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FRONTLINE Show #1411
Air Date: February 6, 1996
Murder on "Abortion Row"
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on FRONTLINE, a shocking murder.
REPORTER: We had a shooting at an abortion clinic in the 1000 block
ANNOUNCER: The victim_
SHANNON LOWNEY: My name is Shannon Lowney.
ANNOUNCER: The accused gunman_
JOHN SALVI: I am not insane. I am not incompetent.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: He said, "Mom, I was the thief on the cross with
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: An absolute deformity of Christianity.
ANNOUNCER: In the fevered climate of a holy war, two lives tragically
collide. Tonight, "Murder on 'Abortion Row'."
PRO-CHOICE DEMONSTRATORS: Women will decide our fate, not the church,
not the state! Women will decide our fate, not the church, not the state!
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATORS: Please be a mother to your child! Your baby
has a heartbeat!
RECEPTIONIST: Hello, Planned Parenthood. Do you have an appointment for
an abortion somewhere? Okay. What we would do first is make you an appointment,
okay? You can come here or you can go elsewhere. And then I'm going to have you
speak with a counselor and what the counselor does_
NARRATOR: There are three women's health clinics along a two-mile
stretch of road in Brookline, Massachusetts. Anti-abortion activists call it
BETH WATERS: The only time the protesters bother me_ I mean, I can
forget that they're there. I'm used to_
NARRATOR: Beth Waters is the head nurse at Planned Parenthood.
BETH WATERS: It's when I happen to walk through the door at the same
time in the morning as someone who the protesters really affected and that
person's crying and needs, you know, 10 or 15 minutes just to get themselves
recovered to even be able to fill out their forms or say why they're here.
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: Your baby is not a criminal! Why should it
receive the death penalty! Don't let Planned Parenthood kill your baby! Ask
them to show you_
NARRATOR: Bill Cotter is a devout Catholic who has been a full-time
anti-abortion activist for seven years.
BILL COTTER: It just seemed very self-evident to me it was very wrong.
It was obvious that it was killing a human being, that life began at conception
and didn't seem at all controversial to me.
PRO-CHOICE DEMONSTRATORS: Safe, legal and on demand abortion rights
throughout the land! Safe, legal and on demand abortion rights throughout the
BETH WATERS: They say in the media, you know, there needs to be more
debate about the_ no, there doesn't need to be debate. This is a legal choice
and a legal right that women in this country have, to have an abortion, and we
don't need any more debate about that. We've had plenty of debate and the
courts have said that this is legal.
NARRATOR: The clinics have been a battleground of protest and
confrontation for years. Lieutenant Bill McDermott has watched it from the
Lt. BILL McDERMOTT: They were a constant group of people who showed up
predictably every day at every clinic at a certain time and did what they had
to do, whether it be sing or pray or hold cards, and then leave. You could set
your clock by them, your watch, by the time they came, by the time they left.
NARRATOR: He noticed nothing out of the ordinary about a young man in
the crowd in early 1994.
Lt. BILL McDERMOTT: I used to call them "mechanics" because they wore
work boots, dungarees. There was nothing unique about their dress. They dressed
like_ like a mechanic would. And what struck me about this group_ there was
about seven or ten of them. They were white males who got there early and
didn't really mingle with the big body of the group, the prayer vigil people.
They always stayed on the outside.
Nothing he did caught my attention.
NARRATOR: Richard Serrone, a security guard, had just finished target
practice when he reported one day for duty at the PreTerm clinic and saw the
same young man.
RICHARD SERRONE: I spotted a young man enter the front door, dressed in
a black spy-type coat with lots of pockets and big cuffs. This alarmed me right
away. He was acting kind of furtively. So what I did was to gaze at him and put
my hand on the butt of my service revolver. And while he walked the length of
the corridor, I tailed him and escorted him out the rear door, from where he
disappeared into the neighborhood.
BILL COTTER: December 30th of 1994, a Friday morning, it was a cold
winter morning. And as I typically was, I was down in front of the PreTerm
abortion clinic in Brookline with another individual. We were sidewalk
counseling there from about 6:30, 6:40 in the morning. It was fairly
DAVID KEENE: She was sick and I told her to stay home, but it was just
typical of her that she was afraid that somebody would call and not be able to
get the help they need.
NARRATOR: David Keene was the boyfriend of Shannon Lowney, a 25-year-old
receptionist at Planned Parenthood.
DAVID KEENE: I kissed her good-bye and she ran across the street and
that's the last I_ last time I ever saw her.
BETH WATERS: I was in a procedure with the doctor and I heard a funny
noise. I didn't hear the_ the gunshots and neither did the doctor, but I heard
a funny_ it was a funny yell for help. And I said, "Can you check on them?" And
just as he was opening the door, one of the other nurses yelled in that she
needed me, also, and I started running out and she said, as we were_ she's,
like, "And bring the emergency cart and the oxygen. Shannon's been shot."
NARRATOR: Minutes later, the gunman appeared at a second clinic down the
WITNESS: He just came in the clinic, opened up the door and started
shooting anything he seen. He did not hesitate. He thought the office was open,
so he just started shooting. And I was in front of the lady or I would have got
shot, too. I think I was the only one that didn't get shot.
NARRATOR: Ed McDonough heard the news and rushed to PreTerm, where his
fiancee, Leeanne Nichols, worked. When he got there, he was sent on to the
ED McDONOUGH: So they took me into a room and they asked me to_ talk, to
see what she was wearing. And they came in with her engagement ring. And right
then and there, I_ I fell. I just_ that was it. I couldn't believe it.
NARRATOR: Leeanne Nichols and Shannon Lowney were dead. Five others had
been critically injured.
PRO-CHOICE DEMONSTRATORS: Murderer! Murderer! Murderer! Murderer!
PRO-CHOICE DEMONSTRATOR: All of these people are to blame and the blood
of these women and the other people who were shot in Brookline is on your
BILL COTTER: I don't feel that I have anything to apologize for because
I didn't do anything. I mean, this thing was a great tragedy and_
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: I feel very sad. When I got the news, I went to
REPORTER: You never thought it would happen here in Boston.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: No.
NARRATOR: Bernard Law, the Cardinal of Boston, was in his historic
residence when he heard the news of the clinic shootings.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: I immediately went_ I went to the chapel and_ and
prayed. And I took a_ I took a_ I took a notebook with me. I knew that it was
going to be necessary for me to address this. From my perspective, the violence
of the killing of these two young women was part of a larger violence that I
saw as_ as an evil_ the violence of abortion itself.
NARRATOR: Cardinal Law emerged from his chapel with a hand-written
statement that called for a moratorium on anti-abortion protests outside the
Rev. DONALD SPITZ: Stop killing babies! Stop killing babies! You need to
stop it! Stop it!
NARRATOR: News of the moratorium spread quickly across the country and
in Norfolk, Virginia, the cardinal's call for peace was scorned by Reverend
Donald Spitz, an ex-Catholic turned evangelical Christian.
Rev. DONALD SPITZ: It was like the most ridiculous thing I ever heard
of. What would happen if the protesters were out there and they conduced a
woman not to go in there and kill her child and because of his words, those
protesters were not there and that woman went in and killed her child? Would
the blood of that baby be on the hands of Cardinal Law? I think he would have a
part of that.
NARRATOR: That night in Boston, pro-choice supporters grieved. At the
two clinics where Shannon Lowney and Leeanne Nichols had died earlier that day,
the entranceways had become shrines to the first female casualties slain in the
PRO-CHOICE DEMONSTRATOR: We're being murdered for exercising our right
to choice. We're being murdered for being women.
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: They're not going to tell you that you can
die from this simple little surgical procedure, that they can perforate your
NARRATOR: The next day, 1,200 miles away in Norfolk, Virginia, Reverend
Spitz and his followers were ending their protest outside a women's health
clinic. Fifteen minutes later, a gunman suddenly appeared at the building's
main entrance and sprayed the lobby with a hail of bullets. Nobody was hurt.
Within 15 minutes, police surrounded a pick-up truck and the gunman was
arrested. His name was John Salvi. For Reverend Spitz, he was a divine
Rev. DONALD SPITZ: I personally believe that God brought John Salvi here
because there was support for him for the concept of_ that unborn babies
deserve the same protection as born babies by whatever means necessary.
MAN AT VIRGINIA JAIL: I think probably the most remarkable thing to me
is when Salvi came in here, he was not a zealot. I expected this guy to come in
here and be full of fire and brimstone and, you know, be screaming "Jesus
saves" and all that. He didn't. He was very quiet. He didn't seem to have any
particular interest in religion.
NARRATOR: Salvi was interviewed by a defense psychiatrist.
PSYCHIATRIST: So with that background, let me just come back and say_
first of all, at some point, do you plan to share what happened, you know,
whether you did or didn't do the crime, with your attorneys, or do you plan
never to reveal that to them?
JOHN SALVI: My plea is a plea of silence. There are certain questions
which I just do not wish to answer.
PSYCHIATRIST: At any time, even if_
JOHN SALVI: That does not indicate one way or the other. "Did you eat a
Burger King at 3:00 o'clock in the morning?"
JOHN SALVI: Silence.
PSYCHIATRIST: Okay. I understand that. But, you know, once you get to
JOHN SALVI: What_ how does that mean that I did eat there or didn't eat
PSYCHIATRIST: It doesn't.
JOHN SALVI: You know, in what way? I_ you know, I don't choose to answer
certain questions, just as certain questions you asked me I didn't want to
PSYCHIATRIST: All right.
NARRATOR: During the first week after his arrest, John Salvi appeared
quite normal during several court appearances.
TASWELL HUBBARD: I'd say he's in very good spirits. He's an intelligent
NARRATOR: A Virginia public defender, Taswell Hubbard, was Salvi's first
TASWELL HUBBARD: Otherwise, I found him very competent and a very nice
NARRATOR: But when Salvi arrived in Boston, his new attorney, J.W.
Carney, had a different answer.
J.W. CARNEY: I'm having real concerns about his mental health and his
mental condition and his ability to serve as a defendant in a criminal case.
