LAWRENCE — With the sentencing of Norman Pike, a superior court judge closed the file Tuesday on the once-cold case of whag he termed the “hideous murder of Elee Wadsworth,” the Pike Funeral Home manager killed during a botched December 1976 afternoon burglary at the funeral home.
Lawrence Superior Court Judge Richard E. Welch sentenced Pike to 14-15 years in a state prison under a plea agreement through which Pike, charged with first-degree murder in 2010, admitted to the lesser charge of manslaughter Monday morning, just before he was set to face trial for the murder.
Pike’s attorney, Thomas Ford, described a troubled young man who, then 19 ,had entered his grandfather’s funeral home with two others, planning to steal some $1,400 from a safe to repay a drug debt.
“He was a floundering young man,” Ford said. “He didn’t really have anyone.”
Still, he added that Elee was one of the few people, “if not the only person,” who was “nice” to his client, a teen who he said barely spoke with his father and had been kicked out of the family home after missing curfew.
The victim’s family members, two of whom spoke to Judge Welch about the impact of their aunt’s death, also carried no doubt that Wadsworth had treated the younger Pike kindly, remembering the younger Pike as a generous woman. Wadsworth, who was 65, had raised no children of her own but doted on the young ones who surrounded her, family said.
Robert M. Wadsworth stood at the front of the courtroom Tuesday recounting the days before his aunt was shot three times in the head while working at the funeral home. He recalled that, at age 12, hed had asked days earlier for movie money from his aunt, and she happily tucked it into his palm.