Fifteen years after fashion writer Christa Worthington was stabbed to death in her Cape Cod, Mass., home with her two-year-old daughter Ava found unharmed nearby, “20/20” will air a two-hour exposé “A Killing on the Cape” on Nov. 24 at 9 p.m.
As a lead-up to the Black Friday program, ABC Radio will run a six-episode weekly podcast series starting Wednesday. Christopher McCowen, the trash collector who was convicted of murder following a three-year investigation, claims his innocence in his first broadcast interview from prison, where he is serving a life sentence without parole. In a 2013 interview with Cape Cod Today’s Sandra Lee, McCowen also repeatedly disputed the verdict, claiming innocence.
During the investigation, police solicited DNA samples from male residents in Truro. Numerous suspects, including her neighbor Tim Arnold and Tony Jackett, the married father of Worthington’s daughter, were investigated.
Reached last week, McCowen’s attorney Gary Pelletier said he expects to make another bid for a new trial, possibly next month. This will be the fourth attempt for a new trial. McCowen’s prior attorney Robert George, who was convicted of helping a client launder money in 2012, did not respond to a request for comment. McCowen’s first attorney, Francis O’Boy, died last year.
Cape and Islands attorney Michael O’Keefe chose not to participate in the “20/20” piece. Having been approached by six media outlets in the past year including ABC, the BBC and People magazine, O’Keefe said he has no interest in speaking with any of them. “My philosophy is simple: I don’t believe in exploiting people’s personal tragedies as entertainment for the masses,” he said. “What is the point of making a television show out of it? Do you see how distasteful that is to some people, particularly to this woman’s daughter? The amount of these TV producers and networks that want to feast on this case, it really becomes obscene after a while.”
However, his office did provide documents regarding the case to the “20/20 team” and Friday a spokeswoman for O’Keefe confirmed a statement had been provided, describing the evidence against McCowen as “overwhelming.”
Worthington daughter’s, Ava, and her guardian, Amyra Chase, chose not to be involved with the program.
An ABC spokeswoman declined to say why “20/20” chose to do the program now. Press material released Tuesday said the two-hour report “takes a look at all the evidence in the case, investigating whether the right man is behind bars.”
Several close friends of Worthington’s also declined to work on the program. One, who asked not to be named said, “The story has been told so many times and each one judges Christa and sensationalizes the story. Who benefits? And why is this of service to the audience except to create more judgment, fear and ratings to make money for the network? Is the network donating a portion of the profits to the family or to women against violence?”
“This is probably the most terrible crime that’s happened on Cape Cod in 30 years,” said filmmaker Arthur Egeli’s, whose latest work “Murder on the Cape” is inspired by the crime and will be available exclusively on Netflix in January. “I am suggesting in the film that he is not 100 percent guilty….It’s that classic story where the survivors tell the history. For everyone who survives it becomes from their point of view.”
The movie required 12 years of off-and-on research and two years of filming, said Egeli, who is now a year-round resident after decades of summering on the Cape. “The media’s coverage of the case cast Worthington as a woman-about-town who liked to date men. It’s so easy for certain people to say — even in the current climate now with Harvey Weinstein, ‘She brought it on herself,’ and that was not true at all….This was a woman who was looking for love. The narrative changed to protect the people who were still here. That’s just the way things go. I guess that’s just natural in similar situations,” he said.
The “20/20” team was said to have spent weeks researching the case this summer on Cape Cod. Peter Manso, author of the 2011 book “Reasonable Doubt: The Fashion Writer, Cape Cod and the Trial of Chris McCowen,” said he spoke with the “20/20” team at length about Cape Cod, racism, law enforcement, bigotry, poor thinking, bad faith on Cape Cod and the winter community. “Perhaps my chief focus, as is obvious in the book, is that not only did they get the wrong guy — arguably ‘framed’ is perhaps too strong a word — settle for getting the wrong guy. The case is about racism, the dark dirty little secret of Cape Cod,” he said.
Manso said, “What do I hope from ABC? Probably something we’re not going to get, which is a broad-based sensitive, sociological-based probing into the various aspects of this case. I would hope that ABC would tell a story of a bizarre two-phase culture — the summer season, the non-summer season; the rich people; the poor people; the straight people; the druggies. It’s a very weird culture. It’s quite wonderful if you’re a writer.”