A tragic case of being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” cost a 30-year-old Everett woman her life early Tuesday morning when she was shot and killed during a Malden home invasion, according to local and state authorities. A 30-year-old Everett man, Brian Butler, was ordered held without bail on serious charges in connection with the slaying, including murder, after a “not guilty” plea was entered on his behalf by his attorney at his arraignment in Malden District Court on Wednesday.
The murder victim was identified in court on Wednesday as Erin Fitzgibbon, 30, of Everett, who apparently was sleeping in an upstairs bedroom when Butler allegedly burst into the home, brandishing a gun and firing off shots before dashing up the stairs to the second floor and shooting Fitzgibbon in the head. Butler, who fled the scene on Fairmont Street, Malden, around 7:15 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after the shooting, was arrested in the town of Ashland without incident by state and Malden police, who conducted an around-the-clock investigation following the shooting.
Prosecutors said Butler went to the home on Fairmont Street, located in Malden’s Belmont neighborhood, shortly after seven o’clock Tuesday morning, wielding a handgun and intending on robbing the occupants of drugs and cash. After allegedly shooting Fitzgibbon in the head as she lay in a bed, prosecutors said, Butler walked out of the house carrying a small safe, which allegedly contained heroin, prescription drugs and about $5,000 in cash. The alleged contents of the safe were described during police interviews of another suspect in the case, Cody DiGaetano, 24, of Chelsea, who also faces charges in connection with the incident, after he allegedly was at the wheel of the getaway car which took Butler away from the murder scene and eventually to a hideout and Ashland. DiGaetano allegedly helped Butler flee the murder scene and provided him transportation to Ashland, where Butler stayed overnight, prosecutors said.
DiGaetano faces charges of accessory after the fact to an armed robbery and accessory after the fact to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. DiGaetano was arraigned earlier Wednesday. DiGaetano was released on personal recognizance. He was ordered to use GPS monitoring, stay in Chelsea, observe a 6 p.m. to 7 a.m. curfew and not contact anyone involved in the case.
Butler was ordered held without bail in state custody after the not guilty plea to charges of murder, armed home invasion, armed assault with intent to murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, illegal possession of a firearm and illegal possession of a loaded firearm. Judge Emily Karstetter ordered Butler back in court for a probable cause hearing on August 9.
Prosecutors said Wednesday that at least three other people, including the mother and father of an adult son who lived at the residence, were home on Tuesday when Butler arrived, allegedly armed and planning to commit a home invasion/robbery. According to reports, the suspect Butler was friends with the adult son of the residents, who apparently lives at the address and was also home at the time.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan, at a press conference on Tuesday where Malden Police Chief Kevin Molis and other investigators were present, said the victim Erin Fitzgibbon was simply a guest at the home on Tuesday, that the family members knew Butler through their son, but that Butler and Fitzgibbon did not know each other. “Erin Fitzgibbon’s death was the tragic result of her being in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Ryan said in a statement. “Miss Fitzgibbon was a visitor at that home, happened only to be staying at that house.”
A Malden police report filed in court said that the mother of the family woke up Tuesday and found Butler on her back deck. He said he was going to kill her and attempted to fire his gun twice, but the gun jammed. She recognized Butler and initially thought he was playing a joke, but then she became afraid and locked the back door. Butler then broke the glass on the door and gained entry to the kitchen. According to a police report read at the arraignment Wednesday, the husband came to the kitchen and struggled with Butler, who again tried to fire his gun. Prosecutors said in court that he fired a shot at that time. The husband yelled for everyone to leave the apartment, and the woman, her husband and her son left the home. Prosecutors said Tuesday that the family believed Fitzgibbon had come with them, but she was still in the upstairs bedroom.
The family told police they heard another gunshot from inside and saw Butler coming down the driveway with his gun and one of two safes that belonged to the family. Butler fled in a waiting car. The family went back inside to find Fitzgibbon fatally shot upstairs, according to police.
After his arrest in Ashland, police said, Butler was interviewed in the Malden Police Station for nearly two hours. During the interview, Butler allegedly told police a second man at the location pulled the trigger, shooting and killing Fitzgibbon and then fleeing the scene. Police said Butler refused to identify the mystery gunman, saying “he was not a rat.”
Malden police and state police assigned to DA Ryan’s office are continuing the investigation.