PSYCHIATRIST: Let's just kind of get started, see how it goes here.
First, you're how old, Mr. Salvi?
JOHN SALVI: Twenty-two years old.
PSYCHIATRIST: Okay. And were you employed at the time that you_ before
you ended up in jail?
JOHN SALVI: Oh, well, yes. I was.
PSYCHIATRIST: What were you doing?
JOHN SALVI: I'm a hairdresser and_ an assistant.
PSYCHIATRIST: Okay. Where were you born?
JOHN SALVI: I was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on 03-02-72.
NARRATOR: Salvi grew up north of Salem, in Ipswich, Massachusetts, the
only son of Anne Marie, a piano teacher, and John, a dental technician. He
attended St. Stanislav Roman Catholic church, where his grandfather played the
organ and his mother was the choir leader. Father John Jusseaume was the parish
Father JOHN JUSSEAUME: He was a well-behaved child. He was an only
child, but he_ and his parents spent so much time in wanting him to be a_ you
know, a good citizen, a good member of the church, you know? He was_ he was an
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: He was a very religious boy. He asked to become an
altar boy and we thought that was wonderful. We agreed to that.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: All the families knew one another, so it was like one
big family, and when you attended mass on a Sunday, you got to see people you
knew and loved and it was a community activity, as well as a religious
Father JOHN JUSSEAUME: He was a very good altar boy and one who enjoyed
serving, so it was_ everything was just fine, you know? It's_ that's why it's
so puzzling, what happened later on in his life.
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you have any unusual beliefs, as a Catholic, or is it
pretty straight Catholic church, in terms of your own attitudes?
JOHN SALVI: My beliefs as a Catholic would be more along the lines of
exactly what the church has to say. The Pope went to a conference in Cairo, or
some cardinals went there, and I was for everything that they were for and
against everything that they were against.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: I think it's generally understood that the
Catholic church is pro-life, that we respect every human being from the first
moment of conception to the last moment of natural death and every moment in
between. For me, the difference is a matter of life or death, so it matters
profoundly. And there's no way that I could walk away from that.
NARRATOR: Bernard Law had led the fight against abortion from the moment
he became cardinal of Boston in 1984. In his first public pronouncement,
Cardinal Law described abortion as "the primordial evil of our time."
The morning after the murders, Cardinal Law received a visit from Bill Cotter,
leader of Operation Rescue.
BILL COTTER: The day after the shooting, I went over to the cardinal's
residence, rang his bell and asked to see him. And he showed me his statement
that had in it a request for a moratorium. How could anybody read this
statement and not infer from it that it is our presence, our demonstrations,
our rhetoric that is the catalyst for the shootings, because if you have the
shooting and then you say, "Okay, get away from the clinic," it's a very
natural conclusion to say, "Well, gee, the people in front of the clinic, the
demonstrators, the picketers, the prayers, the counselors must be in some way a
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: I was giving what I thought was a reasoned
explanation as to why I felt it would be best to refrain from this and I was
appealing to people individually and collectively to consider what I had to say
with respect. And that's what I said, basically, to_ to Mr. Cotter.
NARRATOR: The cardinal and the Operation Rescue leader had been battling
for years over the proper tactics the anti-abortion movement should use against
the clinics. Since 1988, Cotter had attempted to shut the clinics down by
physical blockades and invasions and had been arrested more than 40 times.
BILL COTTER: If abortion is murder, we've got to really act like it's
murder. We've got to put our bodies on the lines, make a tangible sacrifice, to
make a tangible effort to actually stop the killing, not just hope that it will
be stopped by a politician or a judge or something. But if it's happening now,
we've got to do something now.
NARRATOR: But in 1991, he broke a court injunction prohibiting such
activity and he was sentenced to two and a half years in prison. In jail Bill
Cotter received an important visitor.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: I had felt a certain admiration for persons who
would feel so strongly about the pro-life movement that they would be willing
to risk even imprisonment. But I have never felt that it was appropriate for
the church to be involved in organizing Operation Rescue activities. I just
felt that that was not right.
NARRATOR: Cardinal Law's call for a moratorium had now become a
nationwide controversy. The moratorium had already been endorsed by several New
England bishops, but elsewhere in the country the Boston cardinal's call for
peace outside the clinics received little support.
In New York City, Cardinal John O'Connor, arguably the most powerful Catholic
leader in the country, told pro-lifers in his diocese that they should continue
their protests. In Boston, Cardinal Law downplayed the controversy.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: One is always happy when one's friends are with
them, but as a matter of fact, that didn't occur and that's fine. I am
archbishop of Boston. I'm not archbishop of New York. And they know that
they're not archbishop of Boston. So I did what I needed to do.
NIKKI NICHOLS GAMBLE: I call this evening upon every political, moral
and religious leader across the country and in Boston and Massachusetts to
demand that the anti-abortion movement stop demonstrating in front of
NARRATOR: Nikki Nichols Gamble is president of the Boston chapter of
NIKKI NICHOLS GAMBLE: _and that the movement cease their inflammatory
rhetoric that has fostered this climate that we must end. We must end the
climate of fear and violence.
NARRATOR: Outside the Brookline clinics, pro-choice activists
commemorated the two victims. Leeanne Nichols would be remembered more
privately, but Shannon Lowney had become much more a public figure.
1st FUNERAL SPEAKER: Every single day, Shannon was a light in the lives
of women in need of help, in need of comfort, in need of compassion. It's that
image we should take with us as we leave here today, the warm reassurance that
Shannon's light will not only live on in the lives of those she knew, but in
the lives of every woman in America through a deep communion with the Planned
CLERGY WOMAN: Farewell, Shannon. The world is better for your having
lived. We and all whose lives you touched are better for having known you. We
loved you living. We love you now.
NARRATOR: Shannon Lowney was baptized in the Roman Catholic faith by her
parents, whose ties to the church were strong. Before meeting and marrying in
their 30s, Shannon's father, Bill, a history teacher, had served a decade as a
religious brother in the Holy Cross order. Shannon's mother, Joan, a music
teacher, had been a nun for 10 years.
JOAN LOWNEY: I was brought up in a very strict Catholic family and in
the days in which I_ I am a woman of my time and in the time that I was brought
up, I accepted dogma and I accepted the faith as it was presented to me. But
very early in my parenthood, I heard a Jesuit priest talk about parenting and
one of the things he said that affected me very much was that all of us, as
parents, have a responsibility to pass on to our children the strongly held
beliefs we have. The children's responsibility is to reject that belief, try it
out, examine it, wrestle with it, and either come back to it or not.
BILL LOWNEY: And we really became that way ourselves. In our own lives,
we made decisions that were sometimes contrary to the general public's vision
of the way you should do things. But we've done that ourselves, as individuals,
and wanted to support that and do support that with our own children.
NARRATOR: Shannon was very close to her older sister, Meghan.
MEGHAN LOWNEY: I think we had a great advantage in being only two years
apart and so our experiences were a lot the same. We were seeing things from a
similar age. And I think, secondly, we were just born close.
NARRATOR: Liam Lowney was Shannon's younger brother.
LIAM LOWNEY: She was a very fun person. You can see that in her
childhood, growing up, when she was smiling all the time. And she smiled
throughout her life. I think the smile says a lot about a person.
NARRATOR: In high school, Shannon Lowney had two passions she inherited
from her parents: her mother's love for music and her father's specialty,
history. She was a straight-A student, but Shannon sometimes discovered she'd
pay a price for her high achievements.
SUE SOLOMON: She had a very definite sense of what was right and what
was wrong from a very early age and kids are definitely eager to jump on that
kind of a piety kind of thing going on and I think she got stomped on for that
a lot of times.
NARRATOR: Sue Solomon was Shannon's best friend from early childhood
through high school.
SUE SOLOMON: I remember there was a trip to Washington and a bunch of
girls had decided to kind of ditch another girl and leave her and, kind of,
like, "Come on. Let's go." And Shannon just wouldn't do it. She wouldn't go. So
she spent the day with this girl, you know? And that's always they way she was,
you know, kind of looking out for the little guy, making sure nobody was
getting stepped on. She was_ she was very special.
NARRATOR: When he was 13, John Salvi and his parents moved to Naples,
Florida, where they bought a modest bungalow in a middle class neighborhood.
Salvi was struggling academically at Naples High School, but in his sophomore
year, he focused his energies on wrestling, the school's most prestigious
sport. He started on the junior varsity team.
Arthur Ogden was his coach.
ARTHUR OGDEN: John was, from that perspective, a model student. I liked
John. I liked him a great deal then. John's temperament, when it came to
wrestling, I think, can be summed up in one word. He was intense. He did not
like defeat. And many times I would find myself after John had lost a match
trying to talk with him to point out some of the good things that he did. No,
he did not have a great record, but that seems to me to be secondary to what he
was looking for. And I kind of think he was looking for a personal identity.
NARRATOR: Paul Chamberlain became John Salvi's best friend.
PAUL CHAMBERLAIN: He was_ he was taking the vitamins more and the shakes
and mixing this and it was God wanted him bigger, is what it was, is what he
would tell Donald and I. God was making him lift the weights. He was helping
him get stronger. And we started thinking, "Well, John's getting a little
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: He was reading the Bible all the time. He would carry a
Bible with him to school. And, you know, I thought it was a good_ maybe a
little bit on the fanatical side to be reading all the time, reading the Bible
all the time, but then if you're going to be a fanatic about something, the
Bible isn't a bad thing to be a fanatic about.
NARRATOR: In his senior year at high school, John Salvi walked away from
his dream of becoming a star wrestler when he realized he couldn't make the
ARTHUR OGDEN: He did not come and discuss it with me, but I could
understand why_ why he would leave. And I was very disappointed, did not have
the opportunity to contact him. When I finally did contact him, he just said
that he had a job.
PAUL CHAMBERLAIN: He was constantly in church or God wanted him to do
this or God wanted him to do that, which basically isn't wrong, but it was to
make him bigger and stronger and things like that. He basically went his
separate ways and it was, "Hi. How're you doing?" in the hallways and that was_
that was basically all it was. There was no more going out.
