Board Denies Saugus Juvenile Parole
The Massachusetts Parole Board denied parole to Christopher Berry, 44, who was convicted of first degree murder and burglary in the 1987 stabbing death of Virginia Woodward in a decision released on February 17, 2016. Mr. Berry, who was 16 at the time of the murder, was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole on October 4, 1991 but became parole eligible after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled, retroactively, that juveniles may not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
It was proven at trial that Berry broke into eighty-seven year old Virginia Woodward’s Saugus home during the early morning hours of December 27, 1987. He went into her kitchen, ate a piece of pie, drank some vodka and ripped her telephone off the wall. He then went upstairs into her bedroom, where she was sleeping, stabbed her eight times with a butcher knife. After he finished stabbing her, he smoked a cigarette and extinguished it on the victim’s forehead.
“With no provocation whatsoever, Mr. Berry savagely and senselessly stabbed a beloved grandmother as she slept in her bed,” said District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett. “While the Board’s decision to deny parole is a relief, it is disconcerting that, because of the SJC Diatchenko ruling, Mrs. Woodward’s family must endure this process again in five years.”
Saugus Police Chief Domenic DiMella applauded the Board’s decision. “I believe Mr. Berry continues to pose a threat to public safety so I am pleased that his parole was denied.”
In opposing his parole, Essex Assistant District Attorneys David O’Sullivan and Kim Faitella argued that in addition to the callousness and cruelty he showed for the victim, Mr. Berry has engaged in violence, substance abuse and gang activity while incarcerated as an adult. “The distinctive attributes of youth do not account for the defendant's cruel and callous acts against a vulnerable victim. He went out of his way to ‘confront’ Mrs. Woodward, who presented absolutely no threat to him as a burglar. He was indifferent to her attempts to defend herself, stabbing her eight separate times. And he capped off this act by extinguishing a cigarette on her forehead. Nor does the juvenile brain provide an explanation for a record of extreme instructional disruption and violence stretching into his late thirties.”
The Board ruled that Mr. Berry must wait the maximum term of five years for a review hearing.