In life, John C. Salvi III was an anti-abortion fanatic found guilty of murdering two abortion clinic workers.
In death, his conviction is history. Judge Barbara Dortch-Okara, who had sentenced Mr. Salvi to life in prison, voided his convictions because he died before his appeal could be heard.
Mr. Salvi, 24, apparently killed himself in his prison cell last November.
Lee Ann Nichols, 38, and Shannon Lowney, 25, were killed and five others wounded by Mr. Salvi in the Dec. 30, 1994, attacks at two Brookline clinics.
The judge's Jan. 21 decision delivered new pain to the families of his victims. "I have to tell you the truth, it's as if John Salvi is coming from the grave to bring me some hurt," Ruth Nichols, Lee Ann's mother, told WBZ-TV.
Mr. Salvi was sentenced to life in prison without parole last year by Judge Dortch-Okara after a jury rejected his lawyers' arguments that he was insane.
The judge had denied defense claims that Mr. Salvi was incompetent to stand trial. Mr. Salvi's lawyers never disputed the facts of the shooting or the murder charges, but claimed he believed there was a conspiracy against Catholics. The attorney who argued for voiding the convictions, James Sultan, said he relied on a state court ruling that held if a defendant dies before a conviction is reviewed, the charges are dismissed.
"Mr. Salvi is no longer with us, so I think he has suffered the ultimate punishment," Mr. Sultan told a Boston area newspaper. "In our legal system, everybody is entitled to have the fairness of their conviction reviewed on appeal before it is considered legally final and binding. John Salvi never had that opportunity." Mr. Sultan said Mr. Salvi's parents, John and Ann Marie Salvi, were comforted and "thrilled" their son's convictions were erased.
Mr. Salvi was found dead in his cell in the state's maximum security prison. Officials said he was under his bed with a plastic bag tied around his head and his hands and feet bound with laces.
The state medical examiner ruled out foul play and said the death appeared to be a suicide.
Nicki Nichols Gamble, president of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who employed Ms. Lowney, was stunned that Mr. Salvi's name had been cleared, but called it a "minor footnote" to the case. "From my point of view, absolute justice was done in that trial and there can be no doubt about that," she said.
The state wouldn't execute him for killing two abortion clinic workers in 1994, so John C. Salvi III took his own life.
Guards found his body Friday morning under hisxo bed with a plastic garbage bag tied around his head, prison superintendent Ronald Duval said.
The state medical examiner's office issued a preliminary report saying that the death was a suicide -- apparently caused by asphyxiation.
He left no note, and was alone in his cell overnight.
Salvi was serving two consecutive life sentences for the deaths of Lee Ann Nichols and Shannon Lowney during a shooting spree at two neighboring clinics in suburban Brookline. Five people were injured.
Witnesses said Salvi shot Lee Ann Nichols ten times while she begged for mercy.
"This is what you get! You should pray the rosary," the witnesses testified he shouted as he pulled the trigger.
Salvi's death was his parents worst fear come true, but it was not unexpected. His attorneys said he attempted suicide twice before in prison.
"A family member of John's saw John as recent as yesterday," said attorney J.W. Carney. "John was disheveled, his eyes were red, and he was speaking completely incoherently."
Prison officials deny that he attempted suicide, and say they had no knowledge Salvi was having problems. Spokesman Tony Carnevale said that no one indicated that Salvi could "be in any kind of distress" leading to suicide.
Duval said that Salvi's mother, Ann Marie Salvi, had said she was concerned about her son's behavior, but that he had not been placed on a suicide watch or received special care.
Throughout Salvi's trial, Carney maintained that the 24-year- old-defendant was a delusional schizophrenic. The defense argued that Salvi believed the Mafia, Freemasons and Ku Klux Klan were behind an anti-Roman Catholic conspiracy, and that the shootings were part of the battle.
Prosecutors said that he practiced shooting the day before the killings, stocked up on hollow point bullets, and cut his hair after the attack to disguise his appearance.
The jury agreed with the prosecution, finding him guilty of premeditated murder. Prior to his trial, Salvi had issued a statement saying he wanted the death penalty if convicted, but the jury sentenced him to consecutive life terms for the two murders.