NARRATOR: When he graduated from high school, John Salvi was ranked
205th out of 265 students in his class. Soon afterwards Salvi enrolled in a
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: He tried to become a firefighter. He had passed
everything. And there was one_ one last thing to do and that was to run I think
it was less than a mile. It could have been a mile. But he had been a
cross-country runner and that would have been the absolute simplest thing in
the entire test. And he couldn't do it. And I was told that he just stopped,
held his head and refused to do the run.
PSYCHIATRIST: What was the message you were anxious to put out at that
JOHN SALVI: Well, a few things, like, I don't think that the Catholic
church is addressing.
PSYCHIATRIST: And what is that?
JOHN SALVI: The financial persecution of Catholics.
PSYCHIATRIST: Please_ I mean_
JOHN SALVI: In this country as well as worldwide. They know who the
Catholics are, laying off certain Catholics. This occurs also not only in the
business world, but also in the public school systems, as well as police
departments and fire departments. It's a lay-off procedure for Catholics.
PSYCHIATRIST: And how do you know this is going on?
JOHN SALVI: Everyone knows that it's going on.
NARRATOR: When Shannon Lowney graduated from high school with honors,
she chose to join her sister at Boston College rather than go to Notre Dame,
her father's alma mater.
BILL LOWNEY: She really hated to not go to Notre Dame, so we had a tough
night. I remember that very well. But I said to her, "You can only walk in your
NARRATOR: Boston College is a Catholic university run by the Jesuit
order. Their historic encouragement of rigorous intellectual pursuit also
placed its staff and students in conflict with the church hierarchy. One day,
Shannon wanted Kristin Korn , one of her roommates, to go to a protest rally.
KRISTIN KORN: The women were protesting the patriarchal society at
Boston College and they were sitting in a circle at_ with one woman in the
center, holding up kind of a stuffed sheet on a pole. She invited everyone to
come in and do what they wanted to this representative of the patriarchy at
B.C. and the women ran into the center of the circle, screaming and kicking
this_ this object and_ and spitting on it and_ I was shocked and I think that a
lot of the other people who were watching were shocked, also. And Shannon was
furious. She was so upset. She thought that that was just the sort of feminist
ideal and attitude that was setting feminism back.
NARRATOR: But Shannon also had a running argument about the role of
women with her 80-year-old grandfather.
JOAN LOWNEY: He came from a generation in which women were expected to
be homemakers and were expected to support their husband. And Shannon came from
a generation, and from her own personal philosophy, that women were to be
people in their own right. So that was a discussion they had over and over and
LIAM LOWNEY: Shannon went through what I referred to as "the stage" that
both my sisters went through, where they became militant about feminism and
issues like that. And I was only a high school kid and I didn't know much about
it and, really, at that point, didn't care. However, I remember a time coming
back from my grandmother's house. It was Meghan, Shannon and I driving in the
truck and I wanted us to drive faster so that we could get back and see Jack
the Ripper. It was, you know, some miniseries that was on. And she went on_
off on me for a good period of time about how I could watch something that
glorifies a man that did such horrible things to women. We had numerous fights
about things like that.
NARRATOR: In her sophomore year, Shannon Lowney took a controversial
course in radical feminism taught by Mary Daly, a theology professor at Boston
MARY DALY: I was a feminist before one could use the word, before I even
knew the word, when I was a little kid, when I would say, "Why can't girls be
altar girls?" You know, "What's wrong with that?" Then I no longer wanted girls
to be altar girls or women to be priests. I just wanted out. But that took a
JOAN LOWNEY: Mary Daly writes a good deal about "beyond God, the
father." The whole concept of God is not necessarily male. So this idea of a_
of a woman who could call herself Christian or call herself Catholic, who could
grow up in a culture, but could still question it_ this was very valuable to
Shannon because here was Mary Daly, who had done something like that.
NARRATOR: Jennifer Mernell was Shannon's roommate.
JENNIFER MERNELL: She wasn't angry and negative about the Catholic
church. She just had chosen_ found something else, through her knowledge and
her education, that suited her, that sat with her, that, you know, didn't
create conflict for her. It wasn't a negative, you know, angry thing. It was
just, you know, what she found through the course of her life.
MARY DALY: She was a very, very quiet student, in my experience. And
although I had many radical students the year that she was in my class in 1989
_ overtly radical, activist _ she just didn't jump out in that way. But the
quiet ones are often the ones who are absorbing the most. It's_ it's sinking
in. It's organically developing a radical feminist consciousness and it
blossoms later. And this was an astonishing example of_ of that.
NARRATOR: Shannon had become a campus activist and she now wanted to
stage a debate among male professors called "Men and Abortion." The first
person she approached was her history professor, Paul Breines.
PAUL BREINES: I have felt, in my numerous years at Boston College, that
the issue of abortion is really the_ the main issue which one, as a faculty
member or as a student, really has to make a very conscious decision to take
the risk to bring that subject up and to talk about it here. I mean, it really_
I think it's the taboo subject_
That's not an answer. You're just here harassing people.
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: They're murdering babies every day.
PAUL BREINES: Murdering babies every day?
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: Yes.
PAUL BREINES: That's what's going on?
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: What else is that?
NARRATOR: Breines was a pro-choice activist who often confronted
pro-life protesters outside the clinics.
PAUL BREINES: Don't you have a mind of your own? Do you have to listen
to your organizer? You can't speak?
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Jesus is Lord!
PAUL BREINES: There's a thought.
ANTI-ABORTION DEMONSTRATOR: Hallelujah!
PAUL BREINES: When I was a college undergraduate, my then-girlfriend,
who subsequently became my wife, got pregnant. We tried to deal as responsibly
as we could, as 20-year-olds, with that issue and we agreed that she would have
an abortion. And certainly, after that point, for me, in a deep, emotional way,
my commitment to the woman's right to a free and safe and hygienic abortion, as
risky as it may be, is the best thing. It seemed good for me, but I thought it
was really best for_ for women. And that's why I'm pro-choice.
PETER KREEFT: All human beings have a right to life. Our unborn
children are members of the human race. They're human beings, so they have a
right to life. Or, alternatively, to kill an innocent human being is
intrinsically wrong and abortion kills an innocent human being, therefore it's
NARRATOR: Shannon asked Peter Kreeft, a philosophy professor, to
represent the pro-life view.
PETER KREEFT: Women, like men, have a right to control their own bodies
and my right to swing my fist ends at your nose. And a man does not have
another body inside of his womb because he doesn't have a womb and a woman
does, so there's a special case for a woman. A woman has a responsibility and a
privilege that a man doesn't have of given birth to another human being.
PAUL BREINES: From the standpoint of the anti-choice people, women tend
to be recognized rather_ almost not at all, that what's central is the womb,
the fetus. And I feel that women are not instruments or vessels for the
production of infants, but people who give birth.
NARRATOR: Shannon then asked Louie Haag, an ex-Catholic priest teaching
ethics, to participate in the debate.
LOUIS HAAG: She made it fairly clear that she came down on the side of
choice. And one of the things that I tried to do was get her to_ to go beyond
that. I suggested that the question was not pro-life or pro-choice. Those are
too simple. I would argue that if the absence of brain wave is the medically
and morally accepted criterion for death, that index ought to be equally
important on the front end of the spectrum. And we know that we do not have
human brain wave activity until the beginning of the third trimester. I am
suggesting that abortion in the first two trimesters does not constitute,
morally, the equivalent of homicide, of murder. And that, I think, is where the
debate must be engaged.
NARRATOR: In her senior year at Boston College, Shannon Lowney spent her
Christmas break on a Jesuit missionary program which provided American college
kids with their first experience in the third world. In a diary she kept,
Shannon wrote about her 12-day stay in a poor Ecuadorian village.
READER: "The stories the children have told me already of dead brothers
and sisters ground me in the reality of their existence. Death is not sanitized
here. It is part of daily life. The children clamor to take out our garbage,
surely to claim those things which we found unusable. Yesterday we through out
a load of ant-infested candy and today the children are eating it anyway. I am
ridden with a dull guilt that I want to walk away and never look back. Right
now I feel like the smell that permeates my clothes, my hair, my skin is
something that has crept into my soul. I hope I can shake this misery without
losing its impact on my point of view.
MEGHAN LOWNEY: Her experience each day, waking up to the poverty and,
really, the despair of the people with whom she was sharing those days was_ it
was really tremendous. And she was dropped in this place, as an outsider, not
to really affect change in 12 days, but to learn. And I think that had a really
dramatic impact on her.
NARRATOR: On a sunny June day in 1991, Shannon Lowney graduated from
Boston College with a magna cum laude degree in history.
JOAN LOWNEY: Oh! Her graduation from Boston College_ we were just so
proud. I can't tell you how proud we were.
BILL LOWNEY: I was elated and_ and she was and she just smiled from ear
to ear. We gloried in her success and it was a very, very, very special time in
our own history.
NARRATOR: Three and a half weeks after her murder, the president of
Boston Collage, Father Donald Monan, had decided to personally conduct a
memorial mass for Shannon. The Jesuit's decision to memorialize a clinic worker
set off an immediate media controversy with Bill Cotter of Operation Rescue.
BILL COTTER: Well, we said in the press release that the mass in honor
of Shannon Lowney was scandalous and, in a sense, sacrilegious because it was
using the sacrament of the Eucharist to bestow honor on the life and, by
extension, the work of Shannon Lowney and that work was the procurement of
abortions. That really is a betrayal of the Jesuit tradition. It's a betrayal
of_ of the Catholic tradition and it's something that's really remiss in a
shepherd of the church.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: From everything I know, this was a young woman who
was doing what she thought was right. Do I think that it's a good thing, in and
of itself, for a Catholic to be working in an abortion clinic? Well, clearly, I
BILL COTTER: I think it's valid to ask this question: Had Boston College
been truly and faithfully a Catholic college, truly and faithfully teaching the
Catholic faith, would Shannon Lowney be alive today?
JOAN LOWNEY: Shannon believed in people's having strongly held beliefs.
She would appreciate those strongly held beliefs, and so do we. But despite the
fact that those people believe it was inappropriate for a Catholic college to
acknowledge her passing, I personally am very grateful to Father Monan for
focusing on the fact that she was a young woman who lived out her beliefs and
respected that. They said, "This bright and caring young woman was snatched
away and we mourn her passing."
NARRATOR: In Naples, Florida, John Salvi still lived at home with his
parents and worked part-time for a family friend, Mark Roberts.
MARK ROBERTS: He_ he used working for me as a workout moreso than a job.
He liked the idea that what I did gave him a workout on a daily basis or
whatever. when he came to work for me, he was getting into body-building and
that type thing. I learned that he was a type guy that if I, for a day, would
give him a list of things I wanted done, he'd always get them done. You could
not stand over him and tell him how to do something, though. It never worked
with him. He had to do things his own way.
NARRATOR: But Mark Roberts had no reason to be suspicious when his
employee wanted to buy his .22-caliber semi-automatic.
MARK ROBERTS: I took it one time to shoot and I took John Salvi with me
and we went out in the woods and shot some cans and that kind of thing. But at
the time that wife was pregnant, I just decided I didn't want it in the house
and I debated getting the gun destroyed, but I thought, "Well, it's going to"_
he had asked about it and wanted it and I thought, "Well, it's going to a good
family. I know the family." I never thought that it would get in any kind of
trouble or anything like that.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: A couple of times, he came to the dinner table and I
was fixing dinner and he said to me, "Mom, are you trying to poison me?" And I_
I looked at him and I said, "John, why would you think a thing like this?" And
he wouldn't answer. He wouldn't reply. He wouldn't_ he would_ I wouldn't get
any feedback. There were times I would get so angry with him, I would yell at
him at the top of my lungs. I_ it was feelings that I had, like I wanted to
shake him and just get a reply, but I wasn't getting a reply. There was no
MARK ROBERTS: At the same time that was happening, his personality
completely changed. He got to where he could go into a rage. I was very careful
what I said to him. He would just blow off. You would be afraid when you were
around him sometimes. But then on the other hand, he could be so nice and it
was just kind of_ you got used to dealing with that.
NARRATOR: One day on a job site, John Salvi exposed himself to a
MARK ROBERTS: I believe what he had_ was_ started to do was he basically
was going to urinate off the roof, which_ that's bad enough, but a lady starts
yelling back at him and I then peek over just as he's pulling his pants back
up. She told me what he had done to_ in front of her and I decided, at that
point, I_ I had a problem. And I was actually afraid to tell him that I was
going to fire him or whatever. And he worked in such a situation where it was
just part-time and that_ that I decided that what_ the best thing to do was I
just told him that work was slowing up and he ought to go find something else.
And that was just the way I_ I was afraid he'd come back or do something to me
or whatever, so I was trying to part on good terms with him.
NARRATOR: John Salvi needed a new start and decided to move back to
Ipswich, Massachusetts, where he had spent his childhood. In Ipswich, Salvi
moved to a second-floor room in an uncle's house. It was right next door to a
garage owned by his cousin, Charlie Hall.
CHARLIE HALL: I never thought John Salvi would become the kind of
headline news that he is because while he was around here, he was a quiet
person and never seemed to have giant aspirations, never thought he would do
anything quite like that.
NARRATOR: Salvi used to drop by Charlie's garage to borrow tools for his
CHARLIE HALL: I thought he was a pretty hard-working guy. He always
seemed to have a job, was always keeping himself busy. He seemed to be a pretty
normal guy, in most respects.
We never discussed abortion. I did notice that he had a certain strong
anti-abortion sentiment, especially considering the fact that those stickers
were on the back of his truck.
NARRATOR: The anti-abortion stickers on Salvi's truck were the first
outward signs of his interest in the abortion issue. Three months later, when
his parents arrived for a visit, they noticed another change in their son.
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: His apartment was the filthiest place I've ever seen.
There were maggots everywhere. To say that food was stuck to things and the
rubbish had never been taken out_ and he was_ hadn't bathed in God knows how
long. He said, "John the Baptist lived in the desert on grasshoppers and honey"
and he said, "and he didn't bathe all the time and he didn't_ and he was the
finest man that ever lived" or "one of the finest men that ever lived." And I
said, "Well, you_ you have to clean this place." And his mother and I cleaned
NARRATOR: Salvi now had a landscaping job, driving spikes through
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: He said that he had asked God to tell Satan that every
time he drives a stake_ a spike into the_ with the sledgehammer into this
railroad tie that that would be like a spike going through Satan's heart. And
he said that he also prayed that Satan would know that it was he who drove the
ANNE MARIE SALVI: I said, "Don't think about Satan." I said, "It's
frightening to think about Satan." I said, "Think about Jesus. Think about
love. Think about nice things. Don't think about Satan. It's too frightening."
And he said_ then he thought a couple of minutes and he said, "Mom," he said,
"I guess it wasn't very smart of me to challenge Satan."
JOHN SALVI: Now, a Catholic girl that gets an abortion is not bright. At
all. For the main reason is you don't want to be outnumbered too much.
Abortion, in a great way, is wiping out the Catholic church.
PSYCHIATRIST: Now, do you_ do you oppose abortion for_
JOHN SALVI: Catholics have the wrong outlook on life. They'll say, "Oh,
if we're not financially ready, we won't get married." That's not what you say.
The Catholic people are weak, very weak.
PSYCHIATRIST: Listen to my question.
JOHN SALVI: You have to have a government. You have to have a structure
in society. We can't be a bunch of monkeys.
PSYCHIATRIST: Okay. Do you oppose abortion only for Catholic individuals
or for all individuals?
JOHN SALVI: Do I oppose_ could you please repeat that?
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you oppose abortion only for Catholics or for all
JOHN SALVI: I would advise all individuals not to. I don't think it's
good. That's my opinion.
BARBARA BELL: You mothers will never be the same after your baby's dead
NARRATOR: In Brookline, Massachusetts, a women's health clinic run by
Planned Parenthood had an opening for a receptionist. Clinic director Alice
Verhoeven interviewed Shannon Lowney for the job.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: I remember thinking that here was this woman from an
Irish Catholic family, a graduate of B.C., and it was somewhat ironic that she
was applying for a job at Planned Parenthood. And I talked with her about those
issues_ how would her family feel?
MEGHAN LOWNEY: As children, we were given the choice to choose our own
spiritual path and I think that was tremendously freeing for us. And so I think
that was an experience early on in our lives where we felt we had choice and we
were empowered by that choice. So as a person growing and developing her own
way of thinking and believing, Shannon really believed everyone had choice and
everyone needed to have choice.
JOAN LOWNEY: That's why she worked there without a blink of an eye. But
the picture for Shannon at Planned Parenthood was broader than the abortion
issue and that's important. She was there to serve women in a very broad
context, whether it is to help them get some basic medical care that they need,
whether it is to get screening for cervical cancer_ I mean, there are many
reasons to go to Planned Parenthood. But if it came to the abortion issue, if
it was for an abortion, Shannon fully agreed with their right to have that and
she treated them with respect, if that's what their choice was.
NARRATOR: Inside the clinic, Shannon Lowney and her co-workers did their
best to cope with the effects of the protesters outside.
BARBARA BELL: Don't kill your baby! Don't kill your baby!
BETH WATERS: They call it "sidewalk counseling" and they're not
counseling anyone. They're showing horrible pictures of fetuses. The average
patient that comes in here is nowhere near that pregnant and they have to walk
through that and they have to be told that they're killing their baby. They
have to be told that these people are going to help them. How are they going to
help them? Are they going to take them into their homes? No, they're not doing
that. They just give them pamphlets. That's what they do. It's not sidewalk
counseling, it's harassment.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: Our phone staff and our reception staff are absolutely
critical to give the first signal to patients that we are a good place to come
to, that we welcome them and we care about them. She was a master at handling,
you know, the_ the phone calls and the reception of people walking into the
clinic. She had_ she had an innate ability to connect with people in a very
short period of time.
MEGHAN LOWNEY: Her first reaction was to try to reason and say, "Why is
it that you believe that way? I believe differently. Can we talk about this?"
And so as she first started at Planned Parenthood, she would actually greet the
protesters and kind of have a dialogue_ attempt to have a dialogue.
JOAN LOWNEY: "Do you understand what's going on in here? This is not an
abortion clinic. This is a women's health center. Do you understand the other
kinds of work we do? Do you understand that the Supreme Court has said that
women have a right to seek health care and abortions, too, if that's their
choice?" And when she could not engage them in dialogue, this was a source of
enormous frustration to her.
NARRATOR: At Repro Associates, another women's health clinic down the
street from Planned Parenthood, Leeanne Nichols decided she needed a change.
She'd worked for four years as a telephone counselor, but now she wanted a
different job. She was encouraged to try another field altogether by her
friend, Eileen MacDougall.
EILEEN MacDOUGALL: I spoke to her on several occasions and tried to get
her to at least give me her resume because I was working at a financial
institution that was much closer for her and a much better commute. And said,
"You know, let me see what I can find for you here," but I could never even get
her to send me a resume. Leeanne's commitment was to working in clinics.
NARRATOR: In September, 1994, Leeanne Nichols went to the third clinic
on Brookline's main street, PreTerm, where she became the receptionist.
EILEEN MacDOUGALL: She had a very sweet voice. You know, if you look at
a picture of her, she has a very sweet face and "sweet" is probably the word
you'll hear consistently. Leeanne was just a sweet type of person.
NARRATOR: Leeanne Nichols was the first sweetheart for her finance, Ed
ED McDONOUGH: In 1987, we went to a Red Sox game and we happened to sit
next to Leeanne. We went on a date the following week and she brought me a
flower. It was the nicest thing that anyone ever gave me. No one ever had
brought me a flower. And we just spent our whole time together ever since
NARRATOR: The couple began to build a future together when they bought a
small cottage in rural New Hampshire.
ED McDONOUGH: Our house was_ it was a fixer-upper, but we didn't really
mind working on this house. It was a nice place for our cat. Butterscotch was
our little_ little kitten, our little kid. You know, Leeanne loved that cat
more than anything. We had little nicknames for each other. She was Mummy
Scotch and I was Daddy Scotch. We just wanted to start living, you know, the
American dream, to live, work and survive.
NARRATOR: Shannon now had a boyfriend, David Keene. They'd met working
part-time at a pizzeria during college. David says he fell in love with her
DAVID KEENE: It was contagious. She smiled and other people smiled or
she laughed and other people laughed. She really, not even trying, could change
the world around her by just being herself. I was worried that there's no way
she would want to be with me, you know? And here she was, this brilliant
student, doing all these_ even then, going to Ecuador, doing_ being involved in
school and I was hard-pressed to, you know, show up at work and make it to one
class a week or_ the single reason why I actually had the drive to push for a
college degree was Shannon.
NARRATOR: At the clinic Shannon settled into a routine and was now a
familiar figure to protesters outside. Operation Rescue was no longer
attempting blockades, but instead staged prayer vigils and demonstrations on
BARBARA BELL: I can take all the pictures I want. It's a free country.
Isn't it? All right. Oh, no, it ain't no "some degree."
MAN IN STREET: You shut up.
BARBARA BELL: You make me. You make me shut up!
BARBARA BELL: You know, I take pictures of everybody that's out there
and, you know, just to_ for my_ for my album and stuff.
NARRATOR: Barbara Bell is a veteran Operation Rescue activist who's been
arrested 33 times and she quickly sized up a new protester who'd appeared
outside the clinic one morning.
BARBARA BELL: I met John Salvi in front of Planned Parenthood. You know,
the second Saturday of every month, we have a prayer vigil where the Catholics
come out. I went over to him and asked him_ you know, introduced myself and
talked to him for a few minutes and this kid was very hostile even then. I took
pictures of him. He got very, very upset and started cussing and swearing and
yelling at me and didn't want his picture taken.
And when the prayer group came in sight, I had said to one guy, I said, "John,
please watch this kid here." I said, "This kid is off base. There's something
wrong with him. He's not in tune with the rest of us. He's not here for prayer.
I don't know what he's here for. But he was just cussing and swearing at me and
I just don't trust him in what's going on." That was the first time I met John
NARRATOR: John Salvi had moved into another community closer to the
clinics and was living in a rooming house in Everett, Massachusetts, a
working-class town on the edge of Boston.
Mary Stoddard was John Salvi's landlady.
MARY STODDARD: He was a very nice, quiet gentleman and he always paid
his rent on time and very polite. He always called me "Miss Mary." And he went
out with a couple of girls. One girl lived here and one didn't.
NARRATOR: Arlene Anderson dated John Salvi for a few months.
ARLENE ANDERSON: He was a very loving human being, very caring, loved
children, very polite. Couldn't say a bad thing about him at the time I knew
ANNE MARIE SALVI: I did meet one of his girlfriends, Arlene, and she
said to me, she said, "I just want you to know, Mrs. Salvi, that John is such a
gentleman" and I_ I felt happy about that. Those were nice words for a mother
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: A very nice girl.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: Very nice girl. And I was glad to see he was dating
NARRATOR: In August, 1994, John Salvi came to a Roman Catholic church
just a few blocks down the street from the Everett, Massachusetts, rooming
house where he still lived. Father Edmund Sevoko, the parish priest of
Immaculate Conception, met for 15 minutes with Salvi in his rectory office.
Father EDMUND SEVOKO: He came here and he wanted to preach at all of the
masses and I told him that was absolutely out of the question. I mean, he just
was not qualified to do that. He was not pleased and_ because he thought that
he could really educate these people as to how terrible abortion was.
NARRATOR: During a visit to Everett, Salvi's parents urged their son to
move out of his rooming house.
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: We told him we'd like him to get an apartment and that
way he'd be able to cook and have his own bathroom. Well, he did get the
apartment and we went and helped by things for the apartment that he needed. We
saw him the next day and he said_ he looked terrible and he says, "I was up all
night. Evil was at the_ in the apartment," trying to get him. He said, "I was
up all night praying and reading the Bible to keep the evil back_ away."
NARRATOR: John Salvi soon appeared at a Baptist church a mile and a half
down the street from Immaculate Conception. Reverend Tom Coots, pastor of
Glendale Baptist, was just starting a Sunday service when he saw Salvi for the
Rev. TOM COOTS: I noticed when John came in, he had something in his
hand and he was trying to get my attention. And I ignored him because I was
afraid of_ he might interrupt our service. During the prayer time, John Salvi
gave another gentleman in our service this rolled item which he had. And this
gentleman is a gentleman that is really against abortion. He immediately
started weeping and crying and that is when he handed me the picture. I first
got a very sick feeling because the picture was a picture of an aborted baby,
but I was quite sick about it. And then John left.
NARRATOR: John Salvi's parents had purchased a 40-foot mobile home and
decided it might be good for their son if they took him on a tour across
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: The trip was_ he didn't talk to us. When he did, it was
repetition, over and over, things in the Bible. And that went on to the point
where you'd want to start screaming. At least I did. So maybe that says
something about my mental health, but I just couldn't listen to it anymore. We
went to Las Vegas as part of our trip. He said, "It's an evil place," wanted to
get out of there. He said_ the only thing he was doing was he'd read the Bible
and he'd take the dog for a walk. And he spent the rest of the time in the
ANNE MARIE SALVI: You know, I said, "John, you just can't stay_ it isn't
healthy. It isn't healthy for you to stay in the trailer. It's wonderful to
read the Bible, but you can't just read the Bible and walk the dog, read the
Bible and walk the dog." And he said_ he was sitting at the dinette and he had
his Bible open in front of him and he said, "Mom"_ he was_ a desperation in his
voice. He said, "Mom," he says, "don't you understand? I was the thief on the
cross with Jesus." And what could John and I say? We were_ we were rendered
speechless. We didn't know what to_ what to think, what to do.
JOHN SALVI: But there's no reason that anyone would think I was insane.
I've never acted insane or carried myself in an insane way. Why would they
think I was insane?
ANNE MARIE SALVI: We thought if he_ if he isn't mentally ill, how are we
to know? And that'll_ there's such a stigma and it's so difficult to find a
position. You just can't find employment.
JOHN SALVI: Does that mean you're crazy now?
PSYCHIATRIST: Let me answer you.
JOHN SALVI: That's called a 5th Amendment right.
PSYCHIATRIST: Okay. Let me answer your question that you're asking me.
SHANNON LOWNEY: My name is Shannon Lowney and I work for a group called
Advocates for Children and Advocates is the child abuse prevention council for
Androscoggin County. And as an educator, it's my role to go into classrooms
like this one_
NARRATOR: Shannon Lowney had quit her job at Planned Parenthood to move
to Lewiston, Maine, where her boyfriend, David Keene, had found a job.
NADINE EDRIS: She related to the kids wonderfully. They were very
interested to hear what she had to say. She was going_
NARRATOR: Nadine Edris had hired Shannon to talk to teenagers in local
high schools about sexual abuse.
NADINE EDRIS: _talk about with kids. And Shannon was able to do it in a
way that the kids could really get a lot of information. And they were also
very interested in her, as a person.
SHANNON LOWNEY: If you see the kinds of stuff that can happen to kids
who are abused_ you feel alone. You feel like you don't have anybody to talk
to, as we said. You're afraid you won't be believed_
MEGHAN LOWNEY: She was really having a sense of impact with the people
that she was working with. At the same time, she was growing herself and
saying, "I'm pretty good at this and I think I can find a place in this world
for me to talk about the truth, to empower people to move themselves from
situations of oppression and abuse" and, you know, whatever it was that was
keeping them from really developing themselves.
SHANNON LOWNEY: You have a right to say no to any unwanted sexual touch,
okay? What's important to remember, though, is that it's not your
responsibility to say no. It is not your responsibility to tell someone. It is
not your responsibility to get away or to say no, but these are your rights,
okay? You have a right to_
LIAM LOWNEY: Shannon became a vegetarian in college. She had a book
called The Politics of Meat and animals have rights. Here we go,
"Rights, rights, rights." She would sit there and riddle me for a good half an
hour at dinner when I'd be eating my burger or steak or whatever it might be at
the time, and then always finish the conversation with, "I'm only saying this
because I love you," you know? And I would really question that while she was
talking to me. I was quite an antagonist, though, of course, with both of my
sisters. I would put my meat right in front of their face, my hamburgers and
turkey or whatever right in front of their face and try to get a rise out of
them. So I guess I was deserving of anything she said. But she only said it
because she loved me.
HALLIE TWOMEY: Shannon did not like my husband being a hunter. She did
not like him killing anything, didn't_ doesn't agree.
NARRATOR: Hallie Twomey is David Keene's younger sister.
HALLIE TWOMEY: She didn't like the fact that we have guns in the house,
even though they're locked up and kept, you know, out of sight, out of mind.
She thought that was terrible of us and really upset my husband to the point of
he wouldn't even discuss it with her. He just said, "It's my life, my thing,
and that's it." You know, "You have to respect that."
But she would go to every extent to let us know that she didn't agree with it
and that she wanted them out of the house and just, you know_ you know, I've
always thought it's kind of ironic, the way things turned out, that, you know,
it's so sad. But we_ my husband is a responsible gun owner and his idea was,
"What I believe is my belief and if you don't believe that or understand, well,
then, that's fine, but"_ you know, she wanted us to get rid of the guns.
NARRATOR: On a visit home to Florida, John Salvi dropped by his old
boss, Mark Roberts, to show off the gun that Roberts had sold him.
MARK ROBERTS: He had told me that he had changed it himself. He had
taken the gun and cut the stock, as far as the wood part of it, down. And it
was a brown color originally and it was a pretty gun and he had literally
changed_ changed it in length and that and he just painted the whole thing
black. And he had put a_ this silencer on the end of it and he said he was
using out in the woods to shoot cans and wasn't disturbing anybody, so_ it kind
of bothered me when he showed me the gun, but I didn't think anything of it.
And that was the last time I saw the gun and, actually, the last time I saw
NARRATOR: The first gun in the war against abortion clinics went off in
Pensacola, Florida, 630 miles north of John Salvi's home town. In March, 1993,
Michael Griffin killed Dr. David Gunn. But in the radical fringe of the
anti-abortion movement, a statement supporting the murder circulated.
PAUL HILL: I believe it was morally justified and that's the truth and
often the truth does seem extreme in a decadent culture that_
NARRATOR: It was originated by Paul Hill, a fundamentalist Christian
minister, and signed by 30 radical pro-life leaders from across the country,
including Donald Spitz of Norfolk, Virginia.
DONALD SPITZ: I believed what Michael Griffin did would be analogous to
someone going up and shooting a Nazi guard, shooting some Nazis, trying to save
the innocent Jews. I believe this in that same vein. And I can understand
perfectly why somebody would do that. It makes perfect sense. It makes perfect
sense to me.
NARRATOR: In July, 1994, Paul Hill murdered Dr. John Britton and a
security guard during a protest outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola,
PAUL HILL: Now it's time to defend the unborn the same way you defend
slaves about to be murdered.
REPORTER: Mr. Hill, why did you do it? Why did you do it?
PSYCHIATRIST: Tell me, a few months ago a man in Florida killed a doctor
who performed abortions. Do you recall? I don't remember his name.
JOHN SALVI: No. What was that?
PSYCHIATRIST: Do you remember reading about it? Reading about it_ he
shot a physician to death and he was charged and convicted of murder. Do you
recall reading about it?
JOHN SALVI: I've heard different things in the paper about different
individuals doing stuff like that.
PSYCHIATRIST: Okay. Do you support that kind of conduct or not?
JOHN SALVI: Do I support it? That's a question that I_ I don't_ does the
Pope support it? If the Pope supported it, I support it.
PSYCHIATRIST: All right.
JOHN SALVI: How does the Pope feel about it?
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: I think what we have is we have a person who
decided to do something which was wrong and decided to do a wrong thing in a
very misguided way because of something that is good and that is the defense of
human life. Does that mean that everything that contributed to that good
therefore is to blame? I don't think so. I don't think anyone could rationally
MARY DALY: He has to disassociate himself from John Salvi, but he's not
really, in my opinion, in a different position from Salvi, essentially. Salvi
is a product of that mindset and that kind of education. He's a little altar
boy who maintained his extremely conservative views to the utmost and followed
through on them. So I think they're on a continuum.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: I absolutely hold many other people responsible for the
crime and the crimes_ he may have pulled the trigger, but he was part of_ he
was incited, I believe, by the movement. He was moved by the rhetoric and I
think that there are other people out there who are potential Salvis who are
being moved by the rhetoric, by the hate.
NARRATOR: In her diary, Shannon wrestled with the issue of violence.
READER: "I cannot get over the stumbling block of the futility of
violence in any other context than direct self-defense. I do not understand how
violence can bring about change in the mind of someone on the other side of a
dispute. Hate is a destructive force in and of itself."
NARRATOR: Shannon also wrote about a recurring nightmare she had.
READER: "In my dream of being chased and killed, the man chasing me
either wears a mask or has no face. He seems to be shooting and I always awake
in a sweat."
NARRATOR: In September, 1994, Alice Verhoeven received a phone call from
Shannon, who was moving back to Boston.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: It was a_ you know, it was one of those calls out of
the blue and we were actually looking for someone, at the time. Our
receptionist had_ had just resigned and we were looking for someone. And
Shannon called and I remember walking through the halls and saying, "Guess
who's coming back?" I couldn't have been more delighted.
NARRATOR: In September, 1994, John Salvi packed up his pick-up truck and
moved out of his rooming house on the edge of Boston. After an hour's drive
north, Salvi arrived in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, a seaside resort town
that in the cheap off-season is a lonely haven for drifters. Salvi moved into a
bachelor apartment where Jeff Marshall, a 19-year-old laborer, was his
JEFF MARSHALL: I thought he was gay. I'll be honest with you. I did. I
had nothing against that, as far as that goes, but I mean, I just thought he
was a little_ kind of feminine, as far as_ you know, I mean, he was very quiet,
you know? I never saw anyone come in the building with him, leave with him. I
mean, no_ no noise coming from his apartment.
NARRATOR: During the day John Salvi attended a beauty school to become a
hairdresser and after school worked part-time as an assistant at a local hair
salon. Rick Griffin was his boss.
RICK GRIFFIN: At the beginning, the people in the salon thought, "Gee,
he's odd," and he did have a certain oddness about him, but it was mainly that
he was so quiet. And, you know, he was only a young kid and we figured we could
bring him out of that a little bit.
NARRATOR: Jesse Marcoux, a hairdresser, used to play backgammon with
Salvi during breaks.
JESSE MARCOUX: I don't know. He just didn't look like a hairdresser,
didn't_ didn't have the people skills to be a hairdresser. You got to talk to
people if you're going to cut their hair. "How do you want it?" Right? John had
a hard time doing that.
RICK GRIFFIN: He never really mentioned abortion in the salon. And only
a few times, after other people in the salon had noticed the picture on his
truck, did it become a topic of conversation amongst the employees.
JESSE MARCOUX: I saw the picture and I asked him one day what it was and
he told me it was a picture of Jesus. A picture of a fetus didn't quite look
like a picture of Jesus, but I wasn't going to push it. I just said, "All
right," and let it go.
NARRATOR: On December 11th, 1994, John Salvi attended an office
Christmas party hosted by Rick Griffin.
RICK GRIFFIN: He was drinking, like, straight vodka with a little bit of
cranberry juice _ no ice or anything _ and so he was unusually gregarious. And
one of the girls who was also_ had been to another party and she came pretty
much in a good mood, she thought, "Well"_ she said to some of the other people
around, "Well, I'm going to bring John out of his shell." So she grabs John,
gives him a great, big kiss and it lasts, like, about 10 seconds. And the
minute, you know, John comes up for air, he just says, "Will you go home with
And it was very strange because, you know, we_ we were just_ everyone just sat
there and laughed_ you know, the people that were there. And instead of acting
like he was being made fun of, he just sort of went along with it. And everyone
wondered if it was a joke, but he pursued this girl. And the odd part of it is,
the girl was married and everything and she was_ she said, "John, I'm married.
I have two kids. That was just a Christmas kiss."
JESSE MARCOUX: He never talked about his past at all. He never said
nothing about his family or any friends, because I asked him. I said, "You got
a girlfriend?" He'd say no. I'd say, "You got a boyfriend?" He'd say no. I
said, "How about a dog?" You know, and he'd say no to that. Strange kid.
NARRATOR: In Fairfield, Connecticut, Shannon Lowney spent a special
Christmas with her family.
LIAM LOWNEY: Now, Shannon had this big brainstorm. Everyone would buy
each other a present, but you could only spend $20. Now, we knew we were, you
know, gypped because that meant Shannon would only spend $20 on each of us, so
we went along with it. And it actually turned out very nice because every
present was so thoughtful.
JOAN LOWNEY: And Shannon came up with wonderful gifts and we opened them
slowly, one at a time, and laughed a lot about it.
BILL LOWNEY: Well, that's been sort of a history in the family with my
two daughters. I always give them a flannel nightgown at Christmas to keep them
MEGHAN LOWNEY: So, you know, it was the same as always, but she really
was such a strong young woman with such future. It's very clear in my own_ my
own memory, looking back at Christmas when I saw her, that she was herself, you
know_ finally becoming herself.
NARRATOR: At the beauty salon, John Salvi had a new boss, Doreen
DOREEN POTTER: My first impression of him was that he was like a stick
of dynamite fixing to go off. John Salvi scared me just by the way that he was.
And I felt very uncomfortable being alone with him in the room.
NARRATOR: Potter's fears were realized on the afternoon of December
DOREEN POTTER: The guy said that he needed a haircut and John said he
was doing it and I said, "No, you won't be doing this haircut," that someone
else would be doing it. And he got kind of angry and he came from around the
counter and he grabbed the guy by the back of the coat and ripped his coat off
of him and the guy, at that point, was, like, you know, "If you had a bad day,
don't take it out on me."
And I kind of looked at John. I was, like, "What are you doing?" And he came
up to me and he said, "I'm sorry. It doesn't happen very often." And in my
mind, I'm thinking, "Okay, John. How often does this happen?"
And it was, like, 30 minutes after that, his parents came in. And I know if it
was my parents coming in from out of town, I'd be excited_ you know, hugs,
shake hands, something like that. And there was no emotion whatsoever with his
mother and father and that was my opportunity to just say, "John, why don't you
just go ahead, take some time off. Spend it with your family."
NARRATOR: On December 24th, John Salvi and his parents attended a
Christmas Eve mass at a small Roman Catholic church in Seabrook, New
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: It was like a nightmare. We went to the 5:00 o'clock
ANNE MARIE SALVI: It just happened so suddenly. It was like Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde. One minute he's singing and the next minute I could see him
getting extremely agitated.
KEVIN LONERGAN: I heard a disturbance next to me with some profanities,
which, obviously, you never hear in church, and especially on Christmas Eve.
And I just sort of thought I was hearing things, at first, but then I heard a
second profanity and I observed a woman grabbing a younger man and the younger
man spun around and went walking, very deliberate, down the center aisle
towards the altar.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: I immediately went to see my husband and I said,
"John, you've got to get up there. John's in the_ he just_ he just stomped down
the aisle and he's screaming."
KATHLEEN O'DONAHUE: And I was just standing there thinking that this
man is not doing something normal. He's going to walk up and do something
funny. I don't know what it is, but I think he has a gun, because he had both
his hands in his pockets and he just kept going.
NARRATOR: Kathleen O'Donahue, a 15-year-old school girl, was standing at
the back of the church.
KATHLEEN O'DONAHUE: And just the whole time, I was ready to drop to the
floor because I thought he had a gun.
KEVIN LONERGAN: He pointed right at Father Haim and called him a
"fuckin' whore." When he was coming down the aisle, as he was looking at all
the parishioners, he was calling them a "bunch of pussies."
KATHLEEN O'DONAHUE: He kept one hand in his pocket and I thought that he
was just going to whip it out and start shooting. So I was terrified.
KEVIN LONERGAN: We started to lead him out of the church because it was
causing quite a disturbance and the ushers had opened the door so that we could
get him out and he knew he was losing his audience and he started to try to
break free of myself and the other gentlemen. And I was grabbed from behind by
somebody who identified themself as a state trooper, who said, "I have the
situation under control."
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: I have_ I have trouble believing_ I was there. I have
trouble believing it. When we got back to his apartment, he ranted and raved.
His mother and I were sitting there in disbelief.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: He said, "If_ if it had been my son, I wouldn't have
stopped him from saying what he had to say." And then he became perfectly
silent. He just started_ he was staring and gazing. I_
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: For about 10, 15 minutes.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: Yeah. I tried to talk to him and_
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: And then_
ANNE MARIE SALVI: _he didn't seem to_
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: _like nothing happened, he stopped_ he said, "Well, how
about spaghetti for supper? I'll make us some spaghetti." I mean, it_ we
couldn't eat anything.
ANNE MARIE SALVI: No. We didn't eat anything_
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: He made a thing of spaghetti and_ and like nothing was_
I don't know if he_ if he knew what had happened earlier. I don't know.
NARRATOR: On December 27th, John Salvi, in his pick-up truck, arrived
outside the beauty salon where he worked, but Salvi remained in the truck.
DOREEN POTTER: John never knew about us wanting to terminate him. It was
never discussed. And then on Tuesday, they called and said he was out in the
parking lot and they changed the locks that night. I mean, he was just sitting
NARRATOR: On December 29th, after saying good-bye to his parents, who
were returning to Florida, John Salvi appeared at a shooting range in Seabrook,
New Hampshire. There two brothers, P.J. and Ryan Day, were practicing.
P.J. DAY: This strange guy walked in with a big, black bag and a black
jacket. He pulled out this .22 rifle and then he pulled out two banana clips
that were taped together, with lots of bullets in it.
RYAN DAY: It was, like, an assault rifle. It really wasn't a gun that
was made for fun shooting. Looked like it was made to kill people. It didn't
look like a pleasure gun.
P.J. DAY: He got his target up and just started to shoot. He had it
about 10 feet away until he brought it up and put the end of the barrel right
on the target and started to shoot, so it was leaving powder marks.
RYAN DAY: You don't usually see people firing off that many round
point-blank. I thought that he was capable of hurting someone real bad.
NARRATOR: On December 30th, Shannon Lowney unlocked the front doors of
Planned Parenthood and opened the clinic for the day.
BETH WATERS: The morning of the 30th was pretty much like any morning. I
was in a procedure. I heard a funny_ it was a funny yell for help. And I'm
really being the nurse in charge here. I'm often_ you know, I'm attuned to
that. You know, you hear_ other people don't even notice it. People who haven't
worked in hospitals and stuff, you hear running down the hall, they don't think
anything of it and it's, like, my heart stops. I'm, like, "What's going on?
What's wrong?" Because if you're running, it's an emergency.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: I heard crackling noises, which I immediately thought
was some kind of electrical equipment backfiring. That's all I could think of.
But it sounded ominous somehow. And I went down the hallway and I immediately
BETH WATERS: When I got to her, she was on her back and there was blood
everywhere and there was a big hole in her neck. And she was still breathing.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: At that point, we didn't know whether the gunman was in
the clinic or not.
NARRATOR: By the time the first 911 call was received by the Brookline
police, John Salvi had arrived at PreTerm clinic two and a half miles down the
1st WITNESS: Some guy went in there with a shotgun. There was six of us
standing_ ladies standing in the hallway. I was one of the last to come to the
door. If I would have been in front of the lady that got shot, I would have
been shot, too. He charged_
NARRATOR: In a ground floor room at PreTerm, Richard Serrone was just
changing out of his security guard's uniform when he heard shots coming from
the reception area.
RICHARD SERRONE: I immediately recognized it to be .22-caliber
semi-automatic gunfire. I could see a young man standing near Jane Sauer who
was slumped down behind a pillar. We locked eyes for a fraction of a second and
exchanged one shot each. What I would do is to lean out, make a fast shot and
then jump back in to avoid the hosing that he was giving the doorway.
2nd WITNESS: He went down there!
1st WITNESS: He went this way! He was right behind me.
2nd WITNESS: He turned around and_ [crosstalk]
1st WITNESS: If it wasn't for me jumping over the gate, he would have
shot me! He just came in that clinic, opened up the door and started shooting
anything he seen.
NARRATOR: Salvi had made a successful escape and inside the clinic
Serrone surveyed the carnage left behind.
RICHARD SERRONE: I noticed Leeanne Nichols slumped face down on the
floor like a rag doll that someone had dropped. Jane Sauer, on the other hand,
was still alive and was moving and her eyes were open.
NARRATOR: Down the street at Planned Parenthood, Beth Waters and a
doctor were trying to save Shannon's life.
BETH WATERS: We were getting an airway into her mouth. Just as I was
doing that, heard a yell that there were more people shot in the waiting
NARRATOR: Beth Waters and another nurse rushed into the clinic waiting
room, where two men lay wounded, while nearby a female clinic worker was in
ALICE VERHOEVEN: Some of the bravest acts I've ever seen and probably
ever will see are some of the medical staff here_ those two nurses who went out
into the waiting room not knowing who was out there and what was out there, but
they knew that_ that people were shot and they went out there and took care.
BETH WATERS: You know, I didn't know whether Shannon was definitely_
whether it was too late for her or not, at that point. I assumed it probably
was, but till the EMTs came, I was, like, "She's the most serious. Go in to
her." And they came right back out after going in to her and I knew then there
was nothing that they could do for her.
JOAN LOWNEY: I thought it was the most incomprehensible, obscene thing I
had ever heard in my life. Who she was, all the promise of her life, and all
that she could do in the world_ just her being in the world, her presence in
the world lightened it and brightened it and all her whole motivation to help
others_ there was so much to do in the world to make life better. I could not
believe that all of that promise was over.
My father said, "This is the first tragedy that has struck our family" and
those are practically the last things_ words he said. He just sat there and he
kept saying Shannon's name over and over. And my father just gradually slipped
away almost 12 hours to the minute after Shannon died.
MEGHAN LOWNEY: I had naively believed that I would grow old with my
sister and yet on_ on December 31st, I had to identify her body. The_ the trip
to Boston was forever. And the sense that she was so far away and_ you know,
physically, and that we needed to travel to find her dead was a very strange
experience. When we did arrive on this eve before the new year, the experience
of people on their way to parties and celebrating New Year's Eve was really so
strange and so surreal.
BILL LOWNEY: I was very much aware of the coming of the new year and
that we were not celebrating the new year. We were involved in identifying the
body of our beautiful daughter.
LIAM LOWNEY: We did go to the morgue, as a family, to I.D. her body. And
it's a very vivid picture in my mind. It's something I'll never forget.
Unfortunately, my last picture of her is not of her at Christmas, it's of her
at this morgue.
JOAN LOWNEY: If anybody asked any parent, "What do you think the most
difficult job would be in the world?" it is to see_ to identify one's child who
is dead. But I will always carry with me the memory of her face that night. She
looked about 16 years old and she looked asleep. And those who loved her were
shoulder to shoulder for her that night. And it's_ it's a warm memory. It's an
important memory. It isn't a happy one, but it's not a horrible one, either.
NARRATOR: In a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, a small private service was
held for Leeanne Nichols, the second receptionist murdered by John Salvi.
EILEEN MacDOUGALL: Lee was like the forgotten woman and that was very
sad. And Lee would not have liked notoriety, but Lee would have very much
wanted her political beliefs to be known and she would have wanted people to
know that she was doing this because this was what she wanted to do, not
because it just happened to be a job she saw in the paper.
NARRATOR: On the steps of PreTerm, Ed McDonough placed his own memorial
for his fiancee.
ED McDONOUGH: I had my cousin make her a little cross for me, a little
wooden cross. Wrote a little saying for Butterscotch, that "Mummy Scotch will
love you always, Butterscotch." And I wrote "Leeanne, I died along with you. I
can't wait to be together again. Love, Ed," because we were taught when we were
young, when we die we all get together again in time, we would be together.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: The very day we opened the clinic again _ one week from
the day of the shooting, we saw a few patients _ we had a handful of people
outside. And I remember thinking_ I never talk to the picketers. I never
acknowledge their presence. That's how I deal with it. But on that day, I
remember turning around and saying, "How dare you?"
Rev. DONALD SPITZ: John Salvi, we're on your side! If you need anything,
let us know! We want to help you any way we can! John Salvi, you are a hero!
NARRATOR: Outside the Norfolk jail where John Salvi was being
questioned, Reverend Spitz and his radical followers hailed a new hero.
Rev. DONALD SPITZ: And I would like to ask why is the life of a_ of a
receptionist worth more than the lives of 50 innocent human babies?
They were guilty. They had blood on their hands. I'll be honest. If they died
without accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and savior in that split second
before they died, they_ they are in hell now and must remain there for
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: One thing that_ that I never do is discuss what_
where an individual stands before God, which would be the question put to me in
asking, you know, theologically, "Where would she be?" Scripture says, "Judge
not that you be not judged."
COURT CLERK: The jurors for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the
county of Norfolk, John C. Salvi III of Hampton did assault and beat Shannon
Lowney with intent to murder said Shannon Lowney. As to that indictment, sir,
how do you wish to plead, guilty or not guilty?
JOHN SALVI: Not guilty.
NARRATOR: John Salvi's parents appeared at their first and only press
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: If we had gotten him help, maybe this terrible tragedy
might never have happened. We want to urge all parents_
ANNE MARIE SALVI: There were so many signs of mental illness, but I
didn't know anything about mental illness. I feel_ I do blame myself. And my
husband and I have a lot of regrets_ so many regrets! I was_ I had very
archaic_ I was so archaic in my thinking, I thought if somebody's mentally ill,
they're in a room_ my picture of it was that they were in a room. They were
either sitting in a chair or curled up in a corner and they_ they were like a
vegetable. I_ I had no idea they walked, talked and they felt pain! And they
couldn't express themselves and sometimes when they did, it wasn't what you
expected or wanted it to be.
JOHN SALVI, Sr.: We_ we should have done something. We should have seen
more. Those women and their families_ we both pray for them daily. It's_
because we really_ we must have been terribly blind not to see something, to
PSYCHIATRIST: If your attorneys thought your best bet would be some kind
of insanity defense, would you go along with it?
JOHN SALVI: Insanity defense?
JOHN SALVI: What benefit is an insanity defense?
PSYCHIATRIST: Well, the benefit is_
JOHN SALVI: What are the benefits?
PSYCHIATRIST: If you succeed, you would go to a psychiatric hospital
rather than to prison and as soon as you're considered not dangerous to others,
you could be released from the hospital.
JOHN SALVI: How_ and what time period would you stay in the mental
PSYCHIATRIST: That would depend upon when you're considered not
dangerous to others. So people could be there for just a month or they could be
there for a lifetime. But it's not fixed. You know, like a prison, you know,
you got a fixed term_ five years, ten years, life. In a psychiatric hospital,
it would be depending when you're_ if the court viewed you as no longer
mentally ill and not dangerous.
JOHN SALVI: What psychiatric facility would you recommend for an
individual who was incompetent?
PSYCHIATRIST: Well, that's up to the courts in Massachusetts. One of the
ones that people go to is Bridgewater State Hospital.
JOHN SALVI: Bridgewater State Hospital. And what is that facility
PSYCHIATRIST: It's not as nice as this new jail.
NARRATOR: In July, 1995, a five-day hearing was held into John Salvi's
competency to stand trial.
1st EXPERT WITNESS: It's my opinion, with reasonable medical certainty,
that at the present time, Mr. Salvi is not competent to stand trial.
2nd EXPERT WITNESS: The opinion I formed was that there are no signs or
symptoms of mental disorder.
3rd EXPERT WITNESS: In my opinion, Mr. Salvi is suffering from
schizophrenia, undifferentiated type.
4th EXPERT WITNESS: Mr. Salvi is not schizophrenic.
5th EXPERT WITNESS: He is suffering from a psychotic disorder and as
best characterized as schizophrenia.
JOHN SALVI: I definitely consider myself competent to stand trial.
PSYCHIATRIST: You do? Are you anxious to stand trial? Would you like to
stand trial or would you like to avoid it as long as possible?
JOHN SALVI: Stand trial or avoid it as often as possible_ no, it_ I
don't run from trial. But when there's a trial that's set at a date set, I
would go to trial.
JUDGE: The court has found that the defendant is presently competent and
will stand trial on the charges before him.
NARRATOR: Five months after the Brookline murders, most protesters had
returned to the clinics. And on June 2nd, 1995, Cardinal Bernard Law
acknowledged that reality and announced he was lifting his moratorium.
Cardinal BERNARD LAW: The moratorium was not universally respected.
After five months, it seemed to me that the situation had gone quite peaceful.
I may live somewhat insulated. I don't know. But my sense is that the rhetoric
and the tension around the issue that we're discussing has been lessened.
ALICE VERHOEVEN: When I heard the news that the cardinal lifted the
moratorium, I felt, "So what?" It has had no effect on us. I am really sorry
that the cardinal's moratorium didn't have more of an effect, but it has not
had an effect on our lives here in the clinic one bit. And I guess I feel_ I
guess I feel sorry that he did rescind it because it means, on some level, he's
given up, too. I think we're back to square one.
BILL COTTER: There'll be peace on the abortion issue when abortion stops
because if you want peace, there must first be justice. And as long as there is
abortion, there is, by definition, injustice.
NARRATOR: Yesterday, on February 5th, 1996, John Salvi's trial for the
murders of Leeanne Nichols and Shannon Lowney began.
MEGHAN LOWNEY: I haven't spent much time with the question of who killed
her and why. I guess I don't feel that it's really a valid, you know, use of my
time. When I think about Shannon, I think about her and her life and what I
miss. At Christmastime, growing up, my mother would always buy a few presents
that were the same for both of us because we were "the girls." As the girls, we
often had, you know, the same identical presents and at Christmas morning we
would see that our_ our presents were similar by a card that was cut in half
and they would be identical_ you know, the one half of the card on each
present. And so when you found one of those presents, you had to look, you
know, to the other. So I would look to Shannon and say, "Find the one that
looks like this." You know, "We have to open it together" so that neither of us
would know ahead of the other. And I_ and I think, you know, not having the
other half of the card is what I miss.
ANNOUNCER: Visit FRONTLINE on the world wide web via PBS at this
address. Go on-line with FRONTLINE for a longer examination of John Salvi and
the insanity defense. Read the transcript from his psychiatric interview or
listen to longer excerpts from him. And read the court transcript of Salvi's
four-day competency hearing. Finally, find out more about the trial and stay
informed with daily updates by linking to the Boston Globe's full coverage. On
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It's all at this internet address.
Hundreds of you did give us your feedback on two recent FRONTLINE programs.
"The Long March of Newt Gingrich" drew criticism from liberals and
BOB KING: [Vancouver, British Columbia] Dear FRONTLINE: Even
though I generally oppose Newt's views at every turn and I consider him too
arrogant and overreaching, I found myself squirming as I listened to your
artful character assassination, particularly since a simple recitation of the
actual historical record would have said more than enough to prove the case.
Bob King, Vancouver, British Columbia.
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Gingrich's rise from the most common human roots is an amazing story deserving
comprehensive analysis. Instead, viewers were offered primarily a petulant
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ANNOUNCER: Many viewers, also bipartisan, responded with praise.
CANDICE KELLER: [Middletown, Ohio] Dear FRONTLINE: I loved your
program on Newt Gingrich. The closeness at which you focused on every aspect
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focus and the ability to take the country where it needs to go. Sincerely,
Candice Keller, Middletown, Ohio.
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Gingrich and his comrades will undoubtedly try to discredit your documentary as
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most of the testimony presented in your story was given by Mr. Gingrich's
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TED HASKELL: [Randolph, Massachusetts] Dear FRONTLINE: This is
the kind of candid and thought-provoking expose we need to raise the level of
political discussion in this country. It is a crying shame that we will never
see a similar piece on the biggest criminal elements in this government, the
Clinton administration and some members of Congress in both parties who
actively promote a hideous form of corporate socialism. Ted Haskell, Randolph,
ANNOUNCER: Reaction to FRONTLINE's two-part Gulf war series was mostly
positive, but here's a sampling from viewers who thought it fell short.
BEN MOSS: [Austin, Texas] Dear FRONTLINE: What struck me most
about the program is the complete lack of any coherent critique, beyond
occasional strategic concerns, of the war, its justifications, its real
motivations within the U.S. political economy or the media's role, which your
program continues, of uncritically transmitting the most blatant and absurd
propaganda lines imaginable. Ben Moss, Austin, Texas.
STEPHEN CHENI: [Whitewater, Wisconsin] Dear FRONTLINE: What was
otherwise a marvelous review was damaged by almost constant second-guessing and
a rush on your part to highlight the negative parts of the war. No war is a
clean operation, but I challenge you to find another where the damage inflicted
to non-combatants was less. Stephen Cheni, Whitewater, Wisconsin.
SCOTT RICK: [Kenosha, Wisconsin]
Dear FRONTLINE: What happened to investigative journalism? Wasn't four hours
enough time to provide alternative viewpoints? Like we hadn't already seen
enough of Powell and Schwarzkopf? Who funded this program anyway, the State
Department? Scott Rick, Kenosha, Wisconsin.
STEVE DRINNON: [Flint, Michigan] Dear FRONTLINE: Yours is the
best program on PBS. Why? Because you occasionally allow a left-of-center
viewpoint to be heard. This is an extreme rarity in our supposedly democratic
"free press." Even PBS censors itself to appease anti-democratic corporate
sponsors and right-wing Congresspersons. Why were no prominent American
dissidents allowed to speak? Noam Chomsky would've been an excellent
counterbalance to the political commissars you cited. Steve Drinnon, Flint,
ANNOUNCER: And finally, a positive view.
RON ROIZEN: [Berkeley, California] Dear FRONTLINE: This
two-program report was a superb journalistic and historical achievement,
riveting from start to finish, so much so that I even sacrificed watching my
favorite T.V. show on NBC, Law and Order. Just couldn't touch that dial.
It offered not only a new and rich account of the war's actual history ... but
also a keenly independent voice that was clearly not "out to get" anyone, but
instead aimed to provide the truest possible picture. Ron Roizen, Berkeley,
ANNOUNCER: Let us know what you think by fax at (617) 254-0243, by
e-mail, at FRONTLINE@ pbs.org, or write to this address: Dear FRONTLINE, 125
Western Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts, 02134.
And next time_
singing [Come you masters of war]
ANNOUNCER: Before the Gulf war,
singing [You that build all the guns]
ANNOUNCER: Saddam Hussein bought a cannon
singing [Oh, I think you will find]
ANNOUNCER: as long as a football field with a range of hundreds of miles, the
dream of a ballistics genius, Dr. Gerald Bull. "The Man Who Made the Supergun"
next time on FRONTLINE.
singing [Come you masters of war]
JOHN SALVI: But there's no reason that anyone would think I was insane.
I've never acted insane or carried myself in an insane way. Why would they
think I was insane?
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DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY
ASSISTANT SOUND EDITOR
ASSISTANT VIDEO EDITOR
THE POST GROUP INC.
WHDH-TV CHANNEL 7
WBZ-TV CHANNEL 4
CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE
POST PRODUCTION SUPERVISOR
POST PRODUCTION PRODUCER
The Caption Center
Lee Ann Donner
SPECIAL PROJECTS ASSISTANT
SENIOR STAFF ASSOCIATE
Anne del Castillo
DIRECTOR OF ADMINISTRATION
COMMISSIONING EDITOR FOR TV ONTARIO
A FRONTLINE coproduction with
K.A. Productions, Inc.
in association with TV Ontario
WGBH EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED