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The Fashion Writer, Cape Cod, and the Trial of Chris McCowen

by Peter Manso

Pub Date: July 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-7432-9666-3
Publisher: Atria

Examination of a murder investigation perhaps gone awry, with Caucasian racism against African-Americans as the leading cause.

Manso (Ptown: Art, Sex and Money on the Outer Cape, 2002, etc.) has resided off and on in Cape Cod, Mass., for decades. One of his neighbors was Christa Worthington, an heiress and fashion writer from a prominent family. In early 2002, Worthington was murdered at her home, leaving her toddler daughter in the house with the bloodied body. Despite the large cast of suspects, for years local police and prosecutors could not announce a solution to the puzzling homicide. Finally, in 2006, the trial of Christopher McCowen began. McCowen, an African-American garbage collector who serviced multiple Cape Cod towns, had been measured with a borderline IQ, but seemed to manage well in his geographically constricted realm, especially with Caucasian women who allegedly found him sexually alluring. Worthington, portrayed by Manso and his sources as sexually promiscuous, might have engaged in casual sex with McCowen. But the author believed from the start that McCowen was being investigated primarily because of racist police and prosecutors. According to information gathered by Manso, other men and even a few women, all Caucasian, were far more likely subjects. As the investigation and the trial unfolded, Manso began openly assisting McCowen's defense lawyer. Because of that role, the author believed he was being singled out for harassment by the prosecutor, who is portrayed throughout the book as dishonest, incompetent and personally unpleasant. Manso says repeatedly that the book is meant as an unbiased account of an investigation, a town and an entire island. Yet his claim of unbiased journalism is contradicted repeatedly by his loaded language. The author devotes 240 pages to the trial itself, presenting a day-by-day chronicle that contains useful information but eventually becomes tedious.

A flawed account of a sensational murder case.