulrich.
The murder of Elee Wadsworth will never be forgotten in Gloucester, especially by family members who saw and dealt with its very personal impact for years.
But the dedicated work of these public servants should not soon be forgotten, either.
And on a day when we are all assured that Pike, now 55, will remain confined to state prison for more than a decade, at least, we all owe them a round of thanks and congratulations for a job well done.