Salvi's parents apologized for their son's actions. But Friday, Salvi's mother said that her son should have been in a psychiatric hospital, not a prison.
Now, condolences are being passed the other way, although not from Ruth Ann Nichols, who once said she would kill Salvi herself if she could. *Nichols, the mother of Lee Ann Nichols, said that Salvi was "a bad boy who grew up to be a bad man.""God have mercy on his soul," she said.
John C. Salvi III, who was convicted of killing two people in a shooting spree on two abortion clinics in 1994, killed himself in prison.
Ann Marie Salvi said she was told Friday morning that her son had died of asphyxiation.
She said he had committed suicide, but didn't have details.
"I just found out at 6:30 (Friday morning). It was too hard for me," Mrs. Salvi said by telephone from her Naples, Fla., home.
Salvi, 24, was found during a routine check around 6 a.m. and prison personnel couldn't revive him. He was pronounced dead at 6:55 a.m. at Southland Hospital, a statement said.
Prison officials and the prosecutor's office said authorities believe Salvi killed himself, but they would give no details.
A law enforcement source who spoke on condition of anonymity told The Associated Press that Salvi was found alone in his locked cell with a plastic bag over his head.
Salvi was at least the fifth state inmate to die at his own hands since July 1995. His lawyers said that he twice had tried to commit suicide in jail, a charge authorities have denied.
Salvi was sentenced to two consecutive life terms March 18 after jurors rejected claims that he was insane and convicted him of murdering two receptionists and wounding five other people in the Dec. 30, 1994, rampage. It was the worst anti-abortion violence in U.S. history.
In July, he was transferred to the state's maximum security prison in Walpole, formally known as the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction.
Mrs. Salvi said she had told prison officials she believed her son was in danger of hurting himself.
"My young John is gone, but there are others who will suffer in prison instead of a mental hospital where they belong," she said.
Salvi was arrested the day after the killings when he fired at least 23 shots at a Norfolk, Va., abortion clinic.
In January 1995, when Salvi agreed to return to Massachusetts, he issued a statement saying that if convicted, "I wish to receive the death penalty." He added that if he was found innocent, he would become a Roman Catholic priest.
Defense lawyers at the five-week trial said their client was a paranoid schizophrenic who envisioned himself a warrior fighting an anti-Catholic conspiracy led by the Mafia, Freemasons and the Ku Klux Klan.
But prosecutors argued that Salvi was in control of his senses and deliberately planned his crime. They noted Salvi practiced at a firing range the day before the killings, stocked up on 1,000 deadly hollow-point bullets and even cut his hair after the attack to disguise his appearance.
Salvi, an apprentice hairdresser, walked into the Planned Parenthood clinic in the Boston suburb of Brookline, pulled out a .22-caliber rifle and opened fire. Receptionist Shannon Lowney, 25, was killed and three others were wounded.
Then, he drove two miles to the Preterm Health Services clinic and opened fire again, killing receptionist Lee Ann Nichols, 38, and injuring two others.
"This is what you get! You should pray the rosary!" Salvi screamed as he shot Nichols, according to witnesses.
"I've always wondered what my daughter's last thoughts were when he killed her," Nichols' mother, Ruth Nichols, said today. "And I wonder what John Salvi's last thoughts were after bringing so much grief, pain and sorrow to so many people."
"He was a bad boy who grew up to be a bad man. God have mercy on his soul," she said from her home in North Olmsted, Ohio.
Richard Seron, a security guard who was wounded in an exchange of gunfire with Salvi at Preterm Health Services, said he bore little animosity toward Salvi, whom he described as "more like a rabid animal that lashes out because of the sickness."
First-degree murder carries a mandatory sentence of life without parole. Massachusetts has no death penalty. He had faced the possibility of federal charges, which could have brought the death penalty, but prosecutors opted not to pursue a federal case.
Salvi was the third man to be convicted of murdering abortion clinic workers. Paul Hill was sentenced to death for killing a doctor and an escort in 1994 outside a clinic in Pensacola, Fla. Earlier that year, Michael Griffin was sentenced to life imprisonment for killing a doctor outside another Pensacola clinic in 1993.