Second brother claims he acted to ‘ease’ dying brother’s ‘suffering’

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ANNSVILLE — Accused of stabbing his already-shot brother in the back of the head, the second man charged in the death of James Westcott told state police that he did it to “ease (his) suffering.”

Michael E. Westcott appeared in Annsville Town Court for a felony exam Wednesday afternoon on a charge of felony first-degree assault. His statement was read out loud during testimony from a state police investigator.

Following the hearing, Westcott’s case was forwarded to the grand jury for a possible indictment.

Two brothers, Michael E. Westcott, age 31, and Matthew E. Westcott, 27, are charged in connection with the death of their third brother, James E. Westcott, age 30, at the family home on Route 69 in Annsville on Friday, Sept. 17, according to state police. Matthew is accused of shooting James in the face with a shotgun, while Michael is accused of then stabbing James in the back of the head several times with a large knife, investigators said.

On Monday, a felony hearing was held for Matthew Westcott on charges of second-degree murder and third-degree possession of a weapon. During that hearing, an investigator read Matthew’s statement, in which Matthew said James had been bullying the members of the family that morning and threatened to harm them and burn the house down with them inside.

Matthew told state police that when he saw James with a can of gasoline shortly after noon on Friday, his “mind went blank” and he loaded a shotgun with one round of birdshot and fired once into James’ temple while inside the home.

Matthew’s case has also been forwarded to the county level.

‘I heard Bubba gasping’

In his own statement to investigators, Michael said he was in his bedroom when he “heard a loud bang.” He said he joined the rest of the family curious about the sound, and that his father, Edward Westcott, went into the back bedrooms and discovered the shooting.

Michael’s statement was read by state police Sr. Inv. Jacob Byron. In the statement, Michael referred to his brother James by the nickname “Bubba.”

Michael told state police that, after his father had taken the shotgun from Matthew, the father had Michael hold the gun for a few moments. Michael said Edward eventually took the gun back and the family went outside with Matthew, leaving Michael alone in the home, with his brother, James, still in the back bedroom with the gunshot wound.

“I heard Bubba gasping. I told my dad to tell the people to hurry up,” Michael told state police. He then said he got the knife from Matthew’s room, though he did not remember exactly where. Michael said he went into James’ room and saw him on the floor.

“Bubba looked mangled. I tried to ease Bubba’s suffering,” Michael told state police. He said he specifically aimed for the back of the neck, because if he could hit the spinal cord, then “it stops everything else.”

Michael said it took “two or three” stabs.

“Bubba was not breathing when I finished stabbing him,” Michael said in his statement. “I’m having a very difficult time recalling all the details of what happened that day.”

Inv. Byron testified that Michael told investigators that he threw the knife under Matthew’s bed afterwards — then added that Michael would also say he did not remember doing that.

Autopsy

According to Inv. Danielle Kendall, the state police did not know a knife had been involved until James was undergoing his autopsy. The medical examiner found three lacerations and a puncture wound on the back of James’ head, one of which was so deep that it punctured James’ brain.

The autopsy concluded that it was the gunshot that killed James Westcott, with the knife wounds contributing, authorities said. The medical examiner determined that the knife wounds occurred while James was dying.

“I believe it would have been a knife,” Kendall testified about the wounds. She said she witnessed the autopsy.

“As soon as I saw the lacerations on the back of the head, I immediately thought of that one black knife I saw out of place under the bed.”

Kendall said she was one of the crime scene investigators that searched the Westcott home following the shooting. She said she had seen a knife under Matthew’s bed, but she paid it no mind at the time because they were searching for evidence connected to the shotgun, and because the Westcott family collected knives and there were a lot of blades around the home.

Following the autopsy, Kendall testified that she returned to the home on Saturday and found the knife still under Matthew’s bed. She said that “there was blood on the knife.” It was secured as evidence.

Also on Saturday, the state police had brought Michael Westcott and his parents back in for more questioning to try to determine if Matthew had ever used a knife against James, according to Inv. Byron. At that time, Byron said Michael was not a suspect and they had no reason to believe Michael had been involved at all.

“We did not think (Michael) was a suspect at the time,” Byron testified. He conducted the interview with Michael, and “there were multiple changes to the story” as the interview went on.

Byron testified that he eventually decided that Michael was becoming a suspect, so he stopped the interview and read Michael his Constitutional Miranda Rights, including the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney. Byron testified that Michael continued answering questions, and eventually gave the written statement.

Defense attorney Bruce Entelisano argued that the statement was inadmissible because the rights were not read at the start of the interview. Assistant District Attorney Todd Carville, the prosecutor, argued back that Michael was not a suspect at the start of the interview, and it was only when he became a suspect that the Rights needed to be read, as per the law.

Entelisano also argued that Michael was “confused” during the interview, and some mental health issues may have contributed to him not understanding what was happening with the interview.